Monday, June 16, 2008

Migrants Resource Centre

Really nice article by Mark Haddon about the Migrants Resource Centre, including a bit about the work that my friend Nazek does:

"My host at the Migrants Resource Centre (MRC) is the indefatigable Nazek Ramadan, who herself fled the war in Lebanon in the mid-Eighties and runs many of the projects at the centre. Nazek is like a particularly efficient big sister, and when Sergey lists the people to whom he is most grateful over the past few years, Nazek comes in just behind God, and just in front of Mario Marin Cotrini, the MRC's legal adviser.

The centre does exactly what it says on the tin. It offers refugees and asylum seekers advice, practical help, language lessons, a crèche, computer access and a place to meet other people in the same boat.

Nazek and her colleagues, however, realise that one of the biggest problems asylum seekers have to face is the way they are portrayed in the media. Everyone I spoke to at the centre said they were treated well by the public until they admitted that they were asylum seekers. One of them said he was relieved when he became destitute because the public treated homeless people better than they treated asylum seekers.

Most of those who write about asylum seekers have never met one. So Nazek set up a media group, in order that journalists could talk to asylum seekers, and asylum seekers who wanted a voice could talk to journalists.

Nazek hasn't yet risked exposing the members of the group to anyone from the tabloid press, but they have had a fair number of cynics through their doors, all of whom have gone away converted, one of them so moved that they asked a homeless refugee to come and live in their spare room."

Worth adding to this that the media work is only part of the Empowerment Project which Nazek runs, other pieces of work include an anti-poverty group, a housing network and an integration project. It's one of the really good things about the centre that as well as providing the basic services which asylum-seekers and refugees need like a creche, language courses, legal advice and employment training, it gives them the opportunity to be involved in developing policies and being given the power to campaign themselves to change the unjust and unfair laws.

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