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Migrant Voice Conference in London

Event report
Autumn 2016
1. Background

Migrant Voice (MV) is a migrant-led organisation established with the aim of increasing the
representation of migrants in the media in order to encourage a more balanced, well-informed and
inclusive public debate on migration.

Migrant Voice works to strengthen the skills, capacity and confidence of members of migrant
communities.

Since setting up in 2010 Migrant Voice has worked through two general elections and a financial
crisis that has contributed to sharpening the tone of the migration debate. We see the coming years
as holding a number of continued challenges.

This conference created a space for migrants, academics, journalists, and others interested in
migration to unpack the current challenges and the ones ahead, deepen our understanding of the
complex and fast evolving developments in Europe and the UK, and develop our narratives and
strategies to have a voice on these issues

Following the surge in hate crimes against migrants after the EU referendum vote and the new
developments and challenges facing the UK, the conferences aim to go to the heart of these issues
and explore ways forward. They bring together migrant communities with experts on migration,
equality, academics, the media and other stakeholders to take action.

2. Overview of the conference

Migrant Voice held the second of three regional conferences on the topic of: Migrants and
Migration Post Brexit; finding our voice to influence the new landscape, on November 25th 2016, at
Unite the Union in London.

Unite the Union played an important role in supporting and hosting this conference. The one day
event brought together over 100 activists, professionals, media and migration experts, to discuss the
urgent issues concerning migration in the UK and the EU.

Participants included members of our network hubs in London, as well as interested individuals and
experts from unions and activists both migrants and Britons.

George Dodo-Williams, Regional Officer, Health, Community & Non for Profit Sectors and Lead
Officer Race and Disability Equalities, Unite the Union welcomed participants to the conference and
emphasised the importance for Unite the Union of migrants rights and of their voices being heard.

Nazek Ramadan, Director of Migrant Voice delivered the keynote speech and read a letter from the
Mayor of London written to address our conference as he was unable to attend.

This was followed by a panel discussion on migrants and migration post Brexit chaired by Ronke
Phillips, Senior Correspondent, ITV London News.

On the panel were: Barbara Drozdowicz, Chief Executive Officer of East European Resource Centre;
Nicolas Hatton, Founding Co-Chair of The 3 million; Vince Passfield, Deputy Regional Secretary of
Unite the Union; Saira Grant, Chief Executive, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants; and John
Page, Head of Organising at Hope not Hate.

After a networking break, participants broke into workshops to come up with practical ways to
address the issues discussed in the morning; which included Dealing with hate crime and
xenophobia, What are the challenges for migrants rights and what can we do about it to engage?,
Working with the media Reporting migration and hate crime, and Building a coalition to respond
when hate comes to town.

Following, the workshops, groups fed back their actions to the plenary.

3. Conference Speeches

Keynote Speech: Nazek Ramadan, Executive Director, Migrant Voice

Nazek started by outlining some of the work Migrant Voice has undertaken in recent months and the
concerns raised by our members, as well as some of the challenges ahead. Migrant Voice held
several pre-Brexit discussions during 2016 with European migrants, and non-European communities
many of whom expressed their worries and fears about the uncertainty of the Brexit vote and the
general migration agenda.

After the vote, the surge in hate crimes added to the worries of not only Europeans but migrants and
religious minorities. This changed the landscaped and increased the level of the challenges we are
facing.

The global picture is also concerning, with the election of President Trump and the surge in hate
crimes in America, as well as the rising support for Marine Le Pen and the far right in France.

In this worrying global environment, it is vital to come together and address the increasing obstacles
and challenges and to explore opportunities to work together.

Nazek highlighted the positive actions that have emerge as a reaction to these challenges. Many
communities have been coming together to get out the positive voices, for a while many negative
voices had dominated the scenes and their voices were stronger and louder. It is now time for us to
make our voices louder and stronger, through campaigns such as, Refugees Welcomes, We have
more in Common, Better than That and One day without Us. Communities are coming together
to say this is not in our name, we do not support this and we are inclusive and welcoming
communities and we do not agree with hate crime.

