11 Can the concept of ‘immigration rights’ be invested withsufficient practical meaning to define a core set of interestswhich will provide a basis for collaboration between diversegroups of immigrants? In the realm of politics it often appearsthat the language of rights is seen by the majority as an appealto behave nicely towards a particular unfavoured, marginalgroup. It is only when the discourse shifts to the sphere oflegal action, with the rival claimants in a specific court actionbeing required to justify their viewpoints against a criteria ofthe greater good that would flow to society in general if rightsfor this group where either acknowledged or excluded, thatmatters of real and practical consequence are shown to arisefrom a particular course of action.Accession 8 migrants: What havethey done for us?• During the first eight months of accession, A8nationals provided an estimated £240 million ineconomic contribution (Home Office 2005c) [...]• The Ernst and Young ITEM Club has found thatimmigration from EU accession countries appearsto have eased bottlenecks in the labour market,increased flexibility of the labour force and easedinflationary pressure points on the economy...”From EU Enlargement: Bulgaria and Romania – migration implications for the UKan ippr FactFile. April 200612 A legal strategy for the defence of rights will always beof crucial importance to minority groups which experiencediscrimination and which lack the wider support across societyto allow their interests to be impressed on policy-makers andlegislators. In recent years migrants and refugees have shownthemselves adept at actions in the courts which have, for aperiod at least, restrained government in actions which violateimmigrant interests. 8 But legal action is a practical option inonly a small number of instances where official policy hasproduced disadvantage. Perennial problems relating to thecost of mounting an action, the availability of first rate legaladvice and the general uncertainty about eventual outcomeswhich accompany all challenges in the courts, mean that thelegal route is not a routinely practical way to promote the basicinterests of migrant communities.13 Because of these limitations it is necessary to look insome detail at alternatives which are based on more effectivestrategic use of the social, economic and political relationswhich immigrants establish amongst themselves and withthe host communities in the neighbourhoods where they live.What opportunities exist here for core migrant interests tobe defined and discussed in dialogue with other civil societyorganisations as matters of common concern? To give aconcrete example, is it possible to express the crucial needof migrants for what is being described in the literature onimmigration as ‘decent work’ (defined as the opportunityto engage in “decent and productive work in conditions offreedom, equity and security and human dignity” 9 ) throughtheir relations with other parts of civil society?14 The language of rights is sometimes criticised for beingdivisive, in that the claim for rights made by one group is oftena claim to restrict the activities of another group in relation tothe first. This is often the case in relation to rights which arepursued through legal channels, but it is not so clear that ithas the same effect when the claim is made in the context ofcommunity politics. The claim for decent work helps us onceagain to understand that, when pursued through the courts itis invariably a call to restrain employers engaging in practiceswhich, for example, deprive workers of security and dignity. Butwhen made in the community context, the demand for decentwork means concerted action to improve the operation of thelabour markets to ensure that the employment offered to allpeople in the community meets standards consistent with theprovision of decent, secure and dignified working conditions.15 During the six months of MCOP’s discussions withcommunity based organisations consideration was given asto whether the activities of community organisations couldbe interpreted as group-centred and narrowly focused oninterests specific to that group; or if the dynamic behind thepromotion of group interests led to the building of bridgeswith other communities and parts of civil society. Our generalfeeling was that most groups, though motivated by an acutesense of the needs and interests of their base community, alsosought opportunities to build bridges with other organisationsbelieved to share similar concerns, in relation to matters suchas vocational training, health and family welfare services,and the position of young people from the community inschool and in the local neighbourhood. Even when the issuesbeing considered were confined to the ethnic group directlyconcerned, such as the promotion of the mother language,religious beliefs, and cultural and folk traditions amongstyoung people, the language used to explain needs in theseareas was one which emphasised the benefits of diversity towider society and was by that route an appeal to a commonsocial interest.8 The action against the Home Office in the case of Wayoka Limbuela and two others resultedin a Court of Appeal ruling restricting the definition of ‘late application’ for asylum which theHome Office has used to deny NASS support for tens of thousands of asylum seekers. Thenumbers of people refused support on these grounds was significantly reduced because of thislegal case. (See “Blunkett loses asylum case” BBC News, 24 May 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3735203.stm)9 This definition of ‘decent work’ is set out in the ‘Draft Multilateral Framework on LabourMigration: Non-binding principles and guidelines for a rights-based approach to labourmigration’, adopted at a Tripartite Meeting of Experts in November 2005. TMMFLM/2005/1.
