About us

Our people

Our team is made up of passionate and experienced staff – majority first and second generation migrants with lived experience of the UK’s immigration system – who are guided in their work by our dedicated trustees.

Staff

Fizza Qureshi

CEO

Fizza is the CEO of the Migrants’ Rights Network.

Fizza joined MRN in August 2016. She previously worked at the Terrence Higgins Trust for just over 3 years covering the London and East of England sexual health and HIV services. Before this, she worked as a Programme Manager for an international medical humanitarian organisation where she was responsible for its UK independent health clinic, and health advocacy programme supporting migrants to access healthcare.

Fizza has a degree in Human Rights and Social Change, and a degree in Biotechnology. She has previously served as Board Member of MRN, the Institute of Race Relations and Healthwatch Newham.

She is the Co-Chair of the3million, on the board of Migrants at Work and on the honorary advisory committee for the Black Europeans.

Contact Fizza at: [email protected] (please note she works part-time: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday morning, 9am-12.30pm).

eliyes omar

Eliyes Omar

Finance Administrator

Eliyes joined MRN in September 2017. He is in charge of MRN’s financial management. Eliyes has enjoyed maths since his childhood. He is a mathematics graduate and has a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Mathematics. He also holds a Level 3 Advanced Diploma in IT, and a Level 3 Diploma in Accounting (AAT). 

Contact Eliyes at: [email protected]. Eliyes works Mon (half day) and Thursday’s.

Ana Gavalas

Communications Officer

Ana joined MRN in December 2021 as the Digital Marketing Apprentice. As of March 2023 she has been working as the Communications Officer.

She has an LLB in Law from Kings College London, and holds a Distinction in MA Transnational Queer Feminist Politics from SOAS.

She is particularly interested in the intersections between anti-imperialism, decolonisation and migrant justice, and in defying neoliberalism’s hold on movements for justice. As a second generation Cypriot migrant, she has been an active member of her community in both queer and anti-imperialist Cypriot circles. Ana is heavily invested in analysing racial capitalism, and critiquing borders and urban geographies as a sites of violence for racialised, migratised and other marginalised communities.

She really enjoys exploring queerness as a mode of resistance, through content creation, art and writing that centres on Cyprus, Palestine and the broader SWANA region.

Contact Ana at [email protected]

Julia Tinsley-Kent

Policy and Strategic
Communications Manager

Julia joined MRN in June 2022.

Julia manages MRN’s policy, public affairs, press and communications activities. She is an LGBTQ+ activist and artist, and is involved in numerous movements at a grassroots level.

She previously worked for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and the National Lottery Community Fund, gaining extensive experience in strategic communications, advocacy and policy. Alongside this experience, she has in-depth knowledge of issues affecting migrants and queer communities in the UK including through her work organising with Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM). 

Julia has a degree in Politics and History from Newcastle University and a qualification in Public Policy Analysis from the London School of Economics (LSE).

Contact Julia at [email protected]

Lauren Fernandes

Lauren Fernandes

Policy and Campaigns Assistant

Lauren joined MRN in August 2023.

They have a BA in History and International Relations and an MA in Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies. Their research has focused on bordering and South Asian diasporas in Britain.

Lauren has previous experience in public advocacy concerning systemic Islamophobia in counter-terror practices, as well as decolonial work in universities. They are interested in the intersections of state violence in bordering and resistance to these systems.

Contact Lauren at [email protected]

Aya Khedairi

Community Engagement Manager

Aya joined MRN in February 2024 as the Community Engagement Manager. 

She has spent the last two years working with projects promoting access to information and digital connectivity for people on the move in Northern France. Aya is particularly interested in developing collaborative approaches to information production and dissemination, and building genuinely inclusive spaces. 

Contact Aya at [email protected] (Tue, Wed, Thu)

Toby Nicholas

Community and Capacity Building Manager (London)

Toby joined MRN in March 2024 as the Community and Capacity Building Manager (London), bringing seven years of activism experience focused on migrants’ rights and housing issues in Manchester. As a co-founder of a migrants’ rights activist group, he has overseen successful community projects, gaining valuable insights into grassroots organisations’ inner workings and challenges. He is especially passionate about nurturing “little utopias” where optimism, resilience, and solidarity can thrive. 

