On Tuesday of this week, the Home Office met with representatives of Bristol Refugee Rights, Bristol Signing Support, Borderlands, local MPs' offices and the police commissioners' team. They were presented with our 1000 strong campaign petition to reduce signing frequency for migrants and bring signing back into town where people can access it more easily.
Despite this demonstration of overwhelming support the Home Office refused to end signing at Patchway. This shows an ongoing lack of respect for the people who have to travel so far to sign and a disregard for the community and civil servants who have shown a lot of concern for signers. We are outraged by this lack of accountability to the public from a government office. Sadly this reflects what we have seen in the past with regard to their decision making process on people's asylum applications.
However, the Home Office was forced to concede two things as a result of all the pressure: signing for families will be reduced to every six months, and people in education will be able to request to sign out of term time only. The Home Office has agreed to review the move to Patchway again after another three months.
For families and students, these changes will be significant. However, people who are destitute are still having to get themselves to Patchway with no money. Even those who are entitled to support with travel expenses are still having to apply for it.
People are still having to sign weekly, fortnightly or monthly at great cost to their emotional health and with no reasonable justification as to why they should have to sign so often. People are still at risk of being detained despite having committed no crime.
This is why we must continue to be organised. These two concessions happened because we were organised. We came together, people signing and their allies. We believed it was worth naming this injustice and demanding change. We organised events, petitions, speakers, trained ourselves to speak to the media and got good coverage; we tweeted and blogged on social media, getting support from across the country, and momentum grew. The Home Office was forced to defend its decision publicly and had to make some concessions. Many more people know about the signing regime as a result of this campaign. We celebrate this.
Imagine what more could happen if we were louder and stronger....
We will be reconvening soon to work out our next movements in this campaign and how we can continue to fight for justice for all migrants. If you would like to get more involved in the next stage of our campaigning please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
From all at Dignity Group