One of the ways in which we have tried to support justice is by seeking to stand alongside people seeking justice through our immigration system – particularly asylum seekers. The immigration system is exactly one of those examples of justice been distant and difficult to access.
Whilst there are, no doubt, plenty of bogus claimants, imagine life for someone who has fled rape, torture, false imprisonment and the threat of death from their home country. If it is the regime itself that has attacked them because of their religious or political views then they stand no chance at all of getting justice in their home country. Others find that there is a blurred line between the criminals and the supposed law enforcers or that those who should uphold justice are corrupted by bribery.
Imagine then that you arrive in the UK and claim asylum. What happens next? You are likely to be detained and sent to a dispersal centre where you will stay until you are found home office accommodation. You will have to report in to a home office centre on a regular basis and whilst you await your decision, you will not be allowed to work. Now, whilst controlling immigration presents enormous challenges and some of those measures may well be essential, for the person experiencing this, the result is that they feel as though they are under suspicion. In effect they are treated like criminals.
You make your claim. If you have fled in a hurry then you are likely not to have tangible evidence on you and obtaining that evidence from your home country may be difficult and dangerous. Legal Aid is available for most of the process but there are also solicitors and direct access barristers ready to take your money from you.
Telling your story is difficult. Often what has happened to you carries shame and you are afraid that people will judge you. Additionally, you learn that you are often not believed. Then there is the temptation to try and tell the story that you think people want to hear
We have often met people who are a long way through the process. They often remind me of the woman who came and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment for healing. She had been to many doctors who had took her money and not healed her. They have been to many lawyers who have taken their money and not helped them. They may well have been encouraged and coached in things to say and ways to act in order to play the system but of course the system is alert to such games and these don’t necessarily work.
How we help
Here are some ways that we have helped people going through the process.
- We make the following commitments. First of all, we will be truthful with them. We won’t make promises that we cannot keep such as “We will pray and it will all be okay.” Secondly, we promise to do what we can to help, to stand by and with them and not to give up on them.
- We help them to put their evidence together in an organised manner
- We help them to find a reliable solicitor. They need someone who will give the same commitment as above (point 1) who will fight their corner, who will not make promises they cannot keep.
- We go with them to meetings with solicitors and MPs. This can be important for their confidence. It also helps to have someone who understands the complexities of the system and is able to check their understanding and explain where necessary.
- Because we have made a commitment to be honest with them, we will also talk and pray through the “prognosis” with them. Helping them to understand and possible outcomes.
- The most important thing we can do is help them to face what is happening with faith. We cannot promise that God will wave a magic wand to make their problems go away but we can promise that God will be with them if they put their trust in him. He will not desert them in the midst of suffering and he will use even their troubles for their eternal good and his glory.