Toby’s activism emphasises practical organisational management, encompassing funding navigation, volunteer coordination, effective governance and policy, project management, and navigating bureaucratic obstacles. His commitment extends beyond advocacy; Toby is dedicated to ensuring community organisations have the tools and support needed for long-term sustainability. With extensive experience as an events manager, Toby also brings a proven track record of orchestrating successful gatherings that amplify voices and foster community engagement.

Before joining MRN, Toby was at UCL’s Anthropology department coordinating the Postgraduate Taught programmes and supporting predominantly international students with pastoral issues.  Toby has a degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester.

Contact Toby at [email protected]

Ambassadors

Katia Widlak

Katia Widlak

Ambassador

Katia was a trade union organiser in the National Strategic and Organising Unit of UNISON, and the organising lead for the EU Citizens’ Right to Remain campaign.

She joined the3million, a grassroots organisation led by EU nationals to safeguard existing rights post-Brexit, a few months after it was set up in 2016. Her involvement with the3million was organic and in continuity with her work and values. As a migrant herself, most of her work revolves around organising migrant workers in understanding their rights at work, and campaigning for better rights in general. She understood straight away that Brexit will be utilised to threaten and erode the rights of people who arrived under free movement, but also of all migrants in general.

In 2019 she co-founded a charity called Settled. Its aim is to reach out and to support EEA nationals and their family members in making applications for the EU Settlement Scheme, so as to avoid becoming undocumented after the cut off period. The charity is training and accrediting volunteers who are committed to supporting and reaching out to their local community.

Contact Katia at [email protected]

Katia joined MRN in November 2021 as the Interim London Project Coordinator, and is now an ambassador.

Dr Javier Mármol Queraltó

Dr Javier Mármol Queraltó

Ambassador

Dr Javier Mármol Queraltó obtained his PhD in Linguistics at the University of Lancaster (2022), where he examined the (multimodal) representation of events involving migrants, including asylum-seekers and refugees, across British and Spanish quality newspapers. Javier is passionate about challenging discourses on migration and firmly believes language (and other meaning-making systems) is an essential tool to facilitate people’s wellbeing in society.

Javier combines his activities at the MRN with academic duties at the University of Southampton, where he focuses on Learning Design, Technology-Enhanced Teaching and other related disciplines. Javier is a Spanish and English trained teacher and focuses on pedagogical and critical aspects stemming from the adoption and integration of new and existing technologies in Higher Education contexts.

ernest-ulaya

Ernest Ulaya

Ambassador

Ernest is an ambassador and policy research volunteer at the Migrant’s Rights Network. In his role, he works across a variety of areas including asylum accommodation, community outreach, and capacity building, where he passionately champions the invaluable “Know Your Rights Guide.”

Ernest’s journey has ignited an ardent desire for a more inclusive and welcoming environment in the UK. Through his efforts in community outreach amongst asylum seekers, he has come to realise that beneath the surface of every asylum seeker lies a unique story. This revelation has spurred him to launch ‘The Voices of Hope podcast,’ a platform that provides individuals with lived experiences the opportunity to showcase their resilience, by sharing their unique stories, experiences, ideas, and aspirations.

He holds a degree in Environmental Science.

Advisory Group

Angelo Boccato

Advisor

Angelo Boccato is a freelance journalist and a Communications-Media Officer. His stories, interviews, and reportages have been published in several publications, from the Independent to Tribune, from Open Democracy to Byline Times and the Columbia Journalism Review, while in the latter he has worked for advocacy organisations like the 3Million, and the documentary INFLUX on the Italian community in London.

He came to London in 2013, thanks to Freedom of Movement, and as a journalist, since then, he has observed just how much the debate on migrants, including refugees, can be deeply toxic in the British media, drawing sometimes even parallels with Italian media where discriminatory and hateful language is far more rife.

Words and representation are essential in the debate on migration; they can empower or they can vilify. By passing the microphone and highlighting experiences that have been silenced, Angelo aims to contribute to changing the tone and level of the conversation on migration.

Simon Cheng

Simon Cheng

Advisor

Simon joined MRN as the MAP Coordinator in August 2023, to deliver the MAP for HongKongers. Upon completion of MAP in February 2024, he has been an advisor for MRN.

