Photo: info@katherinegreen.co.uk

Hackney has always been home to migrants – whether they came as refugees, to work, or to join family.

Thursday 21 October saw the start of Hackney Council’s first migrant strategy which sets out to recognise the different needs of refugees and other groups in the borough’s migrant population. The strategy’s first consultation event was held at Hackney Council for Voluntary Service in Dalston.

Over thirty migrants, refugees, community organisations, network members and other residents came together to share their views on issues such as health and social care, housing, and young people. This consultation – like the focus groups to come – captured views on how public services can do a better job for refugee and migrant communities and brought together local agencies and services to work together on migration issues.

Thomas Bubi, a Hackney resident for 17 years, still sees himself as part of the migrant community. Thomas is Congolese and works for the African Support and Project Centre. He said: “All the issues for migrants in Hackney are connected: without a job it is hard to get housing, without adequate housing, health care gets worse. But the biggest issue for us is language. How do we get a job if we cannot speak the language?

“When I first came to England I had never spoken the language in my life. Then I started ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Langauges). There were more training opportunities open to me after that. Hackney has come along way in the last 17 years, especially in terms of signposting information for migrants. But more needs to be done in terms for ESOL provision and this new strategy should take this into account.”

Erbil Aslan from Alevi Cultural Centre, a community centre for Hackney’s Turkish and Kurdish communities said: “Growing up as a migrant in Hackney is hard. Young people are often stuck between two or three completely contrasting cultures, their family life, school life, and life with friends at the weekend. Their English is often more fluent than their parents so they end up becoming translators or interpreters. Children are missing school so they can go with their parents to the GP for this reason. I’m pleased all these issues will go into the strategy, it should show support for refugee community organisations and outline new ways to work with these younger communities.”

There are also opportunities for local voluntary and community sector organisations and networks – migrants, refugees, and other residents to get involved.  This can be done through inviting the migrant strategy team to community meetings to talk to people about this work, promoting the focus groups or completing the online questionnaire (available shortly).

Funded through the Migration Impact Fund, this project is part of a wider programme being managed by Team Hackney (the local strategic partnership). It is steered by Hackney Council for Voluntary Service (HCVS), Hackney Council and Hackney Refugee Forum with other key stakeholders. HCVS has commissioned MigrationWork CIC to develop it, in partnership with Praxis Community Projects.

Following these consultations, the Migrant Strategy will be presented to Team Hackney in early 2011, so it can be implemented from next April – the new financial year.

Here are a few ways that local voluntary and community sector organisations and networks – migrants, refugees, and other residents can get involved:

1) invite Praxis to one of your network or organisation’s meetings, to discuss what should go into the Strategy

2) suggest refugees or other migrants in your organisation who might like to join in a focus group

3) respond to the on-line questionnaire.

For more information, please contact Alex Sutton alex.sutton@praxis.org.uk or Berhanu Kassayie berhanu@praxis.org.uk

To find out about HCVS services or join the HCVS mailing list, contact HCVS on 020 7923 1962 or katy@hcvs.org.uk

For enquiries about Hackney Migrant Strategy, contact Katy Palmer at HCVS on 020 7923 8186 or katy@hcvs.org.uk

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