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Responding to a fast deteriorating situation in the migration and refugee sector, in July Barrow Cadbury Trust partnered with The National Lottery Community Fund to distribute COVID-19 emergency response funding in England.  Five million pounds of funding were distributed to 198 specialist small and medium voluntary sector groups across England with amounts varying from £xx to a maximum of £50k. The emphasis was very much on emergency support, with grants awarded in October needing to be spent by 19 April. It can only be spent on needs arising directly or indirectly from the pandemic, not on wider issues such as support with immigration claims, nor on campaigning or political activity.

The Barrow Cadbury COVID-19 Support Fund is one of nine expert partnerships, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, to ensure almost £59m of National Lottery funding reaches communities most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.

The 198 organisations which have been awarded funding are working tirelessly in straitened circumstances to relieve hardship caused by the pandemic among refugees and migrants, many of whom were finding it difficult to access services.

Initially open for a three week period, the application ‘window’ was extended as was the eligibility criteria to ensure it reached those organisations that provided services and support targeted at refugees and migrants which they were seeking to maintain.   Our funding panel was made up of trustees and senior staff from the Trust alongside people with lived experience and knowledge of the migration sector.

Out of almost 200 charities it is impossible to give a comprehensive overview of such varied work covering a range of ages, mainstream and specialist organisations, regions, and those led by refugees and migrants themselves.  However, here is a snapshot of just four which might give a flavour of the cross-section and extent of the amazing work being undertaken.

Fairbeats Music is a charity based in Lewisham operating across a number of South London boroughs.  It believes that every child, including the most marginalised, has a right to a creative life, so provides music-based activities, working with about 170 per year. Activities include music-making, instrument lessons, song-writing, ensemble playing and performances. Its £13,200 grant will enable it to increase its capacity to respond during this pandemic, including additional hours for existing staff and freelancers, and new equipment to ensure it can continue to provide its activities. It will also allow Fairbeats to undertake recorded video activities, provide care packs and paper resources for children with no internet access and live on-line music sessions for those who do, undertake a special song-writing project in a distanced way, and continue to promote the importance of music-making.

Europia is a registered charity and community development organisation established in 2008. It is the only organisation supporting and empowering European nationals who have come to live and work in Greater Manchester. The charity aims to help people feel at home, connect them with their local communities and give them the knowledge and skills they need to make their hopes and dreams a reality. Europia provides a legal surgery, welfare advice, EUSS application assistance and emergency funds for the most vulnerable, as well as facilitating community development groups including an art collective, a Roma Project and a Women’s Group.  The £25k they were awarded will enable them to work with community leaders and community navigators to develop appropriate public health information about COVID-19 in Polish, Roma, Romanian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Slovak, Czech and Hungarian. It will collaborate with community networks, consulates, High Commissions, cultural bodies, supplementary schools and East European businesses to disseminate the resources.

Love146 aims to end the trafficking of children globally. It runs a Survivor Care Programme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who have been trafficked to the UK or are potential trafficking victims. This involves providing specialist supported accommodation, wrap-around support, a rapid response placement service and outreach support. The organisation rents shared houses in London and Hampshire for young people, and supports individual care leavers who it has helped into independent accommodation, or who have been referred to it for specific support by a local authority. Love146 also runs an Outreach Programme, providing training for individuals involved in safeguarding.  It operates mainly in London and the South East, and supports approximately 40 beneficiaries each year. £8940 will enable Love146 to continue to respond to the needs of young people at risk of going missing, and/or of being trafficked.

Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan Trust (ZGT) is a Leicester charity established in 2009, working to alleviate poverty and reduce all forms of abuse. It has received several local awards for its work. Originally set up to support disadvantaged women from any background, it has found itself increasingly supporting migrant and refugee women fleeing domestic abuse. It is one of the few providers of support for women affected by domestic abuse and FGM in Leicester.  £40k will enable ZGT to provide emotional support, help with reporting abuse to the police and obtaining injunctions, referrals to housing providers, and assistance with housing benefit and welfare claims, access to legal aid to enable women with NRPF to pursue status independent of their abuser, money and debt advice, provision of emergency supplies including food and period products for women and girls fleeing abuse.

Zinthiya Ganespanchan, CEO of the Trust said: “We are delighted to have received support from this Fund to support migrant women, including refugee and asylum seekers, not only to provide advice and guidance but also to provide practical support such as emergency food and clothing. Through this funding we have already been able to transform the  lives of many women.”




Ade Lamuye and Kate Llewellyn blog about Media Movers – a project bringing together young people from migrant backgrounds with senior media professionals to improve media coverage.  This blog was posted originally on On Road’s website.  

Ade Lamuye, a reporter and immigration campaigner for young undocumented migrants shares her experience of taking part in Media Movers. Ade is a part of We Belong, known previously as the campaign group Let Us Learn.

Throughout the first year of Media Movers I’ve had interactions with extremely influential media organisations, which included a BBC soap, Channel 4 and VICE. Although I did not attend all of them, one memorable interaction would be with VICE and Broadly. This is because one of the editors who attended, Zing Tsjeng, shared with the group her own personal experience with immigration and the hurdles she had to jump through. Also, the environment during the interaction was relaxing because those who attended came ready with questions and showed actual interest past the idea of just getting a story — they came in wanting to know about our individual stories and to get more information.

My experience as a ‘Media Mover’ began with an informal but practical day of introductions and learning how to engage with the media, something we would be doing throughout the upcoming months. Coming into the group as a journalist, I had some idea about how to work with different media organisations but the day gave me the opportunity to interact with the other young people that I would be working with, and it also gave me the chance to understand the importance of self care and ‘peer support’.