He is a Hong Kong exiled pro-democracy activist, a founder of the UK-wide Hong Kong diasporic non-profit organisation – Hongkongers in Britain – which headquartered in Central London.

Simon studied at National Taiwan University and London School of Economics for political science, international relations and European studies, and worked for trade and investment at British Consulate General Hong Kong.

Due to his staunch pro-democracy stance, Simon is known by many when he was detained by Chinese authorities, hunted by state security police, stigmatised by the state media, and now as a political refugee and British National (Overseas) citizen in the UK.

Simon is a pioneer who firstly proposes three new but separate stages of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement under the Hong Kong ‘national (state) security law’ era, namely “Self-Help” (Haven Assistance), “Self-Reliance” (Hongkongers in Britain), and “Self-Empowerment” (Hong Kong ‘Shadow’ Parliament, lately renamed in Hong Kong Parliament), and he continues to be on the frontline.

Simon firmly believes in a bottom-up route for democratic enfranchisement which could keep the mass public engaged with the activists, while consolidating the exiled diaspora in solidarity with the faith in democratisation back to his old and new hometowns.

His tactics and strategies are effectively bringing the human rights of Hongkongers into the social and political mainstream in the UK and abroad.

Oyella Odong

Advisor

Oyella Odong, is a dedicated Career Advisor and founder of Go Bare. She is passionate advocate for the rights and narratives migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers. Oyella brings a unique perspective to her work, driven by a profound belief that no individual’s voice should be silenced in our global community.

As a catalyst for change, Oyella utilises the power of storytelling through her podcast series, challenging prevailing narratives surrounding migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers. In doing so, she strives to dismantle stereotypes and foster a more inclusive and empathetic society. Oyella firmly believes that each person possesses a unique and valuable voice, deserving to be heard and understood.

Hailing from the very communities she advocates for, Oyella Odong brings an authentic and heartfelt approach to her work. Her firsthand experience enables her to connect with individuals on a personal level, fostering trust and understanding. Oyella’s dedication extends beyond the professional realm, reflecting a genuine commitment to the principles of humanity, justice, and equality.

As an advocate for migrant rights, Oyella Odong embodies the mission to create a world where the rights of migrants are upheld, their stories are shared, and their voices are heard. Through her unwavering passion and advocacy, Oyella continues to make a significant impact on the journey toward a more just and inclusive society.

Mardin Mahmoudpour

Mardin Mahmoudpour

Advisor

Mardin, drawing from both a wealth of experience and first-hand life as a refugee, brings a deeply empathetic and personal approach to creating positive change in diverse communities.

With a passion for supporting migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees, in the United Kingdom, Mardin takes a unique and friendly approach that is rooted in empathy and relatability. As a community-builder, Mardin embraces language, art, and sport to empower individuals, and boost confidence and self-esteem. This holistic method, shaped by Mardin’s personal journey, is essential for helping newcomers overcome the challenges of starting a new life in the UK. Collaborating with various migrants and partnering with organisations like Springboard Youth Academy and Our Second Home, Mardin strives to create a safe and friendly atmosphere that goes beyond cultural boundaries. The commitment to inclusivity is at the core of Mardin’s work, ensuring that everyone, regardless of background, discovers a supportive community to call home.

Xīn Yè

Advisor

Xin Ye holds a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). With a background in marketing and public engagement, Xin Ye is a dedicated independent researcher focusing on the lives of migrant communities in London.

Her work centres on understanding the intricate dynamics of belonging and identity among young professional migrants in the cosmopolitan landscape of the city. Her academic interests and real-world experience equip her to bridge the gap between research and advocacy. Xin Ye’s work aims to amplify the voices of migrant communities, fostering understanding and empathy to pave the way for more inclusive policies and practices. 

Yijing Xiao

Advisor

Currently based in London, Yijing Xiao is an international student with a rich academic background. She holds a degree in Political Economy of Europe and is currently pursuing a degree in Applied Social Data Science. She is a dedicated advocate for migrants’ rights and the rights of marginalised communities. She has been an active community volunteer for years, supporting people from disadvantaged backgrounds. She loves rock music, hiking and cycling.

