Sanctuary in Parliament is an annual event which brings local City of Sanctuary groups from around the country to Parliament to meet their MPs to demand change. This year, it is aiming to generate an even bigger call for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention – and we’d like you to take action! Eiri Ohtani, Detention Forum’s Project Director, explains what you can do. She tweets at @EiriOhtani


City of Sanctuary is one of the Detention Forum members, and we are supporting this year’s Sanctuary in Parliament event, “Towards a Fairer System” on 12 November. We are excited that the event neatly falls during our Unlocking Detention tour, a perfect opportunity to spread the word. A huge thank you to City of Sanctuary for letting us contribute to the policy briefing papers and other material for this event.

Here’s our tweet you can retweet, to promote the event and show your support.

The event is focusing on the following three asks, which are all key to producing a fair and humane system for people seeking asylum and will be areas of scrutiny around the upcoming Immigration Bill:

  • The right to work for people who have asylum claims outstanding for more than six months;
  • Extension of refugee family reunion;
  • An end to indefinite immigration detention.

Immigration detention is not the answer for anyone. Detention Forum is challenging the immigration detention of not just people seeking asylum but also of everyone else. Indefinite immigration detention without a time limit affects everyone who gets engulfed by this system, regardless of their immigration histories or experiences, except in a very small number of cases of families with children and pregnant women. This is a great opportunity for us to communicate with and remind many local groups who are primarily concerned about the rights and dignity of people seeking asylum to encourage them to expand their understanding of immigration detention policy and its impact on individuals and communities.

The event in Parliament is already FULLY BOOKED, reflecting the determination and dedication of people involved in the City of Sanctuary movement across the UK, who are using welcome and hospitality as a force of resistance and change.

But we can all still participate – in fact, we urgently need your help! We need to make sure that as many MPs as possible are persuaded to attend the event and work with us towards a fairer and more humane system. This very helpful webpage about the event is packed with information and tools, such as a template letter, which you can use to engage your MP.

We’d like to highlight three items on this page which we strongly recommend you look through, regardless of whether you are attending the event or not. They are practical and educational and can help you improve your understanding and command of advocacy – something you will need beyond the event. A huge congratulations to the City of Sanctuary for putting these together.

‘A short guide to engaging with your MP’ – We often say ‘we need to engage our MPs’, but what does that actually mean? How do you go about doing that? What should you talk to your MP about? This short guide takes you through each of the stages in simple language. Crucially, it has a template form that allows the groups who take part in the event to send feedback to City of Sanctuary people (and us!) about their encounters with MPs. This collects absolutely vital intelligence for our advocacy, such as, which arguments do MPs respond to? What counterarguments do they use? Many tend to assume that meeting our MP means we tell them what we think and leave the room: but without understanding what they are thinking, it’s difficult to plan our next step.

Sanctuary in Parliament 2018 – Quick Policy Guide – This is a shorter version of a fuller and longer policy briefing, which you should also read. But what’s really useful about this document is that it shows you how you can make your point clearly and concisely when you meet your MP. You can also send this to your MP or use it to lobby your friends and family – do practice! Remember, MPs are busy people and you need to be able to communicate with them quickly and convincingly to attract their attention. Once they are interested, you can have more in-depth discussions and follow-up meetings and start developing constructive working relationships.

Social Media Guide for SIP 2018 – Don’t let the fact that you are not there yourself stop you from telling the world about it, before, during and after the event! This document gives you many useful sample tweets that you can use and modify to draw your MP’s attention to this event. You don’t know your MP’s Twitter handle? You can easily find it at The hashtag for this event is #AFairerSystem. And you should already know the one for ending indefinite detention: #Time4aTimeLimit

Lastly, as mentioned earlier, campaigning and advocacy often involves building a long-term and productive working relationship with your MP. And we all need to chip in, because we need not just one but many MPs’ support. We hope this gives you a chance to start building that relationship. Please join us and others in persuading politicians about the urgent need for change, for a better future for people seeking asylum and other individuals who are caught up in this cruel and dysfunctional immigration and asylum system.

And if you want to know more about why Detention Forum and others are calling for a 28 day time limit on immigration detention, do have a look at our briefing document here.


Eiri Ohtani @EiriOhtani

Project Director