16 Many questions were raised during the course of theMCOP discussions about the extent to which bridge-buildingand networking strategies were being consciously pursued orarrived at by a process of trial and error. It became importantto understand why effective networking for most groups waslimited to the local neighbourhood, town or, exceptionally,region, with very few examples being found of genuinelynational MRCO networks which were making an impact onthe policy agendas of central government. The incongruityof this situation – strong at the local level but weak at thenational - was emphasised by the recognition by almost allgroups that the local policy agenda was increasingly dominatedby plans originating in national government departments.Whilst effective work was needed at the local level to ensurethat benefits were obtained for grassroots communities itwas important that the structural features imposed by centralgovernment which, by making social programmes adjunctto surveillance and immigration control priorities, were alsothoroughly scrutinised by MRCOs. If real impacts are to bemade on the shape and direction of policy, the need to engagewith this national policy agenda is unavoidable.17 In what follows we look at the contexts which shapethe work of MRCOs across the country, starting with thelocal civic and neighbourhood cultures, and then examiningsome examples of the different ways in which communityorganisations have directed their work. We conclude thereport with a discussion about the possibility of enhancingmigrant community involvement in the national policy debateby building greater capacity at local level for strategic analysisand research and for the construction of mutually supportivenational networks. Consideration is given to the context ofcivil society in general, and the extent to which MRCOs mightstrengthen their position in relation to important nationalvoluntary organisations and in other networks.18 Throughout all the subsequent sections it is importantto keep in mind the issues which have informed this projectfrom the onset, and which were so starkly presented in theHome Affairs Committee report discussed at the beginningof this section. If left unchallenged by any other interest,government policy on immigration is likely to switch evermore intensely to the enforcement of rules, regulations andpolicies against immigrant communities which are alreadyestablished and resident in the UK. Measures which are aspotentially draconian as those envisaged by the governmentin its current five year strategy have the potential to set-backeven further the interests of communities already adverselyaffected by poorly-designed and administered policies, and toincrease the insecurity and vulnerability of a significant groupof people. In what follows we hope to suggest ways in whichthese threatening and negative potential outcomes might yetbe avoided.
Section TwoThe civic andregional agenda:Local government,immigration and socialinclusion policy19 The character of migrant community organisation varies considerably acrossthe country. This arises principally from the fact that most organisations arestructured around the tasks of providing services to their communities and what isneeded and the ways in which it can be delivered is significantly affected by suchfactors as the size of the migrant presence and the civic traditions of the city ortown in which they live. In respect of the former, a size threshold will determinewhether a local community can sustain a formally constituted organisation,which typically depends on the availability of professional skills and resources tomaintain the structure of the group. With regard to the latter local civic traditionsvaluing diversity and inclusion are more likely to provide an environment inwhich community organisations can prosper and develop their potential to actas representatives of locally-resident migrants.