Nazek then launched the MV Stand Together campaign against hate crime and all forms of
discrimination which is formed together with a number of other organisations to celebrate
International Migrants Day and to unite against hate crime.

Nazek concluded by reading aloud the letter from the Mayor of London specially addressed to this
conference:

Thank you for the good work to making migrant voices heard.
I am committed to make London a more fair, tolerant and open city accessible to all and one in which
all can live and prosper free from prejudice. London is home to diverse communities and many
migrants from around the world who make huge contributions to the city who work hard and paying
taxes, and playing a major role in civic and cultural life.

I will not tolerate, racists or xenophobic hate crimes in any form as we value all members of our
communities, we take social integration as one of our biggest challenges seriously. My pledge is to do
everything possible to strength Londons social fabric and tighten the bonds between Londoners of
different backgrounds.

Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London

Nicholas Hatton, founding Co-Chair of the3million

Nicolas explained that he began his post-Brexit political action campaigns by opening French
community group meetings that he had previously organised to now include all European
communities, as the political narrative had changed and public debates now centred on all European
communities living in the UK.

Nicolas highlighted that post-Brexit activities should centre on migrants finding their voice, which
had been overlooked in the media and British society and thus resulted in a negative representation
of migrants.

This is something that migrants need to address and influence through publicized marketing
strategies. Successful strategies need to involve an understanding of the people being targeted,
what they are thinking about and what strategies can better influence their opinions.

Essentially, it is about initial engagement to support migrants to influence people that will empathise
with migrants and take their message to their communities.

the3millions current message is, were not a bargaining chip, which rejects the governments
approach to bartering with European citizens lives during the negotiations.

Nicolas concluded that political engagement is essential, which includes engaging with MPs to urge
them to find a solution for EU citizens.

Barbara Drozdowicz, CEO, East European Resource Centre

Barbara Drozdowicz stated that in the wake of the referendum migrants are looking at a completely
new reality. There have been numerous incidents of hate crimes and both verbal and physical abuse.

The political choice of Britain to leave the EU needs to be respected, but it is the rise in hate crime
and the general tensions in society that are breaking the hearts of EU and British people.

In America, there are even worse horrors and it is hard to imagine what is going to happen in the
coming years.

Barbara then raised the question of why and how this current situation developed. She
acknowledged that the answer may simply be because some people did not take action before and
subsequently stressed that there is increasing fear that if someone does not take action now, does
not take part in campaigns or work with mainstream counterparts, the current situation will worsen.
Therefore it is everybodys job to make sure it does not happen.

Barbara called on people to start speaking up for themselves because no one else will. It is important
to break down the widening gap between us and them which maybe of our communities are
affected by and begin to work together as a community. It is also vital to stop feeling sorry for
ourselves and stop apologising for being in Britain.

For that reason, Barbara encouraged us to fight together, stating, we are not migrants who are
inhuman; we are simply people who want to live in a place different to where we were born and that
is nothing to be ashamed of. It is important to connect with people and make them see our
situations.

Vince Passfield, Deputy Regional Secretary, Unite the Union

Vince Passfield explained that prior to the referendum there was much scepticism around EU laws
and labour protection laws during Unites engagement with workers, activists and representatives.
However, the issue always came back to immigration, which was aided by a frenzied Brexit media
campaign.

The referendum has left the trade union movement divided. Jobs are in jeopardy and long-
established rights are under threat, millions of working people are looking for answers and members
are looking for a way forward.

The objective now is to ensure that workers rights, which were protected under EU law, are
enforced into UK law and that there is continued cooperation and solidarity with trade unionists in
Europe. Additionally, to defend the free movement of people and Britons right to work in the EU
and Europeans rights to work in the UK.

It is vital to be mindful that, Unite the Union members come from different working environments.
As such, firstly, there needs to be a measured educational based approach to set up projects in
strong Brexit vote regions, where workers opinions were not driven by facts, but by the myths
generated by the Leave campaign and media.

