UPDATE: HOME OFFICE TO ENFORCE PHYSICAL REPORTING CONDITIONS DURING LOCKDOWN 2.0
The Home Office has confirmed that it has no plans to stop the mandatory in-person reporting of migrants. We have expressed our concerns and alarm at this development in writing to the Home Office. Reporting is an act of violence on our communities that are already feeling the full price of Covid-19.
Read this blog to find out more about how in-person reporting is putting migrant lives at risk; what you can expect if asked to report; and how to take action to build a movement for migrant justice.
In March, at the beginning of the UK’s first national lockdown, Migrants Organise along with Helen Bamber Foundation and 47 organisations across the migrant rights sector was successful in demanding the Home Office to suspend its in-person reporting condition for migrants. You can read more here and here.
However over the summer the Home Office began to reintroduce in-person reporting conditions: reports of modern day slavery victims and torture survivors being forced to report on a regular basis were widespread.
Now, with the threat of Coronavirus at a high and with the country in another national lockdown, the Home Office has confirmed that it has no plans to stop in-person reporting.
For our members, being forced to attend reporting appointments can cause huge distress:
“Whenever I have to report, I can’t sleep. I get so stressed all day, and the journey is so long. It takes me between one to two hours to go there, and then I have to queue for a long time, and come back. It takes me the whole day and I feel so tired afterwards. My Crohn’s diseases gets worse because of the stress”
“It’s stressful. You have to queue for hours and they [the staff] are also often very rude to you. I don’t have enough to afford the transport cost there because I am not allowed to work, and they don’t give any help. They expect you to look poor and sad, but I refuse”
We are deeply concerned about the welfare of people who are asked to report. We see reporting conditions as part of the ongoing attempts to criminalise migrants and we are concerned that the Home Office is prioritising its Hostile Environment agenda, over the health and safety of communities.
What is a reporting condition?
Reporting conditions refers to the requirement to travel to an Immigration Reporting Centre to sign in with the Home Office.
Currently all migrants in the UK who are still trying to regularise their immigration status are put on immigration bail which requires a bail condition to be enforced. In almost all cases, reporting is chosen as the bail condition. The very fact that bail conditions are enforced on migrants is criminalisation by default. There are only 14 reporting centres throughout the UK, which means that migrants often travel and queue for hours for their reporting appointment. Reporting conditions are mandatory and it is a criminal offence not to comply with a reporting condition or in other words, to ‘abscond’.
As our letter to the Home Office explains, there is no evidence to suggest that in-person reporting is necessary. The absconding rate for those who have been asked to report in 2018 was merely 3% and there is no indication that this increased when reporting was suspended during the first lockdown.
Given the increasing amount of evidence showing that Coronavirus is having a devastating effect on Black and Minority Ethnic communities the decision to maintain in-person reporting during the current lockdown is reckless. It goes against the government’s own instructions for the country to pull together to combat the spread of the virus. At a time when many individuals are struggling to get by, unable to see their families and loved ones, the Home Office deems it appropriate to resume the criminalisation of migrants.
Whilst the Home Office states that not all migrants are currently asked to report (that this is not a return to ‘normal’) reporting conditions will likely be enforced on foreign national offenders and individuals whom the Home Office classify as vulnerable and in their view require a ‘’check in’’.
However, it is unclear who would be classed as vulnerable by the Home Office, and why their vulnerabilities mean that they should be prioritised to endure more hardship.
We have emphasised many times to the Home Office, that reporting conditions are distressing and cannot be equated to a welfare check. Given that many migrants are encouraged to leave the country and or detained during these appointments, it is inappropriate to view reporting conditions as an opportunity to check on the welfare of vulnerable migrants.
Are you being asked to report? Are you supporting someone who is being asked to report?
The Home Office will notify you if you have to go back to reporting. The Home Office has made assurances that the following ‘Covid-safety procedures’ are being implemented at all reporting centres:
1. Screening questions should be asked at the door at all reporting centres, and if a person provides a negative response, they are not allowed to enter the building
2. Masks and sanitisers are provided
3. Social distancing measures will be enforced, as well as one-way systems
If you / individuals you are supporting are having difficulties reporting, you should seek advice immediately from an immigration solicitor or accredited immigration advisers.
You can also try to contact your relevant reporting centres, contact details including emails can be found here. https://www.gov.uk/immigration-reporting-centres.
Migrant and refugee led groups and activists are taking action against the hostile environment and working to build an organised movement for migrant justice. Last month, SOAS Detainee Group, Manchester Refugee Rights Collective and These Walls Must Fall Sheffield took action outside reporting centres. If you would like to join groups campaigning on this issue, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com