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This new report from Migration Exchange (MEX) presents a comprehensive review of the UK refugee and migration sector and independent funding landscape, looking at areas of growth and focus since 2020, with insights on key thematic areas.

The sector in 2023 – key stats

Analysis of Charity Commission data and survey results revealed interesting findings on the size, focus and resources of the sector, including:

  • The refugee and migration sector includes registered charities, other formally constituted not-for-profit organisations, a wide range of voluntary and community-based organisations, and international organisations.
  • There has been an increase of 137 new charities (24%) established between 2020 to 2022 which work on refugee and migration issues.
  • Funding to the sector increased significantly (51%) between 2020 and 2022 – largely due to emergency funding in response to Covid-19. However there are concerns about whether this funding level can and will be sustained.
  • Resources to the sector are heavily concentrated in large organisations. In fact just 3% of charities in the core sector control 44% of the funding.
  • NGOs remain largely dependent on trusts and foundations for funding.

The sector in 2023 – key priorities

Drawing from interviews and consultation workshops, the report presents deeper analysis and suggested actions around six key priority areas:

Adapting to external challenges and crises

Funding for more systematic and strategic collaboration, including horizon scanning, shared funding infrastructure and legal advice, can strengthen our power to go beyond rapid response.

Financial sustainability and funding

By investing more in those doing ground-breaking work where the need is great, independent funders could spread their support more equally. A shared approach to growing the overall funding pot would also help build a solid foundation for the future.

Racial justice, power and lived experience

Real change will only happen when those with power reflect deeply on the lasting impact of colonialism and racial injustice, and start distributing resources differently. Additionally, involving people with lived experience of migration is a vital step towards achieving fundamental, inclusive and collective change.

Employee wellbeing and leadership

By urgently investing in collective care, leadership development, and fair work and pay policies, people will feel safe and protected.

Influencing and campaigning

To prepare for the 2024 General Election, we can benefit from building wider alliances that link frontline expertise with political influence and power.

Alliances and collaboration

Solidarity with people on the move is the bond that connects organisations across our sector. But we need more time and new opportunities to deepen collaborations and broaden our alliances. By pooling our power and expertise we can present a united front on the issues that matter most, and create a better future for everyone.

Today, IPPR has launched its briefing paper, Understanding the Rise in Channel Crossings. This paper outlines the reasons for the increase in people crossing the Channel by small boats in recent years to help form a firmer basis for a humane and effective policy response. IPPR’s research has found that:

In the last five years, the number of people crossing the English Channel in small boats has risen sharply. The vast majority of those arriving claim asylum when they get to the UK.

These Channel crossings pose serious risks to the safety of those making the journey, and it can be deadly.

The UK government has responded to the rise in Channel crossings with a series of highly controversial and contested policy announcements.  In this briefing paper, IPPR aims to explore the reasons for the increase in small boat arrivals to help form a firmer basis for a humane and effective policy response.

This briefing draws on interviews with key experts and stakeholders – including those with lived experience of crossing the Channel in small boats – as well as analysis of Home Office data. It sets out some of the potential factors explaining the recent rise, gives an overview of the government’s approach up till now and assesses its potential implications. It also sets out some potential ways forward, which IPPR intends to explore and assess in more detail in its final report for this project.

Thousands of children of EU nationals risk becoming a new “Windrush generation”, says new research by Coram released today.

Coram are concerned that vulnerable children could become undocumented in the same way as the Caribbean children who came to the UK decades ago.

The report from Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC), sets out the risk caused by the complexity of many cases and lack of legal advice on how to secure permanent status post-Brexit.

There are over 900,000 EU national children in the UK who will soon be required to prove that they have the right to remain in the UK after Brexit to avoid becoming ‘undocumented’ after the end of the Brexit transition period (which will be 30 June 2021 or 31 December 2020 depending on whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or not). The Home Office estimates that between 10 and 20% of all applicants will be vulnerable. The future of 5,000 EU children who are currently in local authority care and separated from their families, is of particular concern.

