A Stronger Voice: Report of the workshops carried out by the anti-poverty groups of the Migrants Resource Centre, London, for the Get Heard Project

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This report documents how migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers view and experience poverty and social exclusion in UK society today. It presents the findings of a number of workshops organised by the Anti-Poverty Group at the Migrants Resource Centre in London. These were part of the UK-wide Get Heard project, feeding into the 2006 National Action Plan on Social Inclusion. We hope that the experience and voice of all involved will be useful across government departments and initiatives around integration and cohesion. The contributions of the members of the Anti-Poverty Group have been invaluable for the project. I would like to thank all the people who participated in the workshops for sharing with us their experiences of living in London and giving us an insight into their daily struggle to overcome poverty. I wish to thank Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme for offering us financial support for producing this report. They also gave encouragement and support to make the voices of our client group heard as widely as possible, and their issues and concerns raised in the wider community.
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  A stronger voice Report of the workshops carried out by the Anti-Poverty Group of the Migrants Resource Centre, London, for the Get Heard  Project Migrants Resource Centre, June 2006  1. Executive summary 4 2. Background 6 3. Views on poverty 9 4. What is working? 13 5. Recommendations 15 2 A Stronger Voice Contents  Foreword T his report documents how migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers view and experience poverty and social exclusion in UK society today.It presents the findings of a number of workshopsorganised by the Anti-Poverty Group at the MigrantsResource Centre in London. These were part of the UK-wide Get Heard  project, feeding into the 2006 National Action Plan on Social Inclusion.We hope that the experience and voice of all involved will be useful across government departments andinitiatives around integration and cohesion.The contributions of the members of the Anti-PovertyGroup have been invaluable for the project. I would like to thank all the people who participated in theworkshops for sharing with us their experiences of living in London and giving us an insight into their daily struggle to overcome poverty.I wish to thank Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme for offering us financial support for producing this report. They also gave encouragement and support to make the voices of our client group heard as widely as possible, and their issues and concerns raised in the wider community. Nazek Ramadan Migrant and Refugee Empowerment Worker Migrants Resource Centre24 Churton StreetLondonSW1V 2LPTel: 020 7834 2505 3 A Stronger Voice Migrant & RefugeeEmpowermentProject funded by:  4 A Stronger Voice T here were almost 80 participants at the five work-shops held by the Anti-Poverty Group of the MigrantsResource Centre in London. The Anti-Poverty Group is a forum for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers topromote their voices in anti-poverty initiatives. On thisoccasion, the participants were there to contribute to Get Heard  , a UK-wide project where, at 146 workshops,people living in poverty would feed their ideas into theGovernment’s 2006 National Action Plan on Social Inclusion.The Migrants Resource Centre workshops were for refugees,migrants and asylum-seekers. The atmosphere in each wasone of excitement. As one participant put it: ‘It gave me the opportunity to say what I wanted to say for a very longtime, especially the problems we face as ethnic minorities.’There was a sense of solidarity, a belief that: ‘Together we can support each other and have a stronger voice.’Participants were very clear about the reasons why so many migrants and refugees in Britain today are poor. They listed a range of barriers that they felt preventedintegration and led to exclusion, including external ones like injustice and racism, and practical ones such as lack of money, poor access to amenities and information anddifficulties in finding work. They also explored barriersaround loss of identity, dignity and confidence. The word‘respect’ was repeated many times over. Poverty, theybelieved, was as much about lack of power and isolation, as it was about money. Many of those who came had terrible tales to tell. One remembered picking biscuits out of dustbins, many had to go without food each week when their moneyran out. Women were clearly upset when they told of their children having to go without the things their peershad. One young woman told how she had tried twice to commit suicide.But despite their problems, some were able to point tosome government policies that they felt were having apositive impact on the lives of migrants and refugees, and some benefits that had helped them, especially free education, health care and legal aid. They were also clear about what needed to change. Theyfelt that many refugees and migrants had much to offer, but that their skills and experience were not being used.One of the main changes they wanted to see was thatasylum-seekers should be allowed to work. ‘It is inhumane 1. Executive summary “” I am an asylum seeker, I cannot do anything. Icannot work, I cannot study, and I cannot walk in the street withconfidence.
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