Advocacy and campaigning toolkit
This toolkit is intended to be a guide for organisations working with EU citizens and their family members with rights conferred by the Withdrawal Agreement who want to expand their campaigning for change. It is intended to help organisations influence decision-makers, advocating for policy solutions informed and led by the lived experience of EU citizens in the UK who are facing issues with the EU Settlement Scheme.
Figuring out where to start when advocating for change can be daunting. For those seeking to protect and ensure people can access their rights as EU citizens, these are some ideas to help get you thinking about how best to kickstart your campaign.
To start your campaign, it is important that you have a plan of action. In order to develop that plan of action you need to know what you are aiming to achieve, and why.
1. Identify the problem
Ensure you have a clear notion of what the problem is that you want to address
Be sure you are able to explain it to someone who is unaware of the issue
2. Know what change is needed
Identify what change needs to happen in order for the problem to be fixed
Identify who has the power to bring about that change
3. Devise a plan of action
Plan what action to take in order to reach those with the power to make decisions and effect the change you want to see
Who are the key stakeholders and how can they be brought on board? Consider their perspectives, concerns, and motivations
Set a realistic timetable outlining key milestones, deadlines, and events - be clear about what you want to achieve, and by when
Bear in mind the internal and external factors that may affect your campaign's progress (for example key political events, such as local or general elections)
Identify your campaign's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (a SWOT analysis) along with any potential risks that may hinder the success of your campaign.
4. Monitor and evaluate as you go along
Set up a system to monitor the progress of your campaign.
Reflect back on it, and evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies so that you can adjust them as needed.
Stay flexible and be ready to adapt your strategy based on changing circumstances.
Remember that strategic planning is an ongoing process, and it's important to revisit and adjust your plan as needed. Regularly communicate with your team and stakeholders to ensure everyone is aligned with the campaign's objectives.
Below are some ideas and links to help you formulate your plans.
Who to influence?
In order to bring about a change, you will need to start by figuring out which people, organisations, or public bodies have the power to act and bring about the change you want to see. Deciding who to target and influence is an important early step.
Below are some suggestions and explainers to help you figure out who best to approach and influence.
Local government is split into several tiers, with different responsibilities. They receive funding from the central government pot, as well as from things like council tax. County councils, as well as some district, borough and city councils are responsible for local issues ranging from waste collection to education, social care, libraries and local transport.
If you have a localised issue on which you would like to bring about a change, contacting your local council or councillors might be a good place to start. Town councils also often have some responsibility for the provision of grant funding for local projects. You can find out more about your local council by inputting your postcode here. Your councillors are elected and hold advice surgeries which you should be able to find out about on your local council website.
The devolution of power to the different nations of the UK means that decision-making on certain topics remains closer to those affected by it. As a result there is a parliament in Scotland (at Holyrood), a Welsh parliament (Senedd Cymru), and a national assembly in Northern Ireland (at Stormont). There is no equivalent devolved parliament for England.
If you are based in Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, it may assist to identify and contact your local representatives within those bodies. You can find your Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) here, your Member of the Senedd (MSs) here, and your Member of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland (MLA) here.
Most MPs hold regular weekly meeting sessions (surgeries) for their constituents. You can contact their constituency offices to arrange a meeting or drop in to an advice surgery, both of which are usually easier routes to securing a meeting than approaching their Westminster offices.
Writing letters to MPs is a useful way of bringing important issues to their attention and putting in writing the issues you are trying to address. MPs are of course elected by their constituents, and highlighting the challenges faced by their own individual constituents is often a helpful way to bring MPs on board.
All MPs have a team of staffers in Westminster and another back home in their constituency. It is often easier to get an appointment in the constituency. You can find out who your MP is, and what their interests and priorities are, here and here. There are some suggestions below about what you can ask your MP to do.