Migrants telling their personal stories about immigration and their experience with the Home Office can be such a heavy topic, particularly in the cases where the young people affected are left helpless by their family and their government. Peer support and self care highlighted by the On Road team made me realise how important it is to share with others. We spent months telling strangers our personal and emotional stories, and what was amazing about being part of Media Movers was that the team made it clear you had the power to say no — no to questions you don’t want to answer and no to part of your personal struggles you don’t want to share.

Overall, this past year has been wonderful and it’s provided me with great insight into how to pitch to other media organisations outside of print, and I’ve learnt how to be comfortable sat across from senior members. But most importantly, being a part of the project has taught me that everything takes time and the result may not be instant but you work to make it happen.

Kate Llewellyn, an On Road project manager, who also ran the All About Trans project.

Having run All About Trans for a few years, I was really curious to see how we could start working with young people with irregular immigration status – we had support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Explore and Test grant, which was a great approach for the pilot. I guessed there would broadly be similarities between the two projects, but wasn’t sure what to expect on the media side of things – would journalists see irregular immigration status as a new, fresh angle and be up for meeting the group, or would they think the experiences were something well-covered already?

Also, there’s always a lot of thought that goes into the best way to explain what it is that people are going through, and although I’d done a stack of reading, chats with people in the sector and consultation with young people who have irregular immigration status, I wasn’t sure yet how we’d go about explaining these experiences to the media without getting stuck on the legal explanations.

It was really obvious though, once the group got together in July last year, there wasn’t going to be a problem bringing these issues to life, and working out how to get this simple explanation across would come quickly. I was struck when we bought the group together for the first time by the energy and spark in the room, and the eloquent way people spoke about their experience.

After the first day of Media Movers, I was excited to get stuck in with this fiery group – made up of 10 young people, coming from organisations and campaign groups including Let Us Learn / We Belong, Brighter Futures, Coram Rights Trainers, PRCBC.

The year went past in a blink – the Media Movers took part in ten interactions with organisations across the UK media including LBC, VICE, Channel 4 News and Creative Diversity, ITN News, ITV, Times, and BBC teams. Interactions are what we call friendly and informal meet-ups between the media and people with experience of a particular issue – essentially a good chat that gives media professionals an experience that makes them connect emotionally with the issue at hand. All the while, we ran monthly peer support sessions – mini trainings or discussions, a space that’s always tied to action.

Everyone was a little nervous as we headed into the first interaction, and we had a big chat about how to kick things off with the journalists. With All About Trans, there’s broadly a reluctance to share a personal story off the bat, but the Media Movers were far more relaxed with doing this. My gut was that it would be good to challenge ourselves to be tighter on boundaries – not beginning with a really personal story but giving people the chance to click with each other, whether over a shared hobby or their meaningful item.

I feel like that paid off, as the Media Movers began to see their story like holding a deck of cards – sharing what feels right and relevant and holding back what’s not relevant, or what they didn’t feel comfortable to share, making sure there’s no burn out in the long run. I love it, genuinely, when people say no to me – no, actually I don’t want to do this interaction, no, I’m not okay to talk about that. Seeing people look after themselves is a joy.

With the interactions themselves, it felt like there was an opportunity after Windrush and all the work the sector had been doing – I suspect there was a momentum that journalists felt, making them want to find out more about this little heard of experience.

When we were in the room at an interaction, I was fascinated to see the journalists’ reactions to the group – there were some surprises. When explaining what irregular immigration status is to the Managing Editor of The Mail on Sunday, a Media Mover found out that his wife is a migrant herself and he’d had a pretty good sight over the immigration processes. But there was total shock from a few media professionals the group met with – people who saw themselves as very progressive and in the loop – who had no understanding of the process, in particular the 10 year route.

The disbelief and confusion from the media professionals, a lot being parents of similar aged people, was obvious. It was the everyday that seemed to be moving them – the description of people sitting down to UCAS and realising they can’t apply for student finance, or heading out of school and then not being able to apply for a job. Journalists hated thinking of young people being blocked, and this was no different for the Media Movers.

Coming to the end of the grant, I was desperate to carry on with the project that the Media Movers had built with On Road. It felt like we were on the edge of a bigger understanding of this area, and I didn’t want that opportunity to be lost.

So it’s my absolute pleasure to announce two bits of good news. Not only have we been given support from Unbound Philanthropy to run Media Movers for three more years in London, but we’ve just been awarded funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to run Media Movers in the North of England over three years. A bigger announcement on that last one coming soon!



Meghan Benton and Aliyyah Ahad at Migration Policy Institute outline the possible outcomes of a No Deal Brexit for UK nationals and their family members living in the EU

Following the dramatic defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the UK Parliament this week, all bets are off when it comes to whether the UK will crash out of the European Union on 29 March without a Brexit deal. A no deal scenario would have seismic ramifications for the legal residence, work rights, benefits and pensions, and health care for nearly 1 million UK nationals living on the continent. But 30 months after the Brexit referendum, and with the hourglass running out on the UK’s fated departure, EU-27 Member States are finally starting to offer some reassurances on citizens’ rights.

Contingency planning regarding citizens’ rights – the status of more than 3 million EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the European Union – had been shelved, despite considerable consensus on this topic throughout the UK-EU negotiations. This was in part because citizens’ rights were seen as an important bargaining tool by both sides. And the European Commission, keen to avoid breaking the bloc, imposed a moratorium on bilateral discussions with the United Kingdom outside of official negotiations, a prohibition that filtered through to officials in Brussels literally taking pains to avoid each other on the street. Yet with the 29 March Brexit Day looming and No. 10 Downing Street and Westminster trapped in mazes of their own making, the European Commission recently has shifted to Plan B, urging Member States to take a ‘generous’ approach to protecting UK nationals in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Until recently, Member States released few details on what their plans would include. France was first to the table with a draft legislative proposal in October that, among other things, would enable Brits working in the French government to avoid a general prohibition on employment of third-country nationals for certain civil service jobs.

