Example10 Example11 MCH LSE Refuge City ATH Refugee Info 003
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Example16 Example17 Example18

People Example10

Get to know the newcomers, activists and volunteers we met in Athens, Berlin and London, as they share their personal experiences of refuge, welcome and the digital city.


Haringey Welcome

MCH024 LSE Refuge City London Haringey Welcome

Bilal, Alison, Soumaya, Nathan and Lucy, Haringey Welcome
Haringey, London, October 2018

In 2015 we grouped together under the Refugees Welcome banner with a focus on pushing the Council to resettle Syrian families in the borough. Ten or twelve of us have been meeting regularly in Lucy’s living room the past few years. It took time and a lot of effort, but we eventually got Haringey Council to agree to house ten Syrian families. They've all arrived as part of the government's Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).

The local council leader was always saying no, or blaming it on the Tory government, but I think she U-turned because we existed and we'd been making a lot of noise. We'd gotten thousands of people signing our petition and local media had covered it. We've learned much more about the immigration processes in the UK, and our work since then has refocused onto the hostile environment policies of Theresa May and her government, especially the impact on vulnerable migrants and refugees in our local area. So we don’t work directly with refugees — our mobilization is directed at the Council and at changing discourses and policies around refugees.

(solidarity)

MCH001 LSE Refuge City London Haringey Welcome

We tried to persuade Haringey Council to adopt the 'lead agency model' like Lambeth and Camden where refugee agencies with experience were brought in to manage the process. But the Council really didn't like us interfering, and we weren't always invited to meetings or got information. So, for example, we found out really late in the day about the problems for two Syrian families who were housed in, basically, garages in Tottenham during the snow without proper heating. And one of the families had a 4-year old child with a congenital respiratory condition. The Council knew that and they also knew about this accommodation because they'd previously placed other families there. A local paediatrician raised a campaign emailing the MPs and the counsellors. And Muswell Hill Methodist church, who had done a community sponsorship of one family, got involved and found new accommodation for them. But the Council sat on their hands. So, you know, you can never take your eyes off them at all.

(hostility, London)

MCH010 LSE Refuge City London Haringey Welcome

We started with a very analogue campaign with lots of postcards and writing, but in order to petition to speak with the Council and point to our Refugees Welcome campaign, we had to get a certain number of signatures. We just managed to scrape over the line by doing an online petition. It’s very difficult to have a locally-focused digital strategy because there are just far fewer people and your digital reach will be quite narrow. There’s a lot more payback by going door to door, but that takes time. But with the online petition, we managed to get signatures from lots of people even outside of London in other parts of the country.

I think now people have an idea that Haringey Welcome has this big presence in the borough and our digital presence has much to do with that. We got the website out about four months ago, and we’ve got a lot of followers on Twitter and Facebook. People are often asking us to retweet stuff or to help support their campaigns because we're really in touch with a lot of other local groups and things that are going on.

(digital skills)

MCH002 LSE Refuge City London Haringey Welcome

Things are improving with the current local administration in the Council, but at one point relationships with civil society organizations were really strained. The Council was introducing lots of cuts and started playing organizations off against each other, creating favoured and non-favoured ones. To stay on the right side of the Council and continue to receive funds, you had to accept a lot of cuts. But to try to be slightly generous to the situation, the funding cuts on the councils are horrendous, and they aren't stopping. Now, if those funding cuts were not in place, whether that would lead to any different outcomes... I don't know. I think holding local government to account — citizens holding local government to account — is absolutely essential.

(austerity)

Update June 2020 — Since 2018, Haringey Welcome has continued its work to oppose Hostile Environment policies and practices and make Haringey a more welcoming borough. The group persuaded the Council to adopt a 'Welcome Strategy' and create a 'Welcome Advisory Board' — a roundtable for community groups to address problems together with councillors and officers. Haringey Welcome also petitioned and spoke at the European Parliament in October 2019 to raise grave concerns about the impact of Brexit on refugees and migrants. Together with local partners, the group has continued with community campaigning and outreach work, running schools poetry competitions, drama and storytelling workshops, and conducting a survey of barriers to accessing primary healthcare for migrants in the borough. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Haringey Welcome has been recording a music fundraiser to support migrant women domestic workers, which will be launched in July 2020.

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