All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs)
All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) have an interesting and unusual function. They are cross-party committees of MPs and Lords, each with a particular interest focus. They are also often chaired by representatives from relevant third sector organisations. Although they have no formal role in Parliament, they can be a very useful forum through which to bring important issues to the fore, and can be useful contacts to make for a campaign. There are several hundred APPGs. The register of functioning APPGs is updated fairly regularly and can be found here. It may take some time to figure out which is most relevant and receptive to your campaign. A good place to start might be the Refugee, Asylum and Migration Project (RAMP) APPG, the Citizens’ Rights APPG, the APPG on Poverty, and the APPG on Social Integration, to name just a few.
How to do it?
Connect with others
Don’t launch your campaign in isolation. A good, strong campaign will have community support, and it could be that there are others also pushing for reform on the same, or similar issues. If that is so, it could help your campaign to connect and join forces. Successful campaigns are those able to build enough momentum and pressure to effect change, and the wider the reach of the campaign, the more likely that it will be able to build that momentum. Below are some suggestions of other organisations you could get in touch with to begin to build a network of supporters and allies.
The Civil Society EUSS Alliance, coordinated by New Europeans UK, is a network of frontline advice organisations operating in the EUSS sphere. They hold virtual meetings each month to share best practices and coordinate on campaigns and policy issues. If you have launched or are launching a campaign it would be a good idea to reach out and connect with the EUSS Alliance.
The EU Delegation to the UK acts as a de facto European Union embassy to the UK post-Brexit. They have a dedicated team focussed on citizens’ rights and are in regular discussions with the UK government, embassies and civil society organisations working in the sector of EU citizens’ rights. They coordinate an EUSS Monitoring Network. Network members meet regularly and also have access to a useful newsletter which sets out what is going on in the sector. You can find out more about the Network here.
Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA)
ILPA is a professional association of immigration law practitioners and associated academics and professionals. If you need to find a lawyer, they are a good place to start. ILPA is also engaged in advocacy work with the Home Office to raise systemic problems in the implementation of immigration law/policy, so if it makes sense for your campaign, contact them and see if there is common ground or an ongoing conversation already.
Here for Good
Here for Good is an immigration advice organisation that works with a network of other legal providers, and which was established in response to the UK’s departure from the EU. They are one part of a new Strategic Alliance For Europeans project (SAFE), alongside Seraphus and Wilson’s solicitors, looking to do strategic legal work to support people to challenge systemic injustices faced by European families. You can find out more about SAFE here.
the3million is the largest grassroots organisation for EU citizens in the UK, formed after the 2016 referendum to protect the rights of people who have made the UK their home.
the3million is eager to understand the different challenges faced by migrants post-Brexit, whether regarding digital status, access to public services, or anything else. If you have an issue, or know someone else who does, please let us know by reporting it to us here.
We are keen to hear the experiences of EU citizens and their families applying to the EUSS, and accessing welfare support. We are also keen to hear from all migrants who are struggling to prove their immigration status.
Decide what action to take
You will not always get through the door and hold the meetings that you are seeking with decision-makers. They might not respond at all at first, and it can be a lengthy process. They might ask you to feed into a consultation process that they are already running on their own terms, or pass you on to someone more junior who does not have the power to effect the change needed.
Public visibility can help to get on the radar of your target and demonstrate the collective power that you’ve been building, i.e. show just how much support there is, how many people/organisations are actively involved in the campaign. That is why connecting with others is so vital.
Your campaign can aim to both raise awareness and generate a specific reaction from your target. Below are a few suggestions of ways to have an impact.
Letter writing campaign
You could run a letter-writing campaign, providing people with an outline of what to say in a letter to their local councils or MP. While using template letters can lead to a higher number of letters being sent, they are often more effective when personalised, with the author of each one setting out their concerns and accounts in their own way. Individual letters from a smaller number of people are often more effective than a larger batch of identical letters.
Work with your MP
What can you ask your MP to do? The following are some suggestions.
1. Early Day Motions
Ask your MP to submit an Early Day Motion (EDM). These are motions submitted in the House of Commons for debate, on which no date for a debate has been fixed. As a result, most do not get debated but they can attract media attention and get people talking about an issue, and a record of the EDMs raised is recorded in Hansard. They are always short (not more than 250 words) and are formatted as a single sentence. It might be useful if you approach your MP with a ready-formulated one, or ask if they would like your help in drafting it.