In December, Italy announced it would allow all current registered or permanent residents to stay. In early January, the Dutch government published its plans for a 15-month transition period in the case of no deal, during which all municipally registered British citizens will be able to apply for a national residence permit on the same basis as other EU nationals. And the Spanish government has promised a contingency plan is forthcoming, and in the meantime agreed a partial deal with the UK government on voting rights. It is likely other Member States will follow suit over the coming months.

Gaps in the contingency planning

But are these announcements all too little, too late? Time is extremely short to address the multiple complex issues thrown up by a no deal, from qualification recognition to health care and pensions. And given many of these issues will require bilateral agreement, there are significant questions about timing and stopgaps to avoid temporary chaos.

Among the major outstanding questions as governments step up contingency planning:

How will negotiations move ahead on issues that require bilateral agreement?

While much is possible through unilateral action, including granting residents the right to stay and access to labour markets, other areas, such as social security co-ordination, require bilateral agreement. For instance, retirees are concerned they will miss out on annual inflation-related increases to their pensions (known as uprating). Gaps in health care coverage could arise both for UK nationals resident in the EU-27 and for British visitors accustomed to the existing scheme of free or low cost reciprocal medical treatment. While the UK government introduced a bill that would establish a legal framework for reciprocal health care, it takes two to tango. Member States have been instructed by the European Commission to ‘refrain from entering into bilateral agreements, arrangements, and discussions with the United Kingdom’. The European Commission is trying to balance two competing priorities: Its desire to underscore the significant costs that come with no deal, and chaos minimisation for companies and citizens. But there is only so much that is possible to achieve unilaterally, and waiting for the deal to be unequivocally dead may mean waiting till Brexit Day – when many UK nationals will be left unprotected. Moreover, bilateral deals take time to negotiate, not to mention ratify and implement.

Another option is for the European Commission to provide a stopgap of its own, essentially ringfencing the citizens’ rights aspect of the deal. While it is unlikely that the Commission would move ahead with this while the withdrawal agreement is still nominally in the UK government’s in-tray, it could start preparing on this front.

What happens to people who fall through the cracks?

The stopgap systems already announced by Italy and the Netherlands will be based on municipal registration systems, but many countries lack full registration for all resident UK nationals. In some countries, barriers to registration have pushed many mobile EU nationals into a state of limbo. In Sweden, for instance, the requirement to have a permanent employment contract makes it hard for EU nationals to register for a personnummer. In other places, registration has not been required, enforced, or encouraged. And countries with large numbers of seasonal residents, such as Spain and Cyprus, are thought to have chronic levels of under-registration – a problem that especially affects pensioners, as an MPI Europe report recently noted.

Countries without compulsory registration may have to consider introducing new systems for UK nationals to register. But then the question arises as to what documentary evidence will be required. Any requirement to show backdated documents, such as evidence of years of work or residence, necessarily creates a trade off between inclusiveness and deterring fraud: you either choose to accept almost any documentation (making it possible that UK nationals could move to any EU country in the future and claim they entered before the cut off date) or impose certain requirements (running the risk that some will fall through the gaps).

Deal or no deal, questions remain whether people will be required to show evidence of legal residence in order to be able to stay – this could include evidence of comprehensive health insurance for students and the inactive, although Italy has promised to drop this requirement following the UK promise to do so in relation to EU nationals. (Last summer, the UK government promised to secure the status of UK-resident EU nationals regardless of the outcome of negotiations through its new ‘settled status’ system, which is already being trialled – albeit with some teething problems, including a lack of support for applicants and reported issues with data privacy).

Those forced to return to the UK could also be confronted with challenges. Returning UK citizens with medical and financial vulnerabilities could face delays accessing the National Health Service and benefits reserved for those ‘ordinarily resident’. And without so called ‘Surinder Singh rights’, UK nationals with non-British family members would again have to meet UK income requirements for family migration – upwards of £22,400 for a partner and one child. Mixed status families could be especially affected, according to a recent MPI Europe analysis.

How can Member States ensure orderly processes?

Especially in localities with large numbers of British residents, processing residence applications after Brexit could overload already burdened immigration offices. Dordogne, France was already struggling with the carte de séjour system, which in July was booked until October, causing Brits to incorrectly book up the appointments for non-Europeans. Germany has promised that British citizens will have a three month grace period after Brexit Day to possess a German residency title. The Berlin immigration office points out that it coped with the refugee crisis and can handle the increased workload. But it also asks for patience: An estimated 15,000 registered UK nationals in Berlin will need to book an appointment within that three-month window.

When the stopgap is the best option

While contingency planning for UK nationals after Brexit is a positive step given the sheer unpredictability of how the British Parliament will resolve the current chaos, there is too little time to address all issues. At most one can hope for a stopgap. Existing deficiencies in municipal registration systems and barriers to accessing health care are likely to be amplified hundredfold by a no deal Brexit – in ways that cannot even be anticipated yet. Those who are currently vulnerable are likely to remain vulnerable – or worse.

Michelle Mittelstadt is Director of Communications and Aliyyah Ahad is Associate Policy Analyst  at Migration Policy Institute and MPI Europe



Zrinka Bralo, chief executive of Migrants Organise, writes about the journey to becoming a community sponsor

Recently Migrants Organise received the exciting news that in partnership with a dedicated and passionate team of volunteers known as the Welcome Committee, they have been fully approved by the Home Office to become community sponsors.

Community Sponsorship is a new approach to refugee resettlement, based on a model already successful in Canada (where around 300,000 refugees have been resettled by local communities since 1979). It’s an opportunity for everyday people, volunteers, and community groups to come together to play the lead role in welcoming and supporting refugees to rebuild their lives and create long-lasting bonds.