Other children the report has identified as vulnerable are victims of domestic violence or children whose parents will not or cannot provide paperwork to evidence their time in the country or, who are unable to prove the length of their stay in the UK.

Immigration and integration: getting it right locally
Lessons from the National Conversation 

Thursday 17 May 2018, 9.15 am until 5pm, Central London Location

Join us for ‘Immigration and integration: getting it right locally’, an essential free day conference for anyone working on integration, community cohesion and immigration in the UK.

The National Conversation on Immigration, the biggest ever public consultation on immigration, is providing a detailed picture of local findings. Hosting 130 meetings with citizens and stakeholders across every nation and region of the UK, it has amassed an unprecedented body of localised evidence and information about the issues that affect integration and responses to the pressures of immigration.  Read the interim report of the National Conversation to find out more.

At this event keynote speakers, workshops and panels will look at practical ways to promote integration and facilitate greater public engagement in policy making.

Keynote speakers include: 

Yvette Cooper MP, presenting findings from the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee’s recent inquiry on building public consensus on immigration.
Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar, sharing lessons from Canada’s integration programme and policies.
Professor Miles Hewstone, speaking about the potential for contact within communities to address prejudice and stereotyping.

The conference is free to attend but places are limited.  You can SIGN UP HERE.

Please email Rosie Mitchell-Hudson; [email protected] if you have any queries about the event.

The 2017 Women on the Move Awards, presented by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Migrants Organise, recognised two exceptional refugees for their outstanding work to empower women.  The awards were presented on 10th March at London’s Southbank’s WOW – Women of the World Festival for International Women’s Day.

Young Woman of the Year award was given to 19 year-old Rozin Hanjool, whose family are part of the Yazidi minority group from northern Iraq. After attacks from extremist militants, they fled to the UK in 2007 when Rozin was just ten years-old.  Is 2015, while still finishing her A-levels in Coventry, Rozin started an online petition appealing to the UK Government to support and protect abducted and enslaved Yazidi girls.  Within 24 hours, the petition gathered 25,000 signatures and two years on it has now amassed over 260,000 signatures.  Rozin is determined to bring the petition back to the UK government and secure a commitment to extend urgent assistance to Yazidi girls in Iraq.  She studies law and human rights at university and campaigns actively in her free time.

Eden Habtemichael, a prominent journalist who escaped from Eritrea, was awarded Woman of the Year 2017 in recognition of her ground-breaking work to support asylum seekers and refugees in Oxfordshire. She fled to the UK in 2001 as a single mother with her two year-old daughter and applied for asylum.  Alone and scared, at one point she became homeless and destitute.  Once granted refugee status, she resolved to help other women and children in the asylum system. Eden has since worked tirelessly to find families in Oxford with spare rooms willing to host a refugee so that no one has to face destitution like her and her daughter.  Two teenage boys she found sleeping rough after arriving from Calais are now heading to university after getting A*s in their A-levels, thanks to Eden’s work in helping them find a family.

The Women on the Move Awards also recognised former child refugee Lord Dubs as Champion of the Year for his amendment to the Immigration Act of 2016 which compelled the UK government to resettle and support unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.  He continues to fight for the implementation of the provision.  The Sue Lloyd-Roberts Media Award went to Christina Lamb, Senior Foreign Correspondent for the Sunday Times, for her reporting on the refugee crisis in 2016.

Find out more about the event.

 Zrinka Bralo, Chief Executive of Migrants Organise, blogs about how the Women on the Move Awards give migrant and refugee women a voice


The Women on the Move Awards, a joint venture between Migrants Organise and UNHCR UK, were presented by broadcaster Samira Ahmed at the Royal Festival Hall during the Women of the World Festival to mark International Women’s Day 2016. More than 500 people came to celebrate and recognise migrant and refugee women who often do incredibly important, and yet largely invisible, work in their communities.