20 The importance of local context in understanding thework of MRCOs, and the extent to which the viability oforganisations seems to be bound up with a close, organicconnection with a definite community, raises the question ofwhether immigrant communities in general can build bridgesto work with other parts of society. A large part of theliterature on social capital and immigration is pessimistic onthis matter, taking the view that groups constituted by discreetethnic communities are defined by a ‘bonding’ rather than a‘bridge-building’ role, and are therefore ill-adapted to the taskof building networks and alliances which would take themoutside the confines of their own community. 1021 In its discussions with locally-based groups, the MCOP teamdid not encounter disinterest with respect to bridge-buildingactivities. Most groups reported continuous efforts over longperiods of time to locate their work within the framework ofwider civic concerns and local leaders placed emphasis on theimportance of working with other organisations on matters ofmutual concern. The problems reported in fulfilling these taskshad more to do with the structure of financing for the group’sactivities and the high levels of uncertainty about its viabilityover a longer time period. MRCOs typically reported fundingarrangements which depended on their ability to deliverservices dictated by local authorities or other public bodies,such as interpreting or the running of advice and referralsessions. This emphasis hindered the building of capacitywithin the group for work delivering less immediate andtangible objectives, such as stronger links with other civilsociety organisations, as these are not often valued as anintrinsic good by local authority funding bodies.22 Further problems derived from the instability of manyof the community organisations. Amongst refugee groups,numerically the largest component of migrant organisations,the experience of the dispersal policies adopted by thegovernment after 1999, and the role of the National AsylumSupport Service (NASS), established at the same time, had beendebilitating and had led to a loss of critical resources, often interms of leadership, for local groups. 11 NASS’s mode of workand the imposition of compulsory dispersal had reduced thesocial space in which refugee organisations could, to somedegree, act at their own discretion, rather than responding tothe directions of powerful state institutions. Yet despite theseconsiderable difficulties, community organisation continuedas groups sought opportunities even in these less favourablecircumstances to influence policy outcomes.23 To consider these issues the MCOP team looked at thework of community-based organisations in two English regions- the North West and West Midlands, and in Scotland, withthe main emphasis being on Glasgow. These choices weremade to allow the issues of devolved, regional and localgovernment in each area to be explored and to provide acontext for understanding the different ways in which migrantcommunity organisations structure their work. The two Englishregions also represented areas with long-established traditionsof immigration, and the interactions between the old and thenew migrations throw light on the ways in which communitygroups are learning to network and build alliances. Scotland,with a smaller long-established immigrant community, providedan opportunity to consider the ways in which its organisationswere adapting to the ostensibly pro-immigration perspectivebeing fostered by devolved government in the form of the‘Fresh-Talent Initiative’ and the opportunities that were beingcreated for demonstrating leadership in the matters concerningthe reception of new immigrants.The civic tradition factor24 The prevailing traditions of civic culture have an importantrole in shaping the development of MRCOs, a fact revealedmost clearly by the ways in which cities responded to thedispersal of asylum seekers into their areas in the period after1996. 12 As discussed above, dispersal is generally consideredto have been destabilising for refugee community organisations(RCOs), involving the disruption of established supportnetworks, the loss of autonomy on the part of individualasylum seekers and a high level of dependency on the supportprovided by NASS - which was delivered in a deliberately sparseand punitive fashion. 1325 A key element in the organisation of services to asylumseekers has been the role of the regional consortia, whichconsisted of representatives of local authorities and otherstakeholders and which were intended to function asforums which could plan for the needs of the communities.The relative degrees of success and failure of the consortiadepended largely on the level of commitment of localgovernment and its understanding of the benefits which wouldaccrue from well-planned refugee settlement. In the instanceswhere this was valued highly, local government commitmentenabled the infrastructure of support to operate mosteffectively. However, if local government felt that its interestswere not properly addressed within the dispersal system theentire consortium structure had the potential to flounder.1010 For a discussion of the concept of social capital and immigrant communities, see Zetter, R,Griffiths D and Sigona, N (2006) ‘Immigration, social cohesion and social capital - What are thelinks?’ Joseph Rowntree Foundation.11 See Zetter, R, Griffiths, D and Sigona, N (2005), ‘Social Capital or social exclusion? Theimpact of asylum-seeker dispersal on UK refugee community organisations’, in CommunityDevelopment Journal, Vol. 40 no. 2, April 2005.12 The compulsory dispersal of asylum seekers across the country emerged as a part of officialpolicy in two stages. The first, beginning in 1996, emerged from the withdrawal of the majorityof asylum seekers from the welfare support provided by mainstream, national social securityprogrammes. Responsibility for asylum support fell as a consequence on the local authoritieswhere the individuals lived, which led to efforts to limit the impact on social services by townhall government by arranging for the accommodation of many asylum seekers in other partsof the country. This ad hoc period of dispersal was ended by the enactment of the Immigrationand Asylum Act 1999, which made a more systematic approach to dispersal and the welfaresupport of all asylum seekers the responsibility of the newly-established NASS.13 For critical comments on the effects of dispersal during this period, Johnson, M.D (2003)‘Asylum seekers in dispersal - healthcare issues’, Home Office Online Report 13/03; and Anie,A, Daniel, N, Tah, C and Petruckevitch, A (2005), ‘An exploration of factors affecting thesuccessful dispersal of asylum seekers’, Home Office Online Report 50/05.
