Linking Research with Policy and Practice: Refugee Arrival and Settlement in Liverpool and Glasgow

22 February 2019 at New Start Head Office, Kensington, Liverpool.

On the 22nd February 2019 Migration Working Group – North West celebrated its first anniversary with an annual event, Academics – Meet – Practitioners. The event brought together academics, practitioners, asylum seekers and refugees from Liverpool and Glasgow to showcase ongoing PhD research, celebrate best practice and explore ways of working together in the future.

Opening the event, Dr Zana Vathi, introduced attendees to the aims of the Migration Working Group, highlighting how organisations and practitioners can become involved and the ways in which they can make use of the group as a platform.

The initial focus of the day was on research and practice in Liverpool. Samantha Carney presented the preliminary findings of her PhD research exploring refugee settlement in Liverpool. Samantha’s talk focussed on Liverpool as a city of welcome and the ways that welcome plays out in the everyday experiences of residents, asylum seekers and refugees.

Edwin Murambiwa representing New Start, gave a presentation about the New Roots project. Edwin spoke about the transition from Home Office support to independence, focussing on the difficulties faced by refugees following a positive decision on their asylum claim. Edwin went on to talk about how the New Roots project supports refugees through this period, for example through the provision of accommodation and support with Property Pool and benefits.

Shifting the focus of the day to Glasgow, Niroshan Ramachandran presented preliminary findings of his PhD research which explores access to social protection. Niroshan emphasised the key role played by third sector organisations to enable asylum seekers and refugees to navigate access to services and social protection.

Bill Lawns representing the South East Integration Network (SEIN), Glasgow, shared SEIN’s role in bringing together local communities, asylum seekers and refugees for successful integration. Bill emphasised the need for integration to be inclusive and to extend to the wider community, stressing the need to bring the local community along with you.

‘We all have the same heart. Rather than a foodbank for migrants and travellers, we have a food bank for those who need food. We have to change these perceptions on asylum seeker being the key feature of  these people. Integration Networks work. We just believe wholeheartedly that we need to take the whole community with us.’

The final presentation session, Migrant Journeys and Settlement Stories, opened the floor to asylum seekers and refugees in Liverpool and Glasgow so that they could share their experiences. During this touching session, stories of migrant journeys, arrivals, settlement and integration were shared. These stories emphasised the importance of the supportive role played by practitioners, organisations and volunteers.

The session featured narratives of support workers which are very overlooked both in research and policy. Marie Gettings, a retired sociology teacher, highlighted the Experiences of conviviality between support workers and refugees.

‘If we work together, we will all be the beneficiaries’

The stories of asylum seekers and refugees highlighted the hardships of journeys and settlement in the UK. ‘Where is El Salvador?’ Mario said this question is at the centre of his experience of ‘welcoming’ from the local communities. He decided to keep a map with him to show people of Glasgow where El Salvador is.

‘People seem to look at us as asylum seekers, but we are not only asylum seekers. We are workers, builders, accountants, we have families. and the most important thing is we have dreams. And dreams are the most important necessity for the humanity that we feel in our lives’.

Even though there are various services available after asylum seekers gain status, the temporary housing can pose many psychosocial issues for the refugees. Reza from Iran said that the hardest part for him was sleeping with drug addicted, homeless people in the Whitechapel housing. ‘I never give up, but that’s when I gave up’.

To close the event, a round table discussion was organised to reflect on the good practices shared by service providers, preliminary findings of PhD researchers and refugee stories. The roundtable was chaired by Julia Kashirahamwe of the Liverpool City Council, with a panel made up of Dr Zana Vathi, Dr Ruxandra Trandafoiu (Edge Hill University), Edwin Murambiwa (New Start) and Bill Lawns (SEIN Glasgow). Dr Zana Vathi emphasised the need to work harder on accessibility, and Dr Ruxandra Trandafoiu emphasised the need to enhance the role of local actors in the eventuality of a stricter new immigration law.

The Migration Working Group – North West will take forward some of the learning points and prepare leaflets which feed in to the work of various stakeholders part of the Asylum Seekers and Refugees group ran by Liverpool City Council, of which they are member.