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If Immigration Enforcement pay your organisation a visit: asylum seekers’ rights and responsibilities whilst volunteering

The following is an opinion piece by Jon Beech, Director of LASSN and should not be read as legal advice issued by the LMP to its members. Please direct any comments or questions to [email protected] directly

LASSN have heard about an unfortunate  – hopefully isolated – incident in the last week where a voluntary organisation had a visit from an Immigration Enforcement team, asking the organisation to give details on someone that Immigration Enforcement believed to be volunteering with them. 

The rules around asylum seekers volunteering are outlined in the Government’s own Guidance (below). It’s important that all voluntary organisations understand how to best co-operate with Immigration Enforcement, as well as maintaining and upholding the rights of all their volunteers.

The law is pretty straightforward on this. In summary

  1. If Immigration Enforcement have a legitimate request for information regarding an employee, volunteer or anyone else whose personal data you control  – they should produce a warrant. It is OK to ask to see one. The officers will appreciate your concern not to breach the GDPR. As a general rule (and you’ll want to double check your own organisational privacy policy on this) if there’s not imminent danger to someone, or a life/child at risk:  no warrant, no info. There’s more information on this in the Migrant Rights Network booklet below – p17
  2. Volunteers who are subject to Immigration Control “should not allow their volunteering to interfere with scheduled events such as a substantive asylum interview, regular reporting event or re-documentation interview” (p14 of Govt guidance below), but there is no requirement that asylum seeking volunteers should tell Immigration Control that they are volunteering, or where they are volunteering. Nor is there a requirement for organisations who deploy volunteers to inform any agency that someone is volunteering with them, or to share this information.  

If we all know our rights as citizens, we can all uphold the rule of Law – which is there to protect everyone, regardless of their immigration status. Sometimes we can be a helpful reminder to those agencies who are tasked with enforcing the law, to ensure the best outcome for everyone. 

Jon Beech, Director, LASSN

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