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Celebrating Refugee Week 2020

Community | 15 June 2020

Summary: Today marks the beginning of Refugee Week 2020 - a global movement and celebration of refugees’ contribution to society. At MTVH, we want to take this opportunity to share and listen to migrant stories; deepen our understanding of the refugee experience; and promote a culture of compassion towards migration.


Migration is important to us at MTVH: more than 50 years ago, our founders established a charitable organisation to provide secure and affordable homes for Windrush migrants. The values embedded in this history remain central to our work and we continue to support migrants through our Migration Foundation which was established 10 years ago in recognition of the particular challenges faced by the UK’s migrant population.

Today thousands of migrants in the UK face extreme poverty and homelessness with no support or ability to return home. They often experience feelings of isolation and hopelessness as they navigate unfamiliar systems in search of a more stable future.

Take Anya (not her real name) who fled Sierra Leone in 2003 and lived in the UK with the immigration status of ‘a dependant on’ her husband. She studied in the UK and worked in social care. Anya experienced domestic abuse and in 2011 reached the point where she had to decide: to stay with her abusive husband, or leave – and lose her immigration status, home and income.

She knew she had to escape her situation but without an income or home she was destitute. She lived hand to mouth, sofa surfing and relying on the generosity of friends, or handouts from charities to survive. Anya tried to regulate her immigration status stating domestic violence, but was refused. She then applied for asylum, and was placed in asylum support accommodation while the decision was pending. The quality of the accommodation was low, and coping with sub-standard living conditions while dealing with her traumatic past caused Anya’s mental health to further deteriorate.

In 2019, Anya’s asylum claim was refused and she was denied access to any state supported housing, financial support or healthcare. Destitute, she was referred to Praxis Community Projects, a charity funded by MTVH’s Migration Foundation.

Praxis secured her a safe, secure place to stay, supported her to access community mental health services and weekly counselling, and provided her with a weekly hardship grant so she could meet her basic needs.

A partner organisation is currently working with Anya on a new asylum claim. She is concerned about what the future holds as she returns to the asylum system, but is grateful for the stability and respite the Praxis Housing Project has given her while she awaits the decision.

Safely housed, she has slowly begun to live well and rebuild her life. She volunteers once a week at a local refugee charity drop-in centre, has taken part in a BAME women’s leadership training programme and has formed strong bonds with her neighbours. Without the support she received Anya would not have been able to access the accommodation, support and advice she needed to be able to live safely, and focus on her asylum claim to secure her long term status to live in the UK.

MTVH’s Migration Foundation exists to ensure people like Anya have access to the support they need to avoid homelessness and destitution, in line with MTVH’s vision: ‘Everyone should have a home and the chance to live well’.

Through grant funding and strategic partnerships with organisations and projects that align with its mission, the Migration Foundation aims to alleviate migration destitution – a growing issue in the UK – and make migration work for both migrants and communities.

MTVH’s Migration Foundation offers practical solutions through investing in three key areas:

 

Access to justice

Many migrants are eligible to stay in the UK but cannot quickly prove it. The Migration Foundation supports access to justice through funding public law clinics, and charities providing advice and advocacy projects, as well as partnering with organisations such as the RAMP (The Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy) project to reimagine the immigration system and make it work for both migrants and communities.

 

Practical housing support

Securing accommodation represents the first steps to building a new life. The Migration Foundation supports migrants out of destitution through long-term partnerships with organisations such as NACCOM (No Accommodation Network – a national network preventing destitution amongst people seeking asylum, refugees and other migrants) and Praxis. The Foundation supports migrants into stable solutions through Re-Start Point; an MTVH service providing accommodation, legal advice and everyday support to migrants in crisis.

 

Migrant entrepreneurship and social integration 

Migrant entrepreneurship supports social integration and creates thriving communities. The Migration Foundation supports the contribution of migrants to UK society through initiatives such as the ‘Women on the Move Awards (WOMA)’, a celebration of inspirational leadership from migrant and refugee women. The Foundation also supports Migrateful, an organisation helping migrants on their journeys to employment through cookery and language training.

As a social housing provider, MTVH is committed to investing in our communities and the work of the Migration Foundation is a huge part of this commitment. Continued migrant destitution is in no one’s interests, and through joint working we can continue to make positive change, giving migrants a home and the chance to live well.

 

Juliana Bell, Programme Delivery Manager of MTVH’s Migration Foundation:

“As a migrant woman myself, I have first-hand experience of the UK’s immigration system. And having worked and volunteered in the social justice field for over 15 years, I’ve met hundreds of migrants and refugees from all over the world and learned about their stories: the pain of having to flee and leave behind families, the enormous challenge of having to navigate the UK’s immigration system, and how hard they have to work to re-build their lives in the UK.

“When I first arrived here, could I have imagined that I’d one day be working for an organisation that aligns so well with my personal values? Well, I certainly hoped so! I’m now extremely honoured to manage the Migration Foundation and to be part of MTVH – an organisation that clearly remembers and celebrates its roots.”

 

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