2. Westminster Hall debate
Ask your MP to apply for a Westminster Hall Debate. This is an opportunity for you to get your MP to raise an issue (of either local or national significance) which will require a response from a government minister and generate a debate on it in Parliament.
3. Parliamentary Questions
You can also encourage your MP to ask a Parliamentary Question. This means your MP asking a question of a government minister for information or an update about the work of a government department on a particular issue. It can be a helpful way to raise the profile of the issue you are concerned about, and generate a government response.
Contact the Independent Monitoring Authority
The Independent Monitoring Authority for Citizens’ Rights Agreements (IMA) is an independent public body which was established to monitor the UK’s implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement after Brexit.
As a public body it is government-funded, but it remains independent and has oversight of the ways in which other public bodies treat the rights of those EU citizens and their family members whose rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.
Its focus is mainly on the Home Office, and immigration law and policy, but it can also monitor the actions of other government departments (such as the Department for Work and Pensions), agencies (such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and local councils.
You can raise concerns you have about citizens’ access to their rights to remain, work and thrive in the UK by contacting the IMA: https://ima-citizensrights.org.uk/report-complaint/
Engage with the media to change the narrative
It can be daunting to engage with journalists on your campaign, but it’s one of the most valuable ways of gaining support and changing hearts and minds. There are helpful experts in the sector who can help and have put together valuable resources to get your started.
New Economy Organisers and Heard provide training to charities and campaigners to develop strong progressive messages and frame their campaigns, pitch to the media and tell stories which change the world.
Changing narratives takes time and effort, resources and expertise. Writing messages which will have a real impact with your target audience requires not only in depth knowledge of the issue and proposed solution your campaign is advocating for, but also skills in storytelling and public speaking. NEON’s Messaging Handbook can help steer you through your messaging journey.
Training members of your community to be confident spokespeople is crucial. Messaging workshops can help raise people’s confidence. iMix provide regular masterclasses where professionals in the migration sector can learn tips and techniques. Migrant Voice also provide group training, as well as one to one mentoring sessions and creative training projects.
Audiences are most likely to engage with news stories when they hear from someone who has been personally affected by the issue, speaking about what it means to them. Journalists will also want to include first person stories from people who have experienced the issue you’re drawing attention to. Supporting people with lived experience in speaking out in the media is crucial, and it can be tricky.
Safeguarding campaigners in this situation must be a priority. iMix provide a safeguarding checklist you can use when connecting people with journalists. It is our responsibility as campaigners to ensure people are knowledgeable about the risks of sharing their story, as well as the wider benefits this can have - for them personally, and for the campaign.
Timing is very important in working with the media. You need to be clear on what makes the story relevant and newsworthy now - this is called a news peg. A government announcement, a change in the law, an event, or an anniversary can all be good news pegs. Make sure you consider the fresh perspectives you are adding to the unfolding story.
It’s important to understand how migration stories are framed in British media. Journalists are telling a story - and when it comes to migration frames, the most common ways of doing this is through: victim frames (presenting people as victims of inequality or discrimination), hero frames (highlighting contributions to the country) or villain frames (presenting people as threats).
You can learn more about coverage of migration stories through the “Victims and Villains: Migrant Voices in British Media” report by Heaven Crawley, Simon McMahon, Katharine Jones from the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University.
In campaigning for citizens’ rights, it’s important to avoid (where possible) these simple frames, and also connect with journalists who are interested in telling complex stories - portraying people accurately, with agency and humanity.
Tailor your message
Make sure you are able to explain your proposals as clearly and concisely as possible, and try and tailor what you say to your audience, so that you don’t assume that the people you are talking to have as much insight or knowledge about your campaign as you do, nor lose their interest by explaining basic principles that they are already well acquainted with.