Our winners, Mariam Yusuf and Seada Fekadu, made the 2016 Awards a true celebration of resilience and dignity. Seada came to the UK from Eritrea as a minor, on her own, on the back of a truck via Calais. She is about to pass her exams with distinction and is off to university to become a doctor. Seada is mentoring young refugees at Young Roots and speaking up for their rights. Livia Firth presented the Young Woman award to Seada, a living example of what can be achieved when we give young refugees a helping hand, and when our protection system and public services work well.


Journalist Lindsey Hilsum presented the main Award to Mariam, who escaped Somalia and despite struggling with our adversarial system since 2008, has given her time and energy to other women in need at Women Asylum Seekers Together and many other organisations in Manchester.


What makes the achievements and contributions of these incredible women even more remarkable is the fact that neither of them spoke any English when they first arrived, and they are both now role models and leaders, turning their traumatic experiences into kindness and respect toward others. Mariam, who is still destitute and is still stuck in immigration limbo, said after the Awards Ceremony: “I was most honored and felt that I really mattered in society.”


This year we named the media award the Sue Lloyd-Roberts Media Award after a pioneering journalist, herself one of our award winners in 2014, whose legacy of professionalism and whose passion for fair and true reporting will continue to inspire courageous, thoughtful journalism. This year’s winners are Jackie Long and Lee Sorrell for their Channel 4 news piece Inside Yarl’s Wood, which provided undercover evidence of the UK’s dehumanising detention system and helped shift public debate towards more safeguards in detention, including time limits and alternatives to the detention of women.


The Awards also recognise a champion of refugees and migrants in mainstream society. This year, the winner of the Champion Award was Citizens UK, whose grass roots community organising went above and beyond any other civil society organisation, as they responded to the refugee crisis by organising a powerful Refugees Welcome movement around the country, introducing private sponsorship visas as a way for citizens to help provide protection and save lives, and for winning a groundbreaking legal victory to open up safe and legal routes for family reunion rights for refugee children in Calais.


The Women on the Move Awards are growing and opening up spaces for refugee and migrant women to tell their stories of survival contributing to the Southbank Centre’s WOW Festival’s wider audiences and on a bigger stage at the Festival Hall. For that we are very grateful to Jude Kelly, Southbank’s Artistic Director and the founder of the WOW Festival, whose support has been crucial in the growth and development of the Awards. Jude and WOW helped turn our good idea into reality. We are also grateful to the Barrow Cadbury Trust for recognising the importance of changing the narrative by telling the stories of survival and contribution that refugee and migrant women make, and letting them speak for themselves, for justice and dignity, inspiring us all in the process.


The following blog is based on an article written by Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Migration programme manager, Ayesha Saran for Alliance Magazine’s March issue on ‘Refugees and Migration:philanthropy responds’ which she guest edited with Atallah Kuttab and Timothy Ogden.  


The ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015 conjures tragic images and headline-grabbing figures. From the haunting pictures of Alan Kurdi, the three year old boy who drowned during the short but treacherous crossing from Turkey to Greece, to discomfiting scenes between baton-wielding border guards and desperate families seeking sanctuary. Philanthropy has been responding and will continue to do so in very constructive ways. However, its greatest opportunity may be in treating the refugee crisis not as a separate event, but as part of a wider effort to create more just and equal societies.


Over a million refugees, asylum seekers and migrants arrived on Europe’s shores during the past twelve months. Latest estimates suggest that at least three and a half thousand drowned attempting to do so. And, contrary to popular perception, just over 40 per cent were woman and children, including thousands of children separated from their families. Europe’s refugees are a mere fraction of the tens of millions displaced worldwide, but 2015 did mark the continent’s biggest population movement since the World War Two.


The challenges posed by ongoing events are undoubtedly daunting. While a large proportion of those arriving in Europe in 2015 were fleeing from the conflict in Syria, an over-emphasis on this group masks a more complex picture of displacement, simmering global inequality and changing demographics. In addition, many of the durable solutions ultimately lie in resolving seemingly intractable conflicts in the Middle East and further afield.