Bashir Fatehi

Advisor

Bashir Ahmad Fatehi, a transformative figure with over 15 years of influential military and civil service in Afghanistan, has significantly contributed to institution change and  promoting peace, anti-corruption, human rights, and gender equality. His remarkable journey includes leading government institutions alongside the President of Afghanistan. As CEO of the Afghanistan Peace Initiative in 2015, he was instrumental in leading critical negotiations.

A visionary leader, he founded key civil society organizations, including the Afghan Youth Network and Afghanistan Women Collation, advocating for youth empowerment and women’s rights and many media platforms.

Relocating to the UK after a profound personal journey, Bashir has become an indispensable bridge between cultures. He immediately immersed himself in aiding fellow refugees. Sharing his extensive experience and resources on platforms and policy groups, Bashir’s resilience and dedication to public service shine through his voluntary work, which includes advising charities and influencing policy changes.

Bashir’s life embodies a narrative of courage, adaptability, and selfless service. His ability to transform adversity into opportunity, coupled with his empathetic approach towards those in need, makes him a source of inspiration and a beacon of hope for many​​​​​​.

Board of Trustees

MRN has an active Board of Trustees, responsible for the overall management of the organisation.

Sainga Tony

Sainga Tony

Chair

Sainga is the Chair of the Migrants’ Rights Network board. She started her Chair role in January 2023. Sainga has been on the board since 2019.

Sainga studied accountancy before working in a large local authority in a London borough, followed by a role in a small BAME housing association and a Directorship at a race equality charity, and brings over 14 years’ housing, local government and charity experience with her. Sainga spent many years developing strategies to combat the effects of various Government changes that disproportionately affect BAME communities, including welfare reform, and successfully implemented strategies to reduce evictions in temporary housing for 18-24 year olds. 

Sainga has been key in working collaboratively with local authorities and BME London housing providers to empower residents through access to employment and skills training, and has successfully set up a number of small business ventures. Sainga’s specialisms include: housing, welfare benefits, business development, stakeholder management, strategic leadership, influencing and motivational skills.

Sainga is passionate about creating an equal, fairer and inclusive society where everyone is given the opportunity to prosper, particularly BAME communities, young people, and other disadvantaged groups.

Contact Sainga at [email protected]

Edith Yembra

Edith Yembra

Treasurer

Edith Yembra is a qualified Accountant and a Fellow of the ACCA. She also holds a Diploma in International Financial Reporting Standards from the ACCA. Edith has an MSc in Charity Accounting and Financial Management from the London South Bank University. Prior to joining the Florence Nightingale Foundation, Edith worked with the YMCA North London, part of the YMCA Federation Movement, a charitable company, and registered housing provider as Director of Finance & ICT and Company Secretary from May 2012 to April 2021.

Edith also worked with the Institute of the Motor Industry, a membership organisation, and Sector Skills Council for the automotive retail industry as Group Finance Director from March 2009 to October 2010. She worked with Engerywatch, as Head of Finance & Projects from September 2004 to March 2010. Before joining Engerywatch, she worked with Interact Worldwide formerly Population Concern as Director of Finance & Administration and Company Secretary from February 1989 to September 2004.

Edith is currently Vice Chair of the ACCA Public Sector panel and does advocacy work for ACCA and contributes to the AB Magazine as and when required. Edith was Chair of the ACCA London and Southeast Women panel from 2009 to 2016 where she received an Outstanding Achievement Award from ACCA in 2016.

Edith also sits on the Board of Creating New Beginnings – a special needs charity for young children. She has worked in the charity sector for over 30 years.

Edith is interested in joining the vibrant MRN and to help contributes towards the vision and mission of an organisation that works so tirelessly in advocating and supporting migrants who would otherwise be unable to help themselves with the different changes and complexities of the immigration laws.

Eduardo Lopes

Eduardo Lopes

Secretary to the Board

Eduardo Joined the MRN board in October 2022 as Secretary.

He works within the Greater London Authority’s migration team, where he supports the coordination of the capital’s Hong Kong BN(O) Integration Programme.

Earlier in his career, Eduardo advised charities, grassroots groups, and global businesses on their political advocacy and communication strategies. He worked in Public Affairs firms in both Brussels and London, specialising in the human rights and sustainability sectors.

As a first-generation migrant and LGBTQ+ Londoner that arrived from Portugal under free movement, Eduardo is passionate about challenging negative narratives of migration. He holds a Masters Degree in European Affairs from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (SciencesPo Paris) and an Undergraduate Degree in International Relations from Queen Mary University of London.