Supporting refugees

At this stage, nothing is known about the family we will be meeting at the airport. We don’t know their names, age, their professions, their hobbies, passions and dreams, or who they were before war tore their lives apart.

But we do know it’s likely they came from Syria then living in a neighbouring country like Lebanon or Turkey.  We know their journey to the UK will be tiring as they experience a whole range of emotions: excitement, relief, feeling overwhelmed, and worried.

They too, whilst waiting at the airport, will be nervous with excitement: What if London isn’t how they expected it to be? What if they don’t like the home Migrants Organise has found for them? What if they hate the weather? What if it’s harder than was imagined?

Several months of planning and problem solving will come to a head in one moment of human connection.

Powered by volunteers

For our community sponsorship application, Migrants Organise took on the legal responsibility for the resettlement process, providing policies (e.g. safeguarding, financial), volunteer training, and guidance on structure, approach and best practice. However, the real force behind this work has been powered by the Welcome Committee, a team of inspiring and unstoppable volunteers.

Abby Robinson, co-founding member of the Welcome Committee says, “Deciding to put together a community sponsorship group was easy. Given the erosion of refugee protection around the world, this was something tangible which we could do. Even though we are only assisting one family, it feels like this is the start of something that it is a building block towards more inclusive communities and an antidote to the hostile and isolating experience many refugees may experience when arriving in this country.”

“In just over a year, we have grown from what started out as a room full of strangers, into a wonderfully supportive community group full of creativity, passion and determination. The group has managed to exceed fundraising targets, has secured accommodation, pondered ethical dilemmas, learned new skills, and through learning about the journey that refugees face in London, has developed a new-found understanding of the challenges that our communities face as a whole.’’


One of the core benefits of community sponsorship is how it creates a strong network of allies, friends and neighbours to support newly arrived refugees who would otherwise be marginalised and isolated – from simple things like helping the family register with the GP and navigate public transport, to being a friendly face to chat with over a coffee. It is about having a community network invested in supporting them toward independence and to break down the loneliness and isolation often experienced by newly arrived refugees.

Last year, Samir and his family were welcomed to Greater Manchester by St Monica’s Church, in Flixton. Watch their story. 

The Journey

The journey for community sponsors begins several months before the family arrives and includes:

  • Forming a strong team of dedicated volunteers
  • Registering as a legal structure or partnering with a charity (who will act as lead sponsor, taking on legal responsibility)
  • Raising at least £9000
  • Finding appropriate accommodation for 2 years
  • Getting the approval of the local authority and establishing connections to local service providers, schools, job centres, etc
  • Writing a safeguarding policy and resettlement plan

Whilst the list may seem daunting Migrants Organise is happy to share its experience and knowledge. Get in touch with [email protected] to find out more.

“I have always maintained that whilst immigration is a global and national phenomena, integration is a uniquely local experience.”

Senator Ratna Omidvar delivered one of the keynote speeches at the ‘Integration and Immigration: getting it right locally conference’ on 17 May organised by British Future, Hope not Hate and Barrow Cadbury Trust.  She spoke of her journey from India to Canada via warring Iran, her pride in sponsoring refugees and how integration must work on a subjective person to person level to have an impact on a national scale. Below is an abridged version of her speech:

It’s humbling being asked to come to another country to share my insights. But it is also perhaps an opportunity to engage in a bit of two-way traffic, because our system has borrowed so much from yours, in particular our parliamentary system. When I became a Senator I understood better how much we base our parliamentary democracy on yours.  So this is an appropriate opportunity to say “Thank You” and give something back.

I may not have all the answers or the silver bullets that you desire.  What I do have is a story to tell, some ideas to share, and a perspective of how my own country manages migration flows and continues to stitch immigrants and refugees into its national fabric.

I was born in Amritsar, India – home to the famous Golden Temple. After studying at the University of Delhi, I headed off the West Germany to continue my education there.

One day I went hiking in the Alps with some other foreign students. By the time we climbed back down I had met my life partner. He was from Iran, and so after we completed our studies, rather naively as it turned out, we wanted to give his home country a try.  Bad idea. We arrived in Tehran during one of the bloodiest and most turbulent periods in Iran’s history. 2500 years of Persian monarchy was coming to an end with the Islamic Revolution and the overthrow of the Shah.  We knew we had to get out but it wasn’t going to be easy. We had a child by that time – still a baby – and all air routes out of Iran were closed.

So we decided, with all the courage of youth, to pack our bags, load up the baby carriage and make the long, cold journey by road. After two horrific days, we found ourselves in a small square room on the border of Iran and Turkey. On one side of the room: a portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini. On the other: a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.

We were cold, very tired and very afraid. And frankly, we were telling whatever lies we could in order to get to the other side of the room. We omitted the fact that we had money crammed up the legs of the baby carriage. We did not tell the guards that our papers were not quite real.

They ripped everything apart – the diaper bag, the milk powder – but they did not think to check the carriage.

We made it to the other side. And through Turkey we eventually made it to Germany. Unfortunately they were not accepting a lot of immigrants at the time, so we eventually applied to Canada – and were rejected. But we persisted and thanks to friends in Canada, we were eventually sponsored and made that initial journey across the Atlantic.

My story is not special. The details differ from one migrant to another, but we all share similar experiences. We all leave one life to find another. And we all faced the inevitable struggles from rejection to reinvention; from prejudice to persistence.

Every immigrant stars in the same four part serial: Arrival, rejection, then slow reinvention and renewal, and then hopefully “redemption”, if not in our lives then through the lives of our children.


Canada has always been seen as a nation of immigrants, and therefore of diversity. In a recent survey, it was further determined that Canadians believe that multiculturalism, diversity and inclusions are our most notable contribution to the world. So now it is less about peacekeeping and foreign aid and more about who we are and how we get along with each other. Multiculturalism, and the acceptance of immigrants and refugees now stand out as the best way Canadians feel their country can be a role model for others and as a way to exert our influence on the global stage.