European foundations’ response


Given the scale of human suffering and the fact that the numbers arriving show no signs of abating, how could and should foundations respond? And what are they already doing? According to a survey of foundations conducted in the UK by Global Dialogue and the Ariadne funders network, a majority of respondents were planning to adjust their long-term strategies to adapt to new realities and some had already provided emergency grants.


In a European context, there is clearly considerable scope for foundations to fund humanitarian aid. This is particularly the case in border states such as Greece, which is bearing the brunt of the crisis while contending with its own domestic woes. As a survey on responses to the crisis by the European Foundation Centre (EFC) highlighted, many foundations recognise the immediate need to improve the living conditions for new arrivals and enable them to access legal advice and education.


However, there is also the perennial concern about philanthropy replacing the role and resources of governments and international organisations and some may not even have the mandate to countenance this type of emergency funding. On the other hand, doing nothing seems to be an increasingly untenable option for foundations concerned with peace, equality and social justice in Europe.


Tapping the upsurge of sympathy


One way to navigate some of these issues is to consider where philanthropy might be uniquely suited to intervene. In the short term, in addition to more service-orientated assistance, some foundations have been thinking about how to capitalise on the outpouring of sympathy and compassion for Europe’s newest arrivals that reached a crescendo upon the publication of the pictures of Alan Kurdi’s body.


In the UK, where the effects of the crisis are much less visible on the ground than elsewhere, refugee charities have been inundated with offers of support and requests to volunteer. Although it is as yet unclear whether these are ‘converts’ to the cause or those already sympathetic to refugees mobilising into action, a number of UK-based foundations and their civil society partners have discussed the strategic importance of the heightened focus on refugee protection.


For example, there are countless examples of civil society or citizen-led initiatives springing up in support of refugees and small scale and timely resources to embed schemes to host and welcome new arrivals could help maximise their impact. To this end, a number of UK-based foundations, including the Barrow Cadbury Trust, have established New Beginnings, a pooled fund to provide catalytic support to frontline organisations and community groups. Grants will be modest and short-term but is it hoped that they will enable groups to respond to the opportunities that the current context has presented.


The opportunity for increased advocacy


Another important consideration is that the renewed interest in refugee issues provides invaluable opportunities to ramp up advocacy. For example, linking calls for safe and legal routes to protection or for more humane family reunification policies to the current crisis could provide much-needed impetus and immediacy to existing campaigns at both national and European level.


This is particularly true in cases where non-refugee organisations and unusual allies are impelled to comment on ongoing events: here in the UK mainstream charities such as Oxfam, as well as a host of sports stars and celebrities have spoken up about the crisis. They may be better positioned to reach some sceptical audiences than refugee organisations. In this context, philanthropy is playing a critical role in providing additional capacity for campaigners to push through doors that might be starting to open.


Helping to change the larger debate


In the longer term, foundations are uniquely placed to connect immediate responses to the crisis to work to understand public attitudes and concerns about migration and refugee issues in Europe. The differential impacts of both the crisis and migration generally throughout the continent, as well as variations in the way the debate is conducted from country to country means that ‘one size fits all’ approaches are unhelpful. But in countries such as the UK, where migration and refugee issues are highly contested and politicised, a hostile and polarised debate can hinder wider efforts to promote the fair and dignified treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.


This is why many foundations, including the Barrow Cadbury Trust, have focused efforts on the complex and often overlooked arena of communications around migration. From our perspective, ignoring the need to change the dynamic of the wider migration debate over time could thwart shorter-term gains in terms of building support for refugees.


Finally, investing in integration is another way in which foundations can add significant value in managing the impact of the refugee crisis in Europe. Some governments are providing basic, short-term assistance to refugees to help them adjust to the countries where they have sought sanctuary. However, this still leaves considerable scope for philanthropy to continue to invest in initiatives that support creative approaches and share expertise on what works within communities affected by rapid change. For example, the Cities of Migration website highlights good ideas in immigrant integration from all over the world.