Nick Sigler

Nick Sigler

Board Member

Nick Sigler worked for the labour movement for nearly forty years, firstly for the Labour Party in a range of positions, and latterly as the head of the International Department of UNISON, Britain’s largest trade union.

In addition Nick has worked overseas in a number of positions including in the European Parliament and for the OSCE in Serbia. Throughout his career Nick has been responsible for managing a range of projects in different parts of the world, working with emerging political parties, trade unionists and other activists. 

Following his ‘retirement’ in 2013, Nick has been a trustee of a number of charities including the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and RefugeeYouth. The son of refugees from Nazi Germany, Nick has always felt a commitment to protecting and enhancing the rights of migrants, including refugees, and to ensuring that they are respected.

Contact Nick at [email protected]

Ekaterina Sjostrand

Board Member

Ekaterina Sjostrand is a member of the Bar practising primarily corporate and commercial law. One of her specialisms is international arbitration where she acts both as counsel and arbitrator. She is the author of numerous publications in her professional field. Ekaterina has a lived experience as a migrant in the UK and possesses a first-hand knowledge of the various challenges faced by migrants while navigating society and generally trying to find their ground in it.  

She is keen to support MRN in its mission promoting migrants’ rights and raising awareness thereof.

Michael Raff

Michael Raff

Board Member

Michael Raff is a trainee solicitor in the City of London. Before this, he gained significant experience on the island of Lesvos in Greece, which is considered to be the epicenter of the so-called “refugee crisis” in Europe. In 2018, he volunteered as a Team Leader for an emergency response NGO, helping to coordinate rescue efforts for asylum seekers crossing from Turkey. In 2020, he returned to the island with an NGO providing legal aid to asylum seekers. Michael assisted individuals by preparing them for their asylum interviews, as well as submitting a number of family reunification applications under the Dublin III Regulation.

Through this experience, Michael has developed a passion for helping and standing in solidarity with those forced to flee from their homes.

Joanna Knight

Joanna Knight

Board Member

Joanna is a monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) consultant, who works with the migrant rights sector and other social justice organisations, campaigns and movements to support them to evidence their successes, learn from their challenges and think about how they want to achieve positive change. She specialises in collaborative inquiry, qualitative MEL techniques (such as Outcome Harvesting and participatory action research) and facilitating Theory of Change processes. She is a skilled facilitator and partnership broker, with significant hands-on experience with the design and implementation of multi-country, multi-stakeholder monitoring and evaluation support to migrant rights, civil rights and humanitarian programmes. She has recently set up her own small consultancy, MERL, which aims to take an anti-racist and decolonial approach to learning and knowledge generation. 

Prior to starting her consultancy work, Joanna worked in the development and humanitarian sector for over 15 years. She has worked with and for people forced from their homes since starting her career in the humanitarian sector, working for Right to Play in the Republic of Guinea with Liberian refugees. After working with Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) for several years in Central African Republic, Ethiopia and South Sudan, she returned to the UK and came to recognise her white privilege in being able to travel, work and live in other countries, as well as the unequal access to rights, opportunities and safety for migrants in the UK. She has been volunteering, campaigning and working with and for migrant rights movements ever since. She is currently finishing her MSc in Global Migration and Social Justice. She is co-chair of the MSF UK Association Take Action Group against the Hostile Environment, and is also involved with local migrants’ rights campaigns. 

Joanna strongly believes that everyone should be free to live where they want to live and not face hostility and oppression for it. She is passionate about the vision and values of MRN, and is determined to fight for migrants’ access to rights, and for the creation of a more inclusive and just society.

Sara Battey

Sara Battey

Board Member

Sara joined the MRN board in September 2023 as their Fundraising Trustee.

She is currently working for Hackney Foodbank as their Head of Communications and Fundraising. Sara has worked in the charity sector, supporting a variety of different organisations, since she finished her MSc in Global Criminology in 2017. Her academic focus was on the issue of human trafficking in the UK and has been continually providing charities, who focus on the issue, with support in communications, campaigns, fundraising and policy.

Sara is herself a migrant who moved to the UK in 2012 and is passionate about supporting MRN and other migrants in their fights for rights and justice.

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