Here’s the good thing about Canada: The results of immigration in the long term are very encouraging. The children of immigrants enjoy an exceptional rate of success in school, outpacing the success of native-born Canadians. Sixty per cent of immigrants buy homes within six years of arrival. And rates of intermarriage are growing, particularly in urban centres. Many of my country’s future elites are second and third generation immigrants. This will surely continue.

The bad: Canada often struggles to recognize foreign credentials. There is a common mythology that internationally trained doctors and scientists drive our taxis and Ubers in Canada. Name-based discrimination is another barrier to entry for newcomers. In Canada you are 35% more likely to be called for a job interview if your name is Matthew and not Sameer. This limits our success greatly.

And the ugly truth is that Canada still struggles with racism, particularly towards black Canadians and indigenous peoples. Extreme poverty and rising inequality are perhaps the greatest indicators of this ugliness.

Moving to public opinion, Canada and the United Kingdom have a lot more in common than you think with respect to public opinion on migration. And while Canada is seen both within its borders and around the world as a beacon, people often need to see that multiculturalism is truly working in order to receive their stamp of approval.

Work by Canadian academics Randy Besco and Erin Tolley point to a rough rule of thirds. About one third of Canadians hold clearly negative views. They want less immigration and think minorities should receive less accommodation.  Another third are greatly idealistic about immigration and diversity, and are vocal in their rejections of proposals that negatively target specific groups. The middle third are ‘conditional multiculturalists’. They will accept those who accept their national values. For instance, they might favour restrictions on the niqab in citizenship ceremonies, but not while accessing public services. They worry that some Muslims pose a threat to public safety, but they also think Muslims deserve equal treatment.


I have always maintained that whilst immigration is a global and national phenomena, integration is a uniquely local experience. People may leave one country for another, but it is the local experience that will be felt first hand.  I am talking not just of the newcomers. I believe that the conversation about integration and inclusion has to shift to include three players – first the newcomers, second all existing residents in the local community, and third local institutions. These are the groups that help or hinder integration.

There is a rich narrative of local best practices from the world that lends itself to this idea. Cities of Migration the world over are experimenting and succeeding with unique local expressions of innovation. For example, Copenhagen teaches cycling culture to newly arrived Muslim women. Barcelona equips local residents with facts to dispel fake news about migrants. And Toronto matches immigrant job seekers with mentors drawn from the same occupation.

Good ideas have long legs, and some of the best ideas have indeed originated from right here in London: The London Living Wage is just one example. And because local communities are far better placed than their national governments to nimbly borrow and adapt ideas, the London Living Wage has been embraced by prominent labour unions and activists across Europe and North America.


Conversely, your country has just borrowed an idea from my country that deserves your attention. That idea is to allow everyday citizens to privately sponsor refugees to come to their country.

In Canada, any individual can act as de facto guarantors for refugee families during their first year of resettlement. Before these refugees arrive, these volunteers raise funds to provide them with the necessities – food, shelter. And they develop resettlement plans to ensure these refugees have the support they need to belong and thrive in our country. This can include anything from English language training and enrolments in public schools to weekend museum trips.

As an individual who has privately sponsored refugees, I can attest that it is among one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

Today, more than 250 communities across Canada are home to these refugees.  One in three Canadians either sponsored a refugee directly or knows someone who has. This I think, is a modern nation building strategy, more about social cohesion and less about national infrastructure.

This is social engineering at its best.


So in closing I want to leave you with five good ideas which may be helpful:

First, governance matters. Now more than ever the pursuit of the national interest needs to carry through to the local level. And the procedures that govern our processes need to be clear, consistent and easy for the public to understand.  It is this confidence that has led the public to support public investments in integration.

Second, local institutions matter. We know that migration issues are local issues at their core. It is libraries, hospitals, schools, parks and bus stops that facilitate or hinder integration.  My favourite examples come from Toronto, where libraries are no longer just a place to borrow books, but they also double as job search clubs. In Dublin, it was the bus service that launched an anti-racism campaign.

Third, human nature matters. Time and time again it has been proven that barriers between migrants and other residents fall when they have opportunities to come together. In these times of post-truth or post-fact, we have to fight emotion with emotion. Reason over emotion alone will not prevail. And what better to bring emotion and empathy to the front than through human relations.  So a bit of social engineering here would be great.

Fourth, language matters. Words give shape to our values and since values shift over time, so must language. Roughly two decades ago, a small whisper campaign started in Canada. It sought to displace the word “foreign” to “internationally-trained”. Just think of the shift in your minds when you use one word instead of the other.


Perhaps the time has come to shift some of your language. Here and in Europe, the terminology of the day is “migrant”, whereas we in Canada use the word “immigrant”. Possibly because we are more comfortable with the permanent nature of the phenomena.  I have just come from Berlin, from a conversation about diversity and integration. I have left Berlin with a conviction that the words need to shift. Diversity is nothing more than a demographic reality. Integration is no more than a two way or three way process over time. The end goal is always inclusion. As someone has said, diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice. What good is integration, if it does not guarantee inclusion – economic, social and political inclusion?

And finally, narrative and stories matter.  I have always been a big believer in the power of role models and champions. However recently I have begun to develop a slightly more nuanced view. I believe now that the story of the Immigrant as Hero is ultimately not very helpful. For one, heroes are exceptional, for another most heroes will have feet of clay.  We are far better advised to portray immigrants as ordinary people: as taxpayers, as neighbours, as good parents. We need to normalise them and make them more human and therefore more likely to be your friend, your buddy or a member of your book club.

Watch a bite-sized video of the conference which Ratna Omidvar spoke at

The following article is one of several pieces which are part of Policy Network’s ongoing project on immigration and integration supported by the Barrow Cadbury Fund.