Campaign organisers aim to get round the table to negotiate with decision makers. This can be hard, especially if you have lived experience of oppression from the people you’re negotiating with. However, you don’t just want to call for change that others implement, or be included as part of a “consultation”. It is important to have the people who are experiencing the injustice to be at the table for the decision-making process. Make sure you approach the campaign process with this in mind.
Practical steps & tips:
Treat your meeting with the decision maker as a negotiation that you are leading
Develop an agenda, have a chair in place - you are in charge of how the meeting proceeds
Meet on your own turf, if you can, invite them to a community based organisation, rather than having the meeting in their own office
Be clear on what your asks are, as well as any compromises you are willing to make and lines you are not going to cross (deal breakers). Agree your negotiation plan with your team.
People with lived experience of the issues playing a meaningful role in this, not just telling their stories of pain and injustice.
Address the self-interest of your target throughout the meeting. Frame everything according to that.
To run an effective campaign, it is vital to ensure that you know what you are talking about, and have the evidence to back up your arguments. If you are gathering information about individual experiences, make sure you keep a careful record and are able to set out your evidence clearly. Remember to do due diligence with regard to holding data on individuals though, in line with GDPR requirements, and make sure you have consent from individuals to retain and share their information. Consider whether you could anonymise data instead. In addition to gathering examples from your work, community or individual experiences, below are some further suggestions about how to ensure you have as much information as possible about the issues you are focusing on.
Apply for a Subject Access Request (SAR)
Anyone can make a Subject Access Request (SAR) in order to see a copy of the files and records held about them by the Home Office. The process is free and it can be helpful to gain a fuller picture of what the Home Office position and processes have been in an individual case. If you are gathering evidence of a systemic problem that affects many people, SARs can also form a useful body of evidence. Bear in mind GDPR requirements and ensure that people’s data is not shared without their express permission. the3million has prepared a step by step guide to help people in making subject access requests, which can be found here. When you are ready to make the application, the link to do so is here.
Make a Freedom of Information Request (FOI)
The Freedom of Information Act enables individuals and organisations to request information recorded by public authorities, usually for free. This can include information about statistics and figures, policies, contracts and all sorts of other information. It can be hard to know what to ask sometimes in order to generate the response you need, but it can be a very effective mechanism to find out about government data, policies and practices.
You can search here for past FOI requests and the answers they generated. If the information you want isn’t there, you can make your own request here. Remember that this is not a way to access your own case data - for that, make a Subject Access Request (see above). If you have a good relationship with an MP it can sometimes be helpful to discuss this with them in case they can advise how best to frame a question.
Case studies of campaigns led by EU citizens and migrants
Below are some examples of the campaigns and advocacy journeys taken by a sample of organisations which work to support the rights of EU citizens and other migrants post-Brexit.
The first case study shows the importance of actively building ‘people power’ in one’s community and of investing in this process in an ongoing, long-term way, rather than attempting to mobilise a community from time to time and in a purely reactive way in response to external events. The second and third case studies illustrate the importance of identifying the most relevant tactics in a campaign - recognising that in order to effect change we often have to adopt several, complementary strategies - and of working in partnership, so that different strategies can be led by the organisations best placed to implement them. For example, some organisations will have a track record of community organising that has led to them developing a rich network of relationships with communities on the ground rooted in trust, while others may lack that but have the expertise and capacity to conduct research or pursue legal action.
‘People Power’ before ‘Programme’ - campaigns by Centrala and DOR - Romanian Diaspora Organisation
We often think that campaigns start with an issue: that once we know what we’re fighting for or against, it’s just a matter of finding the people and organisations who support the issue and getting them involved. However, in order to be effective, we must approach this the other way around: we must put the process of building our people power before the process of developing a programme of policy solutions and of campaign activities for supporters to tap into. When you’re eager to make a start on your campaign, this can feel counter-intuitive: why spend time on building relationships when you could start raising awareness of the issue at hand?
Well, change rarely, if ever, occurs merely because it was the right thing to do. Rather, change occurs because those in a position of power to effect that change felt compelled to take action, whether in light of their own self-interest (e.g. an issue is popular with the electorate and thus acting on it will strengthen a politician’s chances of re-election) or due to significant public pressure, or both.