Secondly, there needs to be engagement with employers for zero tolerance on racism and
xenophobic behaviour. We need to develop a robust system for workers for reporting their
concerns, as well as to have strong anti-discrimination policies with joint training initiatives providing
clear messages.

Finally, through engagement with community organisation and NGOs, direct contact with migrant
leaders and engaging with members, there can be better understanding of attitudes and concerns.

John Page, Head of Organising, Hope not Hate

John Page highlighted that the Brexit vote was the result of existing problems that had been building
up over time, but had been brushed aside. Today, Hope not Hate is focusing on the communities
that have been the most exploited and seduced by those with racist agendas who saw communities
in pain and found opportunities to exploit them.

Hope not Hate projects are centred in what are called Post-Industrial communities such as Dudley,
in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Essex. These are places that once had thriving industries with
unionised workers who believed their children would have a better life, and in many of these
communities those dreams have been destroyed.

They have faced a loss of industry and identity, as well as a loss the connections that existed
between the Labour Party and Trade Unionists. In many of these communities people are so
susceptible to racist beliefs and laying blame on immigrants, because thats what they read in their
daily media.

At this moment, pressure needs to be put on decision makers in order to change the situation. This
involves empowering communities to learn how to influence decision makers through organising
and joining together, so that they can be players rather than spectators. If people feel their lives are
getting better because their community leaders can hold authorities to account, then the politics of
blame becomes less relevant.

John further stated that there needs to be a focus on speaking to those who are susceptible to racist
assumptions, but open to conversation, as opposed to those with extremist views, as their views are
hard wired.

The key is to engage with the racist narrative. Once you understand the issues people are facing,
such as lack of job security, fears for their childrens future, living on a minimum wage, it becomes
easier to explain that the root cause of their problems is not the one they are thinking about.
Whereas using myth busting information can create a sense of condescension.

Saira Grant, Chief Executive, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

Saira Grant reiterated that the rise in xenophobia, hate crime and discrimination is horrendous, and
Trumps electoral win has added fuel to that fire, with certain groups feeling more confident to
express their views publicly and openly.

However, to move forward we must remember and acknowledge that it is still a minority group that
are perpetuating these crimes, and that British peoples core values have not changed.

While the link between real migration figures and the notion of too many immigrants are not
factually accurate they do create emotive reactions. However, it is also important to note that
economic concerns always overtake migration concerns eventually.

Currently, there is a rise in austerity and a rise in negative political rhetoric that has been poisonous.
When the main message is constantly that migrants are to blame for economic pressures, rather
than messages addressing the real causes of austerity, it is only natural that immigrants are
automatically demonised by right-wing ideology and its followers. Thus, facts and figures become
irrelevant because peoples concerns have only been associated with migrants and not seen as a
result of government austerity.
Saira emphasised that before Brexit, Britain was overall tolerant. Furthermore, 48% did not vote
Brexit and of those that did, not all of the 52% are racists.

As a result, it is vital to speak louder and have zero tolerance on racism, xenophobia and
discrimination. Saira further insisted that success can only be achieved if all migrants and like-
minded people unite in challenging what is going on.

4. Workshops

Workshop 1: Dealing with hate crime and xenophobia. (Facilitated by Kylie Read, Stop Hate UK)
Hate crimes have increased, but have previously gone unreported. How can we respond as
communities? How do we gather the data and use it strategically to hold people to account. How do
we help people report? How do we work with schools, the police, and other stakeholders?

This interactive workshop worked on developing participants knowledge of hate crime with the aim
of having an open discussion and providing guidance on how to report or support others to do so.

Main issues raised

The main issue was safety and security, with many expressing fears around the sudden rise in hate
crime. Related issues raised were:

The legitimisation of racism and discrimination.


