New report finds in-person reporting causes significant distress and anxiety
GMIAU examines the impact of immigration reporting conditions on families and children in Greater Manchester
30 May 2022
A new report released last week by Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) examines the impact of immigration reporting conditions on families and children.
You can download the 20-page report here.
The report details the harm and fear caused by the requirement to regularly visit and sign in at a Home Office reporting centre as part of the immigration bail system.
GMIAU explained: "[R]eporting is a system of immigration control imposed on people, requiring them to "sign" regularly in person. For people in the North West this means going to Dallas Court in Salford, at a time and frequency determined by the Home Office. Each time, they fear being detained. We have spoken to people about the impact this is having on children, young people and families in our city-region. We found, largely hidden from view, that there are children in Greater Manchester living in fear that their parents will leave home and never come back, children who are missing school because of their parent's reporting appointments, young people living under threat of deportation, and families forced to use limited income to pay travel expenses to Dallas Court."
Through Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests, GMIAU found that 65,190 people in the UK are subject to a reporting condition, 133 of whom are children under 18. In Greater Manchester, 1,340 people are currently reporting at Dallas Court.
As noted in the report, the Home Office can use in-person immigration reporting as an opportunity to detain migrants.
Figures from the FOI requests revealed that 18,446 migrants have been detained at reporting events across the UK since 2016. The number of detentions at Dallas Court for the same period was 1,455.
The report finds that the fear of being detained causes significant distress and anxiety for migrants and their families, especially for children.
GMIAU said: "In our research it was very clear that reporting is bound up with the threat - and often the reality - of detention. Everyone spoke about their fear of detention. Some people we spoke to even used the phrase 'detention centre' to refer to a reporting centre."
One woman told GMIAU: "I used to sign every two weeks. It's so scary. In the signing sheet, it's written there that 'you are liable to be detained'. Since that time, I have that in my head, that I might go in and I might not be able to come out. … One day, they detained one man. I saw everything. Since that time, I'm so scared. It affects me mentally, you know, even up to now, the trauma is still with me … I would tell my daughter that if they didn't see me, they should know that I've been detained. My children would be scared. It traumatised them as well."
Stoke Citizens Advice Bureau told GMIAU that they knew of people from Stoke who were so scared of missing reporting appointments that they would travel to Manchester the night before and sleep on the streets if their appointment was too early in the morning to get public transport.
The report also highlights that it is difficult for people to understand their own reporting conditions, not least because of the generic nature of the Home Office's reporting guidance. The majority of the people spoken to by GMIAU said they did not know why they were required to report.
GMIAU concludes that the Home Office must abolish all in-person reporting.
"The pandemic created a potential for change to the status quo, and we recently heard the positive news that the Home Office plans to make permanent the emergency provisions which expanded telephone reporting and decreased in-person reporting. Our research exposes the reality of the reporting regime as it has existed in the last few years, the urgency of the need for change, and the importance of ensuring that any change leaves no one behind," GMIAU said.
Right to Remain welcomed the change as good step forward, but said there is still a long way to go to ensure that migrants are not criminalised or made to feel unsafe whilst waiting for an immigration or asylum decision.
On 6 May, the Home Office released new guidance on reporting and offender management. It states: "Telephone reporting is a new condition of Immigration Bail as an alternative to some applicants regularly attending to a reporting centre in-person. Telephone reporting will be blended with less frequent face to face appointments. … It is accepted telephone reporting events may take place at a greater frequency than previously allocated face to face reporting events, however, it is likely that telephone reporting events will be less burdensome on the individual."