In four weeks’ time, amid the pageantry of ceremonial Washington, the 45th president of the United States will be sworn into office. A man who won that office on, among many other horrors, a promise to ‘ban’ (albeit temporarily) Muslims from entering the US.

He may be rolling back on that offensive policy now the Oval Office looms in vision, but the point is telling. Fear of Islam remains real and potent across the west, even a decade and a half on from 9/11.

In Europe the ‘refugee crisis’ and a series of terror attacks over the past two years have flared tensions. Last night’s appalling incident in Berlin has already sparked a torrent of racist remarks on social media, following early reports that the driver may have been from Pakistan. It seems almost inevitable that public discourse will soon return to the sensitive topic of whether Islam is compatible with ‘western’ values.

In recent weeks Chancellor Merkel has joined the chorus of politicians floating support for a burqa ban, showing it is not just ‘populists’ focusing on the issue.

This week Policy Network’s contributors seek to go beyond simplistic rhetoric and policies, concluding it’s time to rethink the way we use terms such as ethnicity, identity, culture and race. Our contributors probe the integration debate – focusing on cases in Britain, France and Germany  – to consider the effectiveness of different responses to public concern. These range from policymaking to acts of symbolism and how politicians choose to react to fear.

These pieces are part of our ongoing project on immigration and integration supported by the Barrow Cadbury Fund and follow a successful recent seminar in London: ‘Inclusive integration: how can progressives promote social cohesion in divisive times?’, the audio of which is now available.


Director of Communications at British Future, Steve Ballinger writes about The Home Affairs Select Committee Immigration Inquiry launched today and how his organisation hopes the decision makers listen to the public’s views on immigration.

Today at Westminster the Home Affairs Select Committee launches a new Inquiry into developing a consensus on an effective immigration policy.  British Future is pleased to be working with the Committee on this Inquiry.

The Committee will conduct a series of regional meetings across the UK, meeting with a cross-section of the public to hear their views, starting in early 2017.

Accompanying the Home Affairs Select Committee hearings in each region is a ‘National Conversation,’ coordinated by British Future.  This project will consult the public through a series of citizens’ panels in every nation and region of Britain, together with online surveys and in-depth opinion polling, feeding the results into the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry to provide a more detailed picture of public attitudes to immigration in Britain and the common ground on which people can agree.

The National Conversation aims to find out what the public thinks about who we admit to the UK and how we make immigration work for local communities, new arrivals to Britain, employers and workers.  We want to know what the public thinks about integration and how best to make sure that newcomers become successful members of local communities.

British Future’s research over the last five years into public attitudes to immigration and integration has consistently found that the majority holds balanced views on immigration, which polarised public debates often fail to reflect.  When they are engaged properly, people have constructive contributions to make to the immigration debate and there is considerable potential to find common ground.  That is why this Inquiry is so important.

We want decision makers to hear the public’s views and to be informed by them in their policy making.  Our collaboration with the Home Affairs Select Committee will provide an opportunity to do this.

The Inquiry launches today and we look forward to working with the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The blog below was originally published in Alliance Magazine

In September 2015, a group of UK-based foundations and NGOs met at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to discuss responses to the refugee crisis that was engulfing Europe. The images of Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach had jolted many from unease or disbelief to shock, sympathy and compassion.  Although the UK was not experiencing inflows like mainland Europe, there was a groundswell of public support for refugees and positive coverage of an issue all too often mired in controversy.

Some of us thought that there was scope for collective action and the meeting led the establishment of New Beginnings, a pooled fund managed by the UK Community Foundations Network (UKCF). Although both Barrow Cadbury and Paul Hamlyn are strategic, long-term funders in the area of migration we thought it was important to help set up this responsive fund. Firstly, we were hearing that small local groups were over-stretched and overwhelmed by offers to volunteer. Often the first port of call for people who want to engage with this issue and welcome migrants and refugees, these groups were inundated with requests but ill-equipped to harness this new energy and interest.

As long-standing investors in work to understand public attitudes to refugee and migration issues, we were under no illusions that the crisis would lead to a dramatic and positive shift in views. However, this fund seemed opportune given that surveys have found that the public have more positive attitudes to migration in their local area than at national level. There is also extensive evidence to show that meaningful contact with migrants and refugees can be a very powerful experience that shapes how people feel about this issue.

We were also struck by the US experience of building a movement in support of migrants and refugees. There, advocates and their philanthropic partners have found that a healthy immigration movement requires investment in both large and small organisations. The ability of these organisations to engage meaningfully with the public, and not just their core supporters, has proved critical.

With New Beginnings we were motivated by the chance to build on the momentum generated by external events and to help often fragile community groups become more resilient and reach out to newer constituencies. Given its short-term nature, the fund was not designed to fill gaps in service delivery – of which there are many – but to build capacity in engaging local communities in support of their work at a time of great demand. To that end, we are also in the process of developing workshops to enable some of the groups involved to strengthen their approach to communications and to tap into existing networks and reach new supporters.

In May 2016, New Beginnings awarded £506,000 in one year grants to 45 organisations, 39 of which received up to £10,000 and seven partnership projects that were awarded up to £20,000. Typical examples include Restore, a Birmingham based group that has seen massive increases in volunteer befriender requests over the past year. Also supported is Oasis Cardiff Partnership, which will work with new arrivals to help them integrate, partly through sessions organised by volunteers from the local community and also a ‘Friends and Neighbours’ group.

New Beginnings will launch a second round, of a similar size to the first, later this summer. Approaches from foundations or donors interested in contributing would be very welcome. One of the issues we and the other funders and partners hope to address this time round is the paucity of applications from refugee or migrant led organisations. How do we go about reaching these often over-looked and low profile groups that have the potential to make a significant contribution towards long-term change?