As such, communities wanting to effect change must build their power base before they launch campaigns they cannot win on their own, or with limited ownership and buy-in from enough people and groups from within their own community.
Building your power base will look differently depending on who needs to be behind a campaign. Let us take two very different networks as an example. Firstly, the CEEus Network founded by Centrala, a centre for Central and Eastern European (CEE) migrant artists and innovators in the UK, exists to bring together a range of people who would otherwise be experiencing similar challenges but be too dispersed to tackle them. In addition to campaigning workshops, the CEEus Network offers opportunities for mentoring and relationship-building via regular activities and meetings. Networks like this are vital not only to consult people and understand the issues they face, including sensitive and complex issues such as the realities of xeno-racism - a form of racialisation that is often misunderstood and thus left unchallenged by institutions and society at large (‘In between spaces’ report, March 2021) - but also to build a power base of people and organisations who trust each other and are committed to working together throughout the ups and downs inherent in any campaign. Secondly, Connects UK, a joint partnership between eight different associations of scientists from EU countries who had been working and conducting their research in the UK - such as Polonium Foundation, an association of Polish researchers, and PARSUK, an association of Portuguese researchers - that has secured EU funding to meet and organise effectively, in order to influence the policies that directly affect the ability of researchers from EU backgrounds to work with UK research institutions on scientific programmes. Were these associations to advocate for themselves in silos, their potential for impact would be hugely reduced.
However, what do you do when you don’t have a full picture of who is who in your given community?
This was the challenge found by a number of Romanian organisations in the UK - such as DOR - Romanian Diaspora and Romanian Women in the UK. In order to better understand which organisations and groups are being run by and for the Romanian diaspora in the UK, these two organisations approached the researchers at the TDI - The Diaspora Initiative and, after having secured funding from the Foreign Policy Centre, conducted a study that uncovered which Romanian diaspora organisations operate across the country, as well as how they do or do not cooperate with one another and the impact they have.
The study published in November 2020 revealed strengths, such as the high levels of voting in Romanian elections and high levels of activity in support those most affected during the covid-19 pandemic, as well as weaknesses, such as the fact that only around 4.3% of the activities being conducted by Romanian diaspora organisations involved strategic coordination on campaigns or projects aimed at achieving longer-term policy or political change. To address this, the report recommendations include the establishment of a Romanian Diaspora Trust with the goal of distributing funding transparently across local diaspora organisations, strategically supporting diaspora-led initiatives, promoting cooperation and increasing capacity for collective and effective action.
The campaign - strategies
1. Grassroots public campaign - started by Ahmed Alhindi, an individual with lived experience of the issue. Ahmed was a student struggling to go to university because he didn't have settled status or indefinite leave to remain. He pressed for a survey which revealed how many other migrant students were in his position. Many subsequently joined the campaign.
Speaking publicly about the issue at conferences, the campaign attracted the attention and support of several Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).
Student leaders went on to speak to Members of the Scottish Parliament's Cross Party Group on Migration as well as to Trade Union leaders, e.g. Universities and Colleges Union.
2. Strategic Litigation - the second limb of the campaign arose from strategic litigation brought by JRS. In a landmark decision (Ola Jasim v Scottish Ministers  CSOH 64) the court found the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) residency rules, which deprived migrant students of funding, to be unlawful in light of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The court found that the Scottish Government’s Students’ Allowances (Scotland) Regulations 2007 were discriminatory by preventing a category of migrant young people, living lawfully in Scotland since their childhood, from accessing college or university alongside their peers.
Following the court’s decision, SAAS had to revise their eligibility criteria and update the SAAS Payment Scheme. This scheme lowered the residency requirement from 7 years or half a lifetime, to just three years.