Questions remaining


There are many compelling reasons for foundations in Europe to respond to the refugee crisis, but there are also potentially harmful consequences to consider. Is there a risk of entrenching unhelpful dichotomies between ‘deserving’ refugees and supposedly less worthy migrants? What would an increased focus on refugees mean for other vulnerable groups, such as Europe’s several million undocumented migrants? What will happen to those arriving who are not given refugee status?


There are no easy answers of course, but a useful starting point could be to situate responses to the current crisis in the wider context of Europe’s complex and rapidly shifting demographic realities. If philanthropy is to play a constructive role, the ‘refugee issue’ should not be seen as a separate problem to be fixed but as part of wider efforts to reduce inequality and achieve inclusive, equal societies.


Ayesha Saran is Programme Manager – Migration at Barrow Cadbury Trust.  Email [email protected].  


Rob McNeil, Head of Media and Communications at The Migration Observatory, looks at the impact of the family income threshold policy and the effect its had on migration to the UK.  This blog was originally posted on the Trust for London website.  


One of the more controversial policies introduced during the last parliament to reduce migration to the UK was the family income threshold.


Since July 2012, UK citizens and settled residents must show they earn at least £18,600 if they want to bring their spouse here from outside of the EU. By 2015, just over 40% of British employees did not earn enough to qualify, as the latest Migration Observatory report shows.


The policy was designed to reduce the likelihood that family migrants who come to the UK might place a financial ‘burden on the state’ and—particularly — that they might receive welfare benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit.


But the income threshold raises some difficult philosophical and empirical questions for people who are interested in welfare, poverty and discrimination.


Should all UK citizens have the same right to live here with the person they love? Clearly there would be outcry if the Government were to decide that most men should be allowed to choose a foreign spouse but most women should not; or that Londoners should have an easier time bringing their partner here than people living in the rest of the UK.


The family income threshold does not do this: it discriminates only on income. However, because people’s gender, place of residence and age affect their income, it also affects whether they can bring a non-EU spouse to the UK.


In 2015, a majority (55%) of female British employees did not meet the income threshold, compared to 27% of men. Immigration rules require the income to be earned by the UK-resident partner rather than their spouse living abroad, because of concerns they will stop working after coming to the UK. This will also affect women more than men, because they are less likely to be the main breadwinner in the family. While family migrants have lower employment rates than the UK average, at least half of them do work after they arrive, according to the available data.


Londoners also earn higher wages than people outside the capital so are more likely to be able to bring a partner than those in the regions – 27% of British employees in London did not earn enough in 2015, while outside the capital that figure was 43%.


For people concerned with tackling poverty in the UK, the income threshold raises several empirical questions that remain largely unanswered. Does the income threshold reduce the incidence of poverty in the UK by preventing the entry of people with low income? Does it increase the risk of poverty for the individual families concerned, by preventing UK citizens from bringing a second earner into the household? And if the threshold only delays entry to the UK while a couple is waiting to acquire sufficient savings or income, how will this delay affect the integration prospects of the non-EEA spouse once they do arrive? These longer-term possibilities could be quite important in shaping the overall impacts of the policy, but they remain very difficult to quantify.


“The idea of being bothered about immigration made me laugh! I’m from Birmingham. It’s never been a concern of mine. I can’t imagine caring about someone else being born in a difference place to me. (Black British born female participant).”
The Runnymede Trust has launched a new report about British ethnic minorities’ views on immigration and Europe. The publication entitled ‘This is Still About Us – Why Ethnic Minorities See Immigration Differently’ used high-sample surveys and focus groups across several different areas of the country to gauge opinion.


Produced by the UK’s leading independent thinktank on race equality and race relations, its findings show:



  • Immigration is seen more positively by BME groups, because they focus on the economic and cultural contributions an immigrant can make to British life.
  • BME people are more likely to feel that the public debate around immigration negatively impacts on them personally, even if they or their parents were born in Britain;
  • They feel sometimes they need to ‘prove’ they are British;
  • Most broadly share concerns of the wider population around the pace of immigration, but they are more worried about the pressure on services than on cultural impact;
  • Participants were more ambivalent about Europe and are less likely to take advantage of free movement within EU borders;
  • People were more concerned about Britain being a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants;
  • BME people are more likely to be concerned about the impact of benefit cuts on immigrant families;
  • On citizenship and the immigration system, BME groups are more likely to be concerned about the cost of the citizenship process, family visa policies and Home Office responses to immigration queries;
  • There were variations between different BME groups: Long-settled communities were more likely to believe newer migrants had easier experiences;
  • BME people are more likely to view Europe in explicitly ethnic or racial terms.


