Working Together for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the south West

On October 11th a wide range of refugee support organisations met in Bristol, UK, to dicuss how they could work together more effectively. As one of the researchers on the asylum-network project, I was invited to present on the work of the project so far and share some ideas for strengthening asylum support. The day was a huge success, with lots of fruitful contacts made and lots of people eager to see asylum-network’s final report. Thanks to everyone who offered their support and advice, and a special thank you to the organisers: The BASIS project with Refugee Action and the Refugee Council and the South West Strategic Migration Partnership.

The day offered a fresh perspective onto our work in particular becasue many of the participating organisations were refugee support organisations and refugee community groups as opposed to asylum support organsiations. While many of the challenges and solutions that these organisations face overlap, there are also some differences: the precarity of legal immigration status in the latter case can make it difficult to form lasting community organisations. Nevertheless, the work of the refugee support communities represented at the event on the 11th is inspirational (see http://www.thebasisproject.org.uk for a number of really strong case studies of work by refugee community support organsiations). One that will stick in my mind is the case of Liver World Community Sports, who stage an alternative world cup in Liverpool, using sport to break down barriers between communities.

In the afternoon we discussed the use of social media in migrant support – weighing up the pros and cons of different forms of social media in pursuing the rights of migrants. This is an issue that has been raised repeatedly in our interviews and will certainly feature prominently in our report, due in early January 2012. If you have anything you would like to say about the use of social media in supporting asylum seekers – good experiences or bad – then please feel free to leave a comment at the end of this story.

Overall the day was very informative and productive. Tony Nickson of the Evelyn Oldfield Unit (http://www.evelynoldfield.co.uk/ ), which offers professional training and support for refugee organsiations, gave a fantastic workshop about building links with stakeholders that has inspired me to reach out to a number of groups since the event. Thanks once again to the organisers for inviting me to take part.

Nick Gill

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