Migrants Encouraged to Vote as Election enters final few days

5 June 2017
Akram Salhab

In response to the General Election, migrant communities around the UK organised a series of events to ensure their voice and their concerns were heard during the election campaign. British citizens with an eligibility to vote, together with EU nationals, asylum seekers and refugees who are not allowed to do so, created a nationwide mobilisation in the lead up to the voter registration deadline on Monday, May 22. More than 30 events were held under the banner ‘Promote the Migrant Vote’ and included a resource pack to support migrant communities to register their members, get out the vote and engage in other forms of public action.

Many actions were focused around registering new voters. Large numbers of eligible voters in the UK are not registered to participate in elections, with migrant communities and young people being among the least engaged sectors. Communities are changing that: in Oxford, more than 110 members of the community registered at an event held in the East Oxford Community Centre and organised by Refugee Resource and lead by Eden Habtemichael, the winner of Women on the Move Awards for 2017.

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Other large community events were also held by the Somali community in Milton Keynes who held a community discussion and showed a video about the importance of engagement created by the League of Young Voters. The Sudanese community in London organised a concert and fashion show attended by more than 250 people to hear Sudanese singer Hind Al Taher, with voter registration and discussion taking place at the entrance.

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In Manchester, more than a dozen organisations from across the city came together to coordinate a joint event, attended by more than 150 members of diverse migrant and BME communities. The event, held in the Pakistani Community Centre, was a lively celebration of migrant communities and included balloons, a bouncy castle and performances from Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) choir and Wonderfully Made Woman – as well as conversations on migrant and refugee concerns with prospective parliamentary candidates.

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In addition to these public events, many faith institutions sought to engage their members in the election process. In the Muslim community, both the Muslim Council of Britain (MBC) and Muslim Engagement and Democracy (MEND) contacted their membership across the UK to run voter registrations at Friday prayers, in addition to providing them with detailed resources and videos. Mosques in London, Peterborough and four centres across Yorkshire participated in running voter registration drives at Friday prayers May 19. Churches too were involved, with registration taking place at several churches in Bradford and in London.

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Voter registration also took place at the Young Vic Theatre in South London, where you could register to vote before and after performances at the theatre. A special migration focused debate was held at the Young Vic on the evening of May 19, providing a forum for migrants, refugees and their supporters to discuss the issues affecting their lives and the urgency of addressing these issues at the election.

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The large mobilisation of migrants, refugees and EU nationals in only a few short weeks demonstrates the keenness of our communities to engage with the democratic process and to demand justice, equality and fairness like all other citizens. The work does not stop here: up and down the country, communities will be preparing to get their members out to vote on Thursday, June 8.

For a full list of activities and upcoming migration-related hustings, please see the events page on the Promote the Migrant Vote website. The website will be updated with any further events as they are announced.

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