Migrants' Rights Network

This is what active and engaged migrant communities look like

This March, MRN presented the findings and outcomes of the Outsider Project to policy and decision makers, organisations, and community groups in Boston, Lincolnshire at a private roundtable event. Among the attendees were the Latvian Ambassador, representation from the Boston MP’s office, local Councillors and police, who joined MRN and local migrant leaders to discuss the outcomes, achievements and wider insights gathered from the project, as well as look forward at future opportunities.

by ANNA ROGUSKI

After the Referendum to leave the EU, Boston in Lincolnshire hit the headlines for having the highest Leave vote in the UK – a clear majority at 75.6%. Over the months to follow, both national and international media published headline after headline reporting of the local tensions between migrants and non-migrants in the town, emphasising rising levels of hate crime, of racism and xenophobia, and of divided communities.

But whilst these reports gave important coverage of the experiences of migrants living in the UK after the Brexit vote, the narrative remained static month after month – meanwhile out of the media spotlight local communities were coming together and self-organising, and change was happening.

Active and Engaged Communities

Through the Outsider Project, self-organised teams of volunteer migrant Community Leaders were supported by MRN to lead local research and action to address key issues affecting their communities. In Boston the ten-strong team of migrant Community Leaders interviewed 136 migrants living in the town, and from their research and follow up workshops identified three key issues affecting their communities that they took action to address over the following six months: strengthening relationships between migrant and non-migrant communities, ending migrant worker exploitation, and access to ESOL.

Local and International Recognition

The positive and impactful outcomes of the project’s migrant-led action, and the approach that was taken to achieve it, was what brought together respected and international guests for MRN’s roundtable event earlier this month, following the publication of The Outsider Project: Empowering Local Community Organising for Migrant Led Change. Among the attendees were the Latvian Ambassador, representation from Boston MP Matt Warman’s office, the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police, the Chief Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Latvian Police, local Councillors, and the Founder of local community group Boston More in Common.

At the roundtable three of the project’s volunteer migrant Community Leaders co-presented the project’s learnings, positive practices and successes alongside myself – the Outsider Project Manager – and MRN’s Head of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs.

Left to right: Boston migrant leaders Alexandra, Smilte, Jurate, Hana and Jurgita. Photo by Thom Flint.

Following the presentation the event was opened up to the floor, and attendees put forward questions, discussed positive practices, and proposed future opportunities to work together. The level of commitment from those in the room only further reinforced what we had learned over the course of the last year: that in Boston, at all levels, people are passionate about mobilising to address key local issues, and to support migrant communities.

Looking forward

Like MRN, Hana, one of the volunteer migrant Community Leaders who co-presented the roundtable, hopes that momentum in Boston will continue to grow and that local organisations, communities and groups will continue to work together to address these key issues, despite the project’s conclusion. Reflecting on the roundtable, she said,

I was very passionate about co-presenting, because I wanted to share the views and experiences of the migrant communities in Boston to the important people and decision makers of our town.

I hope that our team will be able to continue supporting and representing the migrant communities in Boston and I also hope that more representatives, for example from  Bulgarian, Romanian, Portuguese and Muslim communities, will join us in the future.

From the conversations in the room there is reason to believe that this will happen, and that Boston will continue to increase its focus on supporting and welcoming its local migrant communities.

And who knows – in time perhaps national and international media will be inspired by Boston’s local media to present a positive narrative about migration in Boston, which will reflect and celebrate the progressive work that the town’s local communities are leading.

In 2017 the Outsider Project worked with migrant communities in Boston, Barking and Dagenham, Wolverhampton and Oldham. More information about the project, as well as copies of it’s recent reports, can be found of the Outsider Project page of the MRN website.  

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Fabien Cante

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