How to organise a People’s Tribunal and indict UK immigration policy

A new study of the use that can be made of ‘People’s Tribunals’ to advance the campaigning work of migrant and refugee rights organisations has been published by the steering group which organised the London hearing of a Europe-wide in 2018.

The organisation of People’s Tribunals to indict the policies and practices of governments have been around since the 1960s when they were used to great effect to mobilise public opinion against the role of the United States during the years of the war in Vietnam. Since that time has been developed as a method for uniting diverse campaigns in a common project to denounce human rights violations.

The booklet, ‘Organising a People’s Tribunal’, argues that it is an approach particularly relevant to the organisations working in solidarity with migrants and refugees.  The need to overcome the tendency of groups to work in silos, clustering around specific examples of abuse of rights, is particularly pressing during a period when the UK government, through its Nationality and Borders Bill and other measures is preparing a fresh offensive against migrant and refugee people.

The authors set out a step-by-step approach to organising a People’s Tribunal, which has to begin by getting the commitment of the various groups to participate by providing the evidence that supports the indictment of government practices.  Working across the space of a a year, a People’s Tribunal requires collaboration over agree messages, the collection of evidence, and a methodology for scrutinising this during a public hearing. 

The objective of a People’s Tribunal on the issue of immigration policy in the UK would be to show how the multiple violations of human rights standards, which range across such scandals as the treatment of the Windrush generation, the deportation of young people who have resided in the UK for the majority of their lives, and the creation of risk for refugees seeking a route to enter the country, do not arise from easily correctible policy errors, but from a conscious and unified effort to work across the entire spectrum of the movement of people to deny and suppress human rights.

Status Now Network (SNN)

The pamphlet refers to SNN’s interest in organising a People’s Tribunal in 2022 which would consider the direction of UK immigration policy over a period of decades, which over this period as worked consistently to erode rights and create insecurity and risk for migrant people.  The pamphlet’s authors hope that it will encourage more discussion about how a People’s Tribunal might be developed as a project which the whole of range of groups working to strengthen solidarity with migrants can commit to in the coming year.

SNN will be organising a roundtable discussion event on ‘Organising a People’s Tribunal’ early in 2022.  If you would like more information please email with ‘People’s Tribunal’ in the subject box.

A link to the full ‘Organising a People’s Tribunal’ pamphlet is avail, together with a blog, on the website of the Steering Committee of the Permanent People’s Tribunal.  

Authored by Don Flynn, who represents the Steering Group of the London Hearing of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Migrant Rights on the SNN reference group