The nature of our work at the Forum – urgent daily interventions to make the lives of migrants and refugees better – can sometimes make it difficult to determine how our efforts help deliver long term change for the better. The year behind us is an exception to this rule.
In April last year, at a time of global economic uncertainty and with UK elections only a month ahead, we realised that assessing our effectiveness and impact on the frontlines of social change was more import
ant than ever. This Annual Review is part of our reflection on our work not only with our members but also with our supporters, funders, partners and the general public.
Over the past year, MRCF has raised its public profile. As a team we had realised the need to do this as a result of the power analysis we did with the Carnegie UK Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which was published in Power and Making Change Happen.
This piece of work helped us to regain our power and recover our self-respect, both of which can seem very fragile in the hostile environment in which we work. We found our voice and spoke out at every opportunity against the immigration injustice and prejudice faced by our users.
We have re-designed and re-launched our website so that we can use it to create the kind of debate we want to see on immigration. We have trained 55 community leaders from across London to use digital resources to have their say and tell their stories of migrant life in London. We launched a YouTube channel and incurring absolutely no cost produced videos in 18 languages explaining the importance of participation in the 2011 census for the integration of migrant and refugee communities. And finally, through collaboration with English PEN we discovered hidden talents in our communities and our poets are now published authors in a joint collection of poems, The Wrestler.
Through articulating in reports, poems, media articles and blogs what it is like to be integrated in London we have been recognised by the government, funders, politicians, colleagues, the international community and most importantly our members as a positive, pragmatic force for integration and the Good Society regardless of its size.
We won a prestigious international award, Voices of Courage for our work with refugees in urban areas and caused a bit of a stir with our honest and pragmatic response in the Guardian’s Comment Is Free to the Prime Minister’s speech on immigration.
In between these highlights, we have supported thousands of people from nearly a hundred countries. We have listened to their sometimes harrowing stories of torture and loss and tried to reassure them that they are now safe, despite the prolonged suffering and indignity which is inflicted upon them by our incompetent bureaucracy. We have worked to make that bureaucracy better and engaged with government departments whenever there was a tiny chance that we might influence change.
We have worked hard and presented credible arguments that helped persuade the Government to abandon an ill conceived policy on compulsory volunteering for citizenship. Joining forces with Citizens UK we also helped negotiate the end of the detention of children for immigration purposes.
We spent the year listening to conversations and complaints about the Big Society, constantly hearing how ‘we all have to do more for less’. But honestly, what is new? This is how we have always managed. Our communities could teach Big Society to the rest of the country because survival is what we migrants and refugees excel at. And we do it through adaptability which is the essence of the migration project .What all of our members can tell you is – ‘it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either.’
There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we are profoundly optimistic feeling stronger and more inspired than ever. We are asking you to celebrate with us our successes and bear witness to our challenges in the hope that a better, more inclusive and equal future for all of us is possible.
I would like to thank you all for your support so far and invite you to continue to stand with us. We need to stay independent with enough resources to support the vulnerable and enable long term change. Everyone can help in their own way. This can be as simple as following us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also tell your friends about us or start volunteering with one of our projects. You can mentor some of our users or make a donation safely through our new website. Whatever you choose to do we are grateful that by acting you are choosing not to be bystanders.