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Fighting to stay

Jessica Charsley of Manchester No Borders offers a ten-step guide to building an anti-deportation campaign

November 14, 2008
4 min read

1 Brace yourself to go public

Unfortunately, legal challenges to deportations often fail to have any effect. That means it’s time to fight back politically and start a campaign. There is no guarantee of success, but many other cases have shown that public pressure can force the Home Office to change its decisions.

Campaigning will involve organising and working with as many other people as possible in awareness-raising activities. Choosing the best method (apart from ‘all of them together’) depends upon the situation and your resources. Although this will be a frightening prospect for some people, the aim is simply to get as much publicity as possible.

2 Stay focused and get numbers on your side

It is important to concentrate on things that put real pressure on the Home Office. Political action involving as many people as possible is the most effective. Consider holding meetings, demonstrations and pickets, and contact the local media about them (alert them 48 hours in advance and provide a named contact).

A petition can be useful if a lot of people sign it. Personal, hand-written letters to important individuals – local MPs, for instance – and potentially sympathetic organisations can also work. Remember that all letters to the Home Office must contain your Home Office reference number.

3 Size matters

The golden rule is to think big. Beyond organising a variety of local activities, try to move onto a national or even international scale. If you can, travel around to meet with other campaigners and start working together. Ask people abroad to write to the British embassy in their country as well as to the Home Office in the UK.

4 Join forces

Remember to seek the support of organisations as well as individuals. Migrant and refugee support groups, human rights campaigns and trade unions are obvious examples, but try to look as broadly as possible. The support of an organisation can win people’s trust and respect, and they may be able to help promote your campaign or provide resources.

5 Use the internet – but wisely

The internet will be important for networking your campaign. Websites or blog pages are excellent ways to spread information and keep people up to date. However, don’t let the internet replace other activities. Things that are the product of less activity have less impact – computer-generated letters are easier to ignore, for instance. Perhaps get people to write something for you, no matter how small, at the beginning of meetings.

6 Play the system to your advantage

If the Home Office rejects your case, your legal representative can ask them to look at the case again. To do this, you must provide them with new evidence, a new interpretation of old evidence, or a new angle on the case altogether. Prepare as much as you can in advance. Also, don’t forget to try to involve your local MP or any sympathetic members of local government, as they may be able to improve communication with the Home Office.

7 Spread the word

Produce a standard leaflet that explains your case in one or two sentences and asks for support, and hand it out wherever possible. Your campaign may last a long time, so make sure you always have a large supply. The leaflet should include a request for people to write personal letters to the Home Office, so remember to include your Home Office reference number for supporters to use. You can also advertise your regular campaign meetings on your literature. If possible, provide all the information in several languages.

8 Grab people’s attention

Attention-grabbing posters or a campaign banner can be taken to all of your events, and will make for good photos. Another possibility is to make a short video about your case. If you don’t have access to equipment then contact local media groups or media students to see if they can help.

9 Raise funds

Campaign publicity usually costs money, so fundraising activities are crucial. Use all of the resources available, and make sure all your promotional material and literature includes an appeal for donations. You may want to open a bank account in the name of the campaign.

10 And finally

Don’t give up hope!

This article is based on a practical guide by No One Is Illegal. Additional information about existing campaign groups nationwide is available from the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

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