In this post-Brexit haze the refugee crisis now seems quite distant. However, the rationale for the fund remains, perhaps even more so now that some of the fault lines and anxieties that existed before the vote have surfaced and have uncovered a tension that risks undermining the UK’s long tradition of welcoming newcomers.

Trusts, foundations and other philanthropists and supporters now more than ever need to demonstrate collective and sustained support for the often unglamorous work of these community groups and the volunteers working with them.

Ayesha Saran is migration programme manager at Barrow Cadbury Trust.
Alex Sutton is senior grants manager at Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

This blog represents the views of the two trusts and not the views of all funders of the New Beginnings Fund.

Foundations contributing to the pooled fund include: Comic Relief; Barrow Cadbury Trust; Paul Hamlyn Foundation; Pears Foundation; Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales; The Rayne Foundation; City of London Corporation; BBC Children in Need and Oak Foundation.

Maeve Glancy, researcher at Policy Network blogs argues it’s time to take back control of the conversation around migration.  This blog was originally published on the Policy Network website.  

After years of frustration, the referendum campaign unleashed pent-up anger on immigration, resulting in an explosive debate that helped lay the groundwork to drive Britain out of the EU. As the country charts an uncertain course forward, mainstream parties must offer concrete policy solutions and address divisive narratives on immigration. A new project by Policy Network and the Barrow Cadbury Fund is exploring how this can be done.

Over the past two weeks, the dust has been failing to settle in the wake of the UK’s most divisive political exercise in decades. Amid the chaos unleashed by the leave vote, there has been scrambling on all sides to come up with new positions on immigration in this context of turmoil. The initial reaction of many leading Brexiteers was to either shamelessly backtrack on claims made during the campaign or to resolutely refuse to acknowledge reality. We saw some key leave figures distancing themselves from earlier promises to end free movement, while others insisted that access to the single market coupled with caps on EU immigration would be possible or even easy to obtain. Remainers who had tried to downplay the relevance of immigration as an issue during the campaign were forced to concede its importance to the outcome.

As the political class deals with the Brexit fallout, ordinary communities around the country have been picking up the pieces. Reports of hate crimes surged fivefold in the week after the vote, and three million EU citizens, many with jobs, families, and long-established lives in Britain, have been left fretting about their future. Once the leadership battles and internal wrangling of parties in Westminster are settled, these people, along with millions who voted leave, will be waiting to hear in much greater detail what the new positions of the mainstream parties are and what a post-Brexit immigration policy is going to look like. To answer these questions effectively, parties must reflect on how immigration came to feature so strongly in the debate, what is really at stake, and what the building blocks of an effective response should now be.

How we got here

Immigration did not suddenly appear on the agenda during the referendum campaign. While it may have taken centre stage in TV debates and dominated the front pages during the ten week campaigning period, public concern on this topic has been rising over time (Figure 1); it also played a key role in the general elections of 2010 and 2015. The UK public appears to be reacting not to a fantasy, but to real changes in the number of people entering the country, which started to climb from the mid-1990s (Figure 2). Between 1993 and 2014, the foreign-born population more than doubled, reaching 13.1 per cent of the total. The ONS’s predictions at the end of 2015 projected population growth of 9.7 million over the next 25 years, of which (pre-Brexit) net migration was expected to account for just over half.

Figure 1

The mainstream political responses to these trends over the years varied under different governments, but had one thing in common: they failed to adequately address the public’s concern, and in particular their fears, over immigration. Currently, the UK’s main inflow comes from economic migration. This category experienced a notable rise after the Labour administration chose not to impose transitional controls on immigration from the EU8 states that joined the union in 2004. As one of only three existing EU members to do this (Sweden and Ireland being the others), the decision led to a surge in immigration from central and eastern European states and helped put the country on course to reach record levels of net migration in 2015. Net migration to the end of that year stood at 333,000, of which EU migration accounts for just under half. The release of this data weeks before the Brexit vote fed into the hostility towards EU migrants that had become a key plank of the leave campaign.

Figure 2

As immigration rose in the 2000s, Labour’s initial approach was to accept and embrace it, rather than try to discourage it. Viewing economic migration as beneficial to the economy (which manystudies have argued it is), Tony Blair’s government allowed for its largely unrestricted continuation, while developing a series of measures to tackle illegal immigration and promote integration. These included the setup of border controls at Calais, as well as developing English language classes, citizenship ceremonies and civic education courses for immigrants in the UK.

This approach increasingly irked many members of the public, particularly those in the towns and regions of the country experiencing large relative inflows, who worried not about national gains, but localised cultural and economic impact. When the Conservatives offered up the now infamous promise to cut net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ in the 2010 general election campaign, many were all too ready to hear it. When that reduction failed to materialise, it fuelled further distrust in mainstream politicians and helped create the image of a government powerless to control the country’s borders, which was used to such effect during the referendum campaign.

An existential threat

The number one beneficiary of the combined struggles and failures of mainstream parties on immigration in the UK has been the UK Independence Party. Having failed to capture public support advocating for the UK’s ‘independence’ from the EU on economic grounds, it significantly broadened its appeal by latching onto this issue and driving home the message that it was the only party to take the immigration ‘crisis’ seriously. UKIP has worked hard to cultivate its image as not racist, but simply advocating for ‘common sense’ policies when it comes to who should enter the country and in what numbers. Like the leave campaign in general, it has succeeded in drawing in a broad coalition of voters from an electorate that no longer divides neatly along left-right traditional lines, by focusing on the issues that matter to them most.

This detoxification effort and shift in focus has helped move UKIP from a fringe party to one that can command millions of votes. Now that its stated raison d’etre has been accomplished, and Nigel Farage has stepped down, the Party’s future is unclear. It may ultimately diminish in importance, or it may rise even further in popularity if an EEA-style Brexit agreement is negotiated for the UK that fails to curb free movement and allows the party to shout ‘betrayal’. What is evident are the risks that the style of politics promoted by it and its populist counterparts around Europe pose to mainstream parties, especially if they continue to flounder on immigration.

