With thanks to Asylum Matters for this invaluable resource
This resource set out steps and tools to support grassroots groups and organisations to engage their local MP on the damaging proposals in the New Plan for Immigration and the Nationality and Borders Bill.
If you have any questions or feedback about these resources – or if you use it to plan your approach to MPs – please let us know! You can contact us at [email protected].
What you can find in this resource
- Why lobbying MPs matters!
- Getting in touch with your MP
- Organising and planning your meeting
- Other ways to engage with your MP
- What about other decision makers?
Section 1: Why lobbying MPs matters!
The passage of the Nationality & Borders Bill is an opportunity for MPs to oppose the UK Government’s harmful plans and speak up for an asylum system that is kinder, fairer and more effective.
We know that there are MPs across the UK and across all parties who want to see a better asylum system, and there are many others who are open to being persuaded. However, the Government has a significant majority and there are many new MPs who have not yet been engaged in issues affecting people seeking asylum.
The Nationality & Borders Bill needs to be supported by a majority of MPs in the House of Commons for it to become law. Many MPs will have heard from the small but vocal minority who oppose a compassionate approach to refugees. It is therefore crucial that they hear from people and groups in their constituencies who stand together with refugees.
We want to build support among parliamentarians, including new allies and long-standing supporters. We want them to publicly oppose the anti-refugee bill and call for a different approach that protects people seeking safety. To achieve this, we need to make the case directly to them, to ensure they feel confident they have the backing of the people they represent.
Section 2: Getting in touch with your MP
Finding your MP
The most effective way you can act is by focusing on your local MP, whose responsibility it is to represent you in Parliament. You can find out who your MP is, their contact details, including their email address and how to access their website here.
We have uploaded a template letter you can use to the resources section of our website. You can use and edit the letter in your outreach to your MP, which explains why we oppose the Bill and asks the MP to take action. Find it here.
This letter is something for you to personalise, including your own reasons for opposing the Government’s plans and wanting a better alternative.
It is always powerful to share your personal experiences. If you have experience of the asylum system yourself, you could describe your motivations for wanting to see change. If you represent a group or organisation, you could describe to the MP how the Bill would negatively impact on your local community and the people you work with, and the difference an alternative approach could make.
Quick tips for contacting your MP
- When you send a letter to your MP, you may not receive a reply straight away. You can always follow up with your MPs constituency office by phone – check out their website for up to date contact details.
- If you know other organisations or groups working with refugees in your local area, you can always join forces and write to your MP together! Collective approaches can be very powerful when trying to persuade your MP to meet you.
- If you are still struggling to arrange a meeting with your MP, check out whether your MP is holding open ‘surgeries’ that you can attend. Surgeries are allocated times where MPs meet with their constituents to discuss any local concerns. Check out your MP’s website to see if they have any surgery sessions coming up.
Section 3: Organising and planning your meetings
MPs will often offer you the opportunity to meet and to discuss your issue further. This can be the most effective way of enlisting the MP’s support for the cause. There are a few things you can think about in advance to help make your meeting as effective as possible:
Hosting meetings online
At the time of writing, physical meetings for most MPs will still be a rarity. Instead, lots of MPs are conducting their meetings over video link. If the MP is able to meet, they will be able to organise a video conferencing link for you to dial in on, such as Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams.
We may be able to offer financial support with the cost of data to enable campaigners to engage with their MP online. This funding is restricted to expert by experience-led groups. Please contact us at [email protected] if you would like to find out more.
Researching the MP
If you’re meeting for the first time, you should do some research about your MP, including their party’s position and whether they have said anything before on asylum or refugee issues. You can do this by looking at their voting record, questions they’ve asked, or just their social media feed. Find their voting record here.
Who you attend with
It can often be beneficial to work with others, so that as wide a range of experiences and viewpoints as possible are shared with the MP. If you yourself do not have lived experience of the asylum system, it is particularly helpful to work alongside those who do so they can describe the personal impact of the Government’s policies and rhetoric.
Plan your messages and actions
It is best to arrive at your meeting with very clear messages you want to convey (as well as resources, such as a briefing on the Bill, to help convey them), but also to be clear on the actions you are asking the MP to take. This could be publicly stating their support on social media, asking a question in parliament, or writing to the Home Secretary, for example.
After the meeting
It is always helpful to publicise the meeting on social media, and ideally using photos if everyone is comfortable with this (at the moment this may just be a photo of a Zoom screen!) Equally, it is valuable to follow up with the MP by email after the meeting to ask about the actions they said they would undertake, and to thank them for their time. Often, it may take more than one meeting to persuade your MP; so do always offer another meeting.
Finally, please let us know how it has gone! The Asylum Matters team is always happy to help you to prepare for these meetings, and you can contact us on [email protected]
Tips for meetings with MPs:
- Be polite but also persistent – having your key messages decided in advance can help!
- If you’re meeting your MP with a group of people, organise a pre-meeting call to work out a running order and what each person will speak about.
- Make sure there are some of the MP’s constituents in the meeting and make them aware if there are people joining from outside their constituency.
- If possible, ensure one or more people with lived experience of the asylum system are able to speak. We hope to ensure as many MPs as possible have the opportunity to engage with people with direct experience of the asylum system. These testimonies are undoubtedly the most powerful.
- If it’s a first meeting, limit yourselves to asking just one thing from the MP. View the meeting as the beginning of a conversation and a way to develop a longer term relationship.
- If you’re asked something you don’t know the answer to, it’s completely reasonable to say you’ll follow up with further information after the meeting.
- At the end of your meeting, request a follow up meeting and, if possible, set a date!
- Email or call to follow up with a thank you and further information, such as reports on the topic you discussed.
- If you are holding the meeting online, make sure that everyone has the right equipment and data to participate. Consider which platforms people are most familiar with.
If you are an expert by experience and you would like to support other campaigners to approach their MP in constituencies where fewer experts by experience may live, please contact [email protected]
Section 4: Other ways to engage your MP
You don’t always have to meet with your MP to engage and influence them effectively. Indeed, often receiving a response by email that sets out the MP’s position (particularly when it is supportive) is a success in itself. If they do set out their support to you, you should encourage them to take action publicly or privately to advance the issue.
These actions might include:
💬 Social Media Actions
It is always welcome for an MP to publicly set out their support for the issue on social media, using the hashtag #TogetherWithRefugees or #WhoWeAre and calling for an alternative to the #AntiRefugeeBill.
📣 Raising the issue in Parliament
MPs are also able to ask questions on legislation such as the Bill, or to raise the issue for debate. This is another way of showing their support for refugees while demonstrating to the Government the high level of interest in the issue. They will have staff who are experienced in drafting questions, but you can support them to do so using your expertise.
✍ Writing to the Home Secretary
The Home Secretary has the power to change the approach on this legislation or immigration rules whenever they like. It is therefore important to influence them directly, and MPs writing a letter to them is an effective way to do this. This is particularly powerful when the MP is from the governing party, and is well respected in Parliament.
Section 5: What about other decision makers?
Whilst it is really important to engage with MPs, there are lots of other decision makers and political representatives that can be incredibly helpful allies in our campaign for a fair and compassionate asylum system.
Find out more about lobbying local and regional decision makers in our guide here!