Our blog posts often report on events we have attended that are hosted by migrant support groups and that have greatly informed our work on this project. Last week—Sept 23rd—it was our turn to host participants from asylum advocacy and support organizations at our London dissemination workshop. At the event, our project team gathered with a terrific group of participants to review the initial round of project findings with us. We presented details about the project including survey findings identifying key challenges asylum support organizations contend with and insights from some of the people we have interviewed identifying successful—as well as hoped for—solutions to address these challenges. Throughout the day we had a lively roundtable discussion and breakout sessions providing further insight and feedback that is invaluable as we move to disseminate the project findings more broadly.
Participants raised some really important points: the ‘ghettoization’ of the asylum sector which has implications for funding and amidst funding cuts; the double-edged sword of increasing reliance on volunteers; the ongoing challenges of helping asylum seekers secure access to legal representation; dilemmas of immigrant detention; and the quandary as well as the potential opportunity that working with government agencies present were among the topics we delved into. In coming weeks we will explore these points and the tensions around them in more depth on this blog; we invite you to post your thoughts and comments as we do.
Another discussion was the importance of recognizing where different types of organizations are in the ‘spectrum’ of migrant support. At the event were representatives from local small-scale charities, regionally-focused groups, and organizations with a national reach. There was an understanding that groups are positioned differently in terms of their networks, relationships with the public and asylum seekers, and links to government agencies. Having said this it was noted that smaller organizations ‘feed’ the work of larger groups and vice versa. From this discussion it emerged that there is a clear need to articulate how organizations along the entire continuum of asylum seeker support and bolster one another’s work. The need to explore and acknowledge the inter-reliance among these differently positioned groups, with a view to supporting the sector overall, especially in an era of reduced funding, is one that resonates strongly with our goals for this project.
We want to thank all those who came and participated in the event, which gave both researchers and participants from support organizations a forum for thoughtful and stimulating dialogue. We hope other groups will join us on this blog and at events in the US and UK as we continue this dialogue on how academics and research more generally can better support the work of migrant advocacy and support organizations.