First, and most obviously, they risk a continued outright loss of votes and support. A majority of voters in the UK were happy to ignore the constant economic warnings aired in the run-up to the referendum in favour of simplistic catch-all messages that promised them every aspect of a better life outside the EU, including action on immigration. Even for those who believed the warnings, the chance to make unhappiness about their current circumstances heard was either worth the sacrifice, or in their view contained no sacrifice whatsoever since they had no further left to fall. If this sense of anger and despair is not addressed, the mainstream will continue to haemorrage support.

Second, mainstream parties risk being pushed rightwards in their own policies and their rhetoric in the hope of remaining popular and relevant. The promotion of the Australian-style points system for all immigrants, pushed by Conservative Vote Leave campaigners and UKIP alike, is one example of the mainstream and populists advocating for a similar policy on immigration. The system was presented as a fairer alternative to the existing one – where it was argued EU migrants were being prioritised over non-EU migrants – but a clear explanation of how this would work in practice was not provided. David Cameron’s 2015 reference to a ‘swarm’ of migrants at Calais was an earlier indication of a dangerous move in this populist direction. These changes in tone are also associated with the left. Labour’s stance on immigration began to toughen in 2010 when it first properly shifted focus to reducing immigration and increasing controls; since then its policy has been couched in increasingly negative terms.

These challenges mean that getting it right on immigration is not just a question of gaining or maintaining power for mainstream parties; it is a question of their very survival. Although the UK’s electoral system has kept UKIP at bay nationally, its ability to influence the debate and pressure the mainstream helped bring the Brexit vote about. After a vitriolic referendum campaign, major parties are left divided at the very time when strength and leadership is most needed.

Charting a new path

The question remains what can be done about all of this. A new Policy Network and Barrow Cadbury Fund research project is exploring the questions mainstream parties in the UK must ask and answer if they are to develop new, effective and comprehensive strategies on immigration. The project considers this challenge in the context of a European continent in which several countries have seen a rise in hostility towards immigration and a surge in support for populist parties, including several that are now demanding their own referendums on EU membership. It will ask what can be learned from the efforts of other European countries to deal with immigration challenges, and consider what aspects of successful strategies might be adapted to the UK context.

The overall goal for mainstream parties must be to take back control of the conversation on immigration. As the EU referendum has shown, allowing both populist parties and populist voices within mainstream parties to dominate the debate can have far-reaching and negative consequences. The focus on immigrants as a threat during the campaign was powerful – they were portrayed as overburdening the UK’s systems, particularly the NHS, and the spectre of Turkey was used to frighten voters. This presentation was not effectively challenged and remain campaigners failed to make a positive case for immigration. Regaining voice on this issue requires not a simplistic focus on numbers, but a reconsideration of how the whole debate on immigration is conducted. Moderate voices must untangle the myriad of issues that feed into the public’s sense of discontent, and address their fears including those of erosion of national identity and growing worry about various insecurities in a globalised world.

The good news for those wishing for a more nuanced conversation on immigration is that there may still be large numbers of people who are willing to take part in that conversation and listen to new ideas put on the table. British Future has previously carried out work that identified half the British public as falling into a ‘moderate majority’ or ‘anxious middle’ who were not polarised on either end of the immigration debate, but whose positions actually depend on the policies and reassurances offered. The divisions stirred by the campaign have heightened the urgency of reaching and engaging those people. Referendums are by nature divisive, as they force a choice between two simple options – in this case ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ – but the public, who recognise the complexity of immigration challenges, must be reassured that there are still more options available to them than simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to immigration. While acknowledging the key role immigration concerns played in the campaign, the final vote does not by any account equate to a 52 per cent vote against immigration and a 48 per cent vote for it.

The complex concerns of this ‘anxious middle’ must be addressed through workable policy proposals which are realistic and implementable. This means abandoning grand promises and unachievable targets in favour of open discussions about the trade-offs that are required to live in a modern, open democracy, as many Britons still want the UK to be. While in the Brexit negotiations free movement will be top of the agenda, the wider context of other immigration challenges should not be forgotten. More than 50 per cent of current UK immigration comes from outside the EU, and the referendum outcome has also stoked tensions on issues such as the Jungle at Calais, with a number of French voices calling for a renegotiation of the Le Touqet agreement. All of these issues, and the consideration of each constituent category of immigration – be it economic, asylum, family reunion, or students – will require attention and debate.

The new prime minister and her government will need to be far more open and honest on immigration than any before them as they seek to restore public confidence and remedy the erosion of trust in politics which led so many voters to feel their voices went unheard for so long. As well as looking to other European countries for examples of best practice, they could consider revamping UK ideas from the past (such as the Migrant Impact Fund), and look to engage diverse stakeholder groups, including civil society, to come up with new and innovative proposals. Particularly sensitive in the aftermath of a Brexit vote and the divides it has revealed in UK society will be the question of integration and social cohesion. The work being done on these issues will take on greater importance than ever, including the recommendations of the Casey Review, which is expected for release in the coming months.

Regaining control of this debate also requires a commitment from the moderate mainstream not just to act on immigration, but to make sure they are seen to be acting. Effective communication is more important than ever for an anxious public and cannot just be one way. People around the UK, however they voted on the EU, must be able to see, feel and understand the ways in which their concerns are being addressed as new policy on immigration develops in the new political world that emerges after the Brexit vote. They must be consulted, listened to, and made to feel they have a stake in this. If parties can harness and engage the interest of these people and offer constructive solutions to their concerns, then the tumult we are now seeing could yet give way to a more positive outcome on immigration that avoids the pitfalls of the past.

Maeve Glavey, researcher, Policy Network