The political rhetoric that appeared to be fuelling hate crime and xenophobia.
Fears of reporting hate crimes and concerns about confidentiality.
Some participants expressed concerns surrounding the lack of safe spaces within
communities in which victims of hate crimes and xenophobia can discuss their experiences
and find support and recognition that they are not alone.
Participants felt that communities as a whole need to address the issues of hate crime and
racism rather than burden the individual.
Phrases such as Im not racist but or it was just were also addressed during the discussion,
as they were a sign of individuals justifying their actions and views. However, some also saw
it as an opportunity to speak to such individuals as they may not hold strong right-wing
racist views and may be open to discussing concerns.

Barriers to reporting

Lack of discussions with community organisation about the rise in hate crime, as well as,
where and how to report them.
Mistrust of reporting to the police or government officials, as it is seen as being complicit in
perpetuating hate crimes.
Language barriers and the inability to express clearly through language creates greater
difficulty in reporting crimes.
The negative rhetoric does not promote confidence in victims or individuals to report
attacks.
Issues relating to political correctness adds to the fear of having open discussions on the
issues of hate crime and racism.
On the issues of how to close the gap between the number of occurrences taking place and
the numbers reporting hate crimes; participants strongly expressed the importance of
reporting incidents, as crimes that may have affected one victim will surely have affected
others.

Agreed Actions

Data Collection
o Developing and updating Third Party hate crime reporting centres, and collecting
information from hate crime victims into one database.
o Campaigners need to develop campaigns and actions highlighting and stressing the
link between negative political rhetoric and the licence it gives to promoting
violence and hate crimes.
o Developing a multi-agency approach to sharing of resources.
Information Gathering
o Developing packs that provide information on preventing and reporting hate crime
and xenophobia as well as raising awareness of the issue and providing support
information for victims.
o Information packs should take language barriers into consideration and be
translated.
Community Based Action (CBA)
o Engaging with and going to local communities.
o There needs to be stronger, more open community leadership.
o Organise local events to share information about hate crime and xenophobia.
o Talk to local community groups to organise meetings and invite police.
o Liaise with local schools to provide education to children and parents with safe open
discussions.
o It is essential to promote cohesion not division.

Workshop 2: What are the challenges for migrants rights and what can we do about it (Facilitated
by Tamara Flanagan and Bella Kosmala, New Europeans) What are the opportunities in the coming
years for migrants to take part in shaping the post Brexit landscape; how do we build new alliances;
what are the platforms and opportunities for migrants to push for their rights?

The workshop began with participants asked to explain their current emotional state using the
letters of their names.

Emotive words included:

Anxious, joy, loving, brave, energised to take action, terrible outcome and delivery, furious, bad,
awful, mind baffled, ludicrous, ignorance, reckless, no future, fears driving us to a new uncertain
future, angry, hopeless, humiliated, hate, nervous, Machiavellian, lost and scared, diversity.

While many were concerned and felt exposed and self-conscious; some expressed their optimism in
the current climate as it has brought a large diversity of people and organisations together to face
the issue collectively and has created opportunities to openly address concerns and issues.
Worst things since Brexit?

Issues concerning many participants since the results of Brexit were mainly the rise in hate crime and
racism both physically and verbally.

Other issues included:

Legitimisation of the abuse to migrants


Many migrants are feeling forced to leave the UK
The divide and conquer rule being enforced
Division of the people
Legitimisation of nationalism and xenophobia in Britain
The impact on freedom of movement and exclusion

Participants were saddened by the dominance of racial abuse post- Brexit and felt history was
repeating itself in terms of:

The death of innocent people


Britain no longer a free country for migrants and foreigners
Migrants feeling the effects of the negative energy
The lack of tolerance for people has created a division that is tearing the country and the
world apart. People who have built their lives here are now are scared of the dominant
racist views.

Participants were also concerned at the lack of preparation, by the government as well as
institutions, individuals and the country as a whole surrounding Brexit.