26 An example of the ways in which the viability of migrantcommunity organisations can be set by relations betweencentral and local government is provided by the disputes overdispersal arrangements and the reimbursement of housingcosts in Liverpool. Because this was not resolved to itssatisfaction, the City Council refused to enter into contractualarrangements with NASS for the support of asylum seekerson Merseyside. In contrast to the situation in Manchester andBirmingham, where contracts were agreed, the level of civicsupport for community organisations went into steep decline inthe western part of the North West Consortium because of thedispute on Merseyside. This illustrates the extent to which theviability of community organisation can be dependant on issueswhich are extrinsic to their own structures and capacities.27 In Birmingham and Manchester local government claimeda commitment to the reception of new migrants. Bothhave made investments in the establishment of networkinfrastructure to supporting the work of MRCOs. These citieshave long-established traditions of migrant settlement andlocal diversity is celebrated, in terms of political rhetoric atleast, as an asset. But the North West and West Midlandshave also had recent experience of the things which cango wrong in local community relations in the absence of apositive commitment to social cohesion and inclusion and thepractical programmes needed to achieve this end. Manchester’sproximity to the towns of Burnley and Oldham, at the heartof the disturbances of summer 2001, has impressed on localpolitical elites the importance of sustaining dialogue acrossethnic communities. At the time MCOP workers were visitingBirmingham, in November 2005, the city was still recoveringfrom a period of heightened tension in the Lozells area, whenconflict between parts of the African-Caribbean and Asiancommunities had disturbed the local peace.28 The situation in Scotland was found to be somewhatdifferent, because the development of pro-active race equalitypolicies has occurred more recently. This is almost certainlyconnected to the smaller size of its BME communities; Glasgowhaving the largest concentration at 5.5% of its populationaccording to 2001 Census figures, compared to just less than18% in Manchester and around 30% in Birmingham. Thearrival of 12,000 asylum seekers under dispersal arrangementsafter April 2000 raised the profile of discussion about racerelations and the Council’s website now states that its vision forthe city is that it should “flourish as a modern, multi-cultural,metropolitan city of opportunity, achievement, culture andsporting excellence...” Edinburgh City Council includes a ‘raceequalities forum’ amongst its six equality forums.Scotland’s Fresh Talent InitiativeThe Fresh Talent Initiative (FTI) was outlined in aspeech to the Scottish Parliament in February 2004by the Scottish First Minister, Jack McConnell.Addressing the problem of population decline,expected to fall below the symbolic 5 million mark in2009, with falling and tighter labour markets, the FTIwas presented as a means to attract suitable skilledworkers to the country.Under the terms of the initiative employmentopportunities in Scotland are promoted through WorkPermits UK, the Home Office department dealing withmanaged migration, and the 50,000 internationalstudents graduating each year from Scottishuniversities will have the opportunity to work in thecountry for two years after completing their studies,and transfer to the work permit or the highly skilledmigrant programme after that.The FTI is an example of the way devolved andregional authorities can negotiate for a degree offlexibility in the application of national UK immigrationpolicies. The Government has signaled the possibilityof allowing variations for other regions under theterms of its proposals for the ‘points-based scheme’made public in March 2006.29 Across Scotland public discussion of immigration issuesis led by the initiatives of the Scottish Executive, which hasacknowledged a series of difficulties existing for the countryas a result of its relative failure, compared to other parts of theUK, to attract immigrants in significant numbers. An ageingdemographic profile, restricted skills base and underdevelopedlinks with the global economy figure amongst the concerns ofthe developed authorities which a proactive immigration policycould help address. The ‘Fresh Talent Initiative’ is an example ofthe type of initiative developed by the Executive in response.30 In all three areas looked at by the MCOP there is evidenceof a desire for engagement with immigrant communities topromote discussion about policies at the local and regionallevel. How this dialogue is being developed differs in all theregions on the basis of a range of political factors, of whichthe size of migrant communities (generally considered in termsof the size of the larger BME community), the extent to whichcommunity relations