The Scottish Government instigated a consultation in January 2023 on "Changes to residency criteria for access to financial support in Further and Higher Education". JRS, MIN and others such as JustCitizens responded to the consultation, illustrating how the Scottish Government could go even further and extend the meaning of having a ‘connection’ to Scotland to include not only those who had lived there for 3 years, but those who possess “the possibilities of a new life, the urge to contribute to society in this country, and the desire to make Scotland our home.”
As a result of the consultation, the government announced in May 2023 that free student funding would be extended to those resident in Scotland for three years with leave to remain in the UK, and also to unaccompanied children who are asylum seekers, as well as the children of asylum seekers.
This campaign example helps to illustrate the importance of civil society engagement. The campaign was not driven by strategic litigation, but was complemented by it. The success of the campaign came down to the close collaboration between different organisations and the fact that there were passionate, visible, vocal people fronting the campaign who had direct experience of the issue at hand.
Campaign to fix digital immigration status
the3million has been advocating for reform to the UK’s digital-only immigration status since it was first introduced as a concept in early 2018. Although the Withdrawal Agreement allows for a status document to be in ‘digital form’ there are doubts about whether the current form of digital status even amounts to a ‘document’. The government calls it ‘digital by default’ but it is in fact digital-only. People want a physical backup, to hold proof of their right to remain in the UK. This campaign is still underway.
The campaign - strategies
1. Political advocacy - the concerns of the European citizens involved in the3million were brought to the fore in negotiations and meetings with UK parliamentarians and both the European Parliament and European Commission in Brussels. Members of the3million gave, and continue to give, evidence to various Select Committees in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords..
Working alongside academics in the sector led to a survey being carried out with Northumbria University which found over 89% of respondents wanted physical proof, giving greater credence to the campaign.
Two letter-writing campaigns encouraged people to write letters to their MPs and to Members of the House of Lords. In 2020, the “Denied my Backup” campaign focused on people highlighting their worries about digital-only status. In 2021, the “Proof Equality Now!” writing campaign was about showing parliamentarians that the Covid Pass - where the Government had provided the possibility of physical backup for those who were digitally excluded - provided a good good example of how digital status can be done differently. These campaigns were timed to coincide with debates in Parliament around bill amendments to provide physical proof, and resulted in far higher awareness in both Houses of Parliament of the problems caused by digital-only status.
Engagement with and letter writing to civil servants in the Home Office and political figures in Westminster is an ongoing part of the campaign, and the3million’s ask on this issue is well-publicised.
2. Strategic litigation - With crowdjustice funding, a case was brought in 2021 against the government’s roll-out of digital status, raising discrimination grounds. The case was ultimately unsuccessful because the court found that it was premature to litigate, simply because at that point old physical documents were still in use. The case helped to broaden understanding of the issue and support for it.
3. Research and evidence gathering - underpinning the work done to inform and persuade the government is a body of research and evidence gathering. Working closely with other organisations in the sector, including many advice organisations and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), the3million continues to document the problems with digital status. This work feeds into the rest of the campaign, and results in the publication of reports such as the March 2022 dedicated report on maintaining digital status and the November 2022 report highlighting the effect of digital status on travel submitted to the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA).
An ILPA digitalisation working group has now been set up to highlight the ongoing challenges with digital status, and the Home Office has agreed to set up a Stakeholder Forum dedicated to addressing concerns from the sector.
The government has acknowledged that there may be some circumstances in which a physical backup might be necessary.
Following engagement with the EU Delegation and German MPs, the issue was raised in the European Parliament.
The issue continues to gain traction and support both inside and outside Westminster.
This example illustrates how campaigning can be a long-term process. The campaign is not yet over, and the work remains ongoing. It is gaining momentum thanks to the extensive negotiations backed up by detailed research and evidence. The support and collaboration between many organisations and actors continues to be vital to raising the profile of the campaign.
Campaign to improve access to education for migrants
The Our Grades, Not Visas campaign aimed to enable young migrants and asylum seekers in Scotland to have access to education on an equal footing as others, with a right to ‘Home Fee’ status at higher education institutions across Scotland. It was supported by the work of Just Right Scotland (JRS) and Maryhill Integration Network (MIN).