You can read the full report here.

British Future’s Steve Ballinger posted this blog today following release of the highest yet net immigration figures from the Office of National Statistics


Today’s new immigration statistics from the Office of National Statistics show another rise in net migration to 336,000 in the year to June 2015, with numbers of new arrivals rising from both within the EU (net 180,000) and outside the EU (net 201,000) . This leaves the government yet further away from the target of “tens of thousands” that both David Cameron and Theresa May have stuck to in the face of repeated failures, writes Steve Ballinger.


Yet unlike the last stats, released in August, these are far less likely to attract much media attention, overshadowed by the Prime Minister setting out his case for bombing attacks on ISIS in Syria, and the repercussions of yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review.


It’s worth looking at the new immigration statistics in the light of both of these events.


The horrific attacks in Paris on 13 November provided yet another reminder, if one was needed, of the evil of an organization like ISIS that will take innocent lives to further its twisted aims. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been at the sharp end of it’s advance through Iraq and Syria and have fled for their lives – causing neighbouring countries to play host to thousands of refugees in a crisis that has spilled over into Europe


Britain has agreed to resettle 20,000 Syrians directly from the region. Some have also made their way through Europe and today’s statistics show a modest increase in asylum applications made in the UK – many from Syria, Eritrea, Iran and Sudan.


The number of asylum applications, however, remains but a tiny percentage of the overall immigration figures. Just 29,000 applications were lodged in the year to September 2015. The overwhelming majority of people in today’s new immigration statistics are not  refugees – they are here from the EU, or from non-EU countries, to work because our economy is outperforming those of our neighbours.


The public is concerned about high immigration – they don’t think the Government has got a grip and the repeated failures to get anywhere near the Home Secretary’s self-imposed target just undermines trust further. But many still think we should do our bit for refugees fleeing from ISIS or other terrors around the world, who need our protection and still make up a very small proportion of people coming to Britain.


Offering protection to terrified civilians, many of them Muslims, who are fleeing from ISIS, also shows that the story peddled by these extremists – that Muslims and non-Muslims cannot live peacefully together – is simply wrong. Britain has offered a place of safety to those who most need it since the First World War and well before – and we will continue to do so today.


Getting ‘tough’ on asylum would run counter to who we are as a nation. On a practical level, it would also make almost no difference to the level of net migration to the UK.


What answer is there, then, for those who remain concerned about pressures that high migration can place on housing, schools and jobs? Perhaps Theresa May could learn something from her colleague (and rival for the Conservative leadership), Chancellor George Osborne. Yesterday he set out the results of his Comprehensive Spending Review – in which he looked at the issues our economy faces and the resources available, and set out a long term plan to handle them.


He had more money than expected. The forecast growth in the economy was, in fact, revised upwards because the net migration target has not been met – showing the net contribution of working migrants to our economy.  But it remains a difficult balancing act – one that requires the Chancellor to look at all the options available and plan his response.


Surely there are grounds for a similarly planned approach to immigration?


A Comprehensive Immigration Review – as proposed by British Future and the Institute of Directors – would look at the different flows of migration to the UK, the target the government has set, and the policy options for bringing the numbers down. It could also look at the impacts of those policies – on business, on the taxes that are paid by working migrants, staffing for services like the NHS, and international students that study at our world-class universities.


That might mean some hard choices. It might mean admitting that immigration is likely to remain higher than the Home Secretary’s target, unless we are willing to deal with some less-welcome impacts. But having a plan that the Government is working towards would, at least, bring some order to the process and help restore public trust on immigration.