Other points were raised around:

The lack of awareness of migrants lives or information based on fact-less and subjective
information
The lack of awareness that leaving the EU will have on laws and protection policies
The lack of awareness of the economic impact of Brexit

Agreed Messages

Dont be divided - Unify


Stick with your beliefs
Dont let hate crime pass by
Be visible, (the 48% still have a voice)

Agreed Actions

In response to the issues raised, some suggested that people need to be brave and report
hate crime, to stop living in despair and think of ways to move forward.
Ensure the needs of the 48% who voted to remain are more visible in campaigning as Leave
campaigners have taken the agenda.
Challenge the dominant Leavers
Challenge the label of being framed as a Re-moaner
Intergenerational and Engagement Based Actions (IEBA)
Build better connections with youth institutions and students
Engage with those influenced and affected by racism on all sides, those perpetuating racism
and violence and those experiencing it.
Support campaigners and campaigns already working on solidarity
Support communities in reporting problems
Mobilising behind communities
Find political opportunities and elections to engage in
MEP voting, Get involved in political voting and councillors
Stand in local elections
Work with councils and MPs to change policy
Talk to young people, ethnic groups to speak out more
Use Brexit to support non-EU migrants
Be more proactive
There were also calls for TV campaigns in the lead up to Brexit, that oppose certain groups,
such as right-wing groups in order to provide migrants voices and linking campaigns
together under #bigger-nation.
Education Based Actions (EBA)
People also agreed on the need for better education on policies and issues that will allow
them to be more informed on their choices.
There needs to be more hands on practical work at grass root levels
Share ground work studies and IPP research
Educate and inform EU migrants that they can participate in elections
Disapprove of racism. Not everyone agrees with racism
Leave emotions behind and use your brain to move forward
All participants agreed that the issues were not just about EU migrants but all migrants and
that there needs to be a united goal.

Workshop 3: Working with the Media Reporting migration and hate crime (Facilitated by Daniel
Nelson) The interactive workshop looked at how best to get our stories and messages from the event
into the media using different tools and media platforms.

The workshop looked at developing a number of key strategies for working with the media,
concluding with the following:

Key Strategies for working the media

Develop three key positive messages to be repeated in letters, campaigns, interviews and
other correspondences
Highlight positive contributions of migrants in connection with policies and statistics
Take part in different media platforms, not just political media, explore talk shows, such as,
Loose Women, The One Show etc.
Develop a positive narrative around migration
Build positive relationships with journalist through networking
Work with Unite and other organisations to take action in the media
Look into better marketing strategies to help develop messages and media strategies
Other Community Based Actions
Form groups in local communities to work on developing stories and relevant issues
Take objectives of training, advice and tips to smaller communities
Organise boycotts of newspapers and media by engaging with advertisers
Challenge the moral responsibilities of media

5. Feedback

Participants overwhelmingly found the panel discussions and workshops either useful or
very useful.
Participants found the panel discussion informative and beneficial in understanding issues
relating to Brexit policies and upcoming negotiations.
Participants were also grateful for the opportunity to speak out about hate and crime and
xenophobia and the different ways both individuals and organisations can address the
issues.
Many attendees expressed their appreciation at having the opportunity to meet new people
and organisation and building new contacts and friendships.
There was immense eagerness by attendees to engage further, beyond the conference, in
public debates and conversations.
People were also eager to support organisations and take part in upcoming campaigns, as
well as keeping track of the migration news and changes in policies covered at the
conference.
Some participants felt that the workshops could have been better timed and that the aims of
the workshops could have been better clarified.

This is a selection of comments/feedback from participants on the question: As a result of the


conference I will:

I will start engaging in conversations and reading more about legislation and policies post
Brexit. I will also be engaging in conversations with young black British people about their
views with the hope of taking positive action.

Try to engage more in difficult conversations with people who express racist or xenophobic
views.

Be more ready to pitch stories to media outlets.

Stay in contact with people who are active in challenging hate crimes, and do so at the
workplace too.

Will be working in collaboration with more partners thank you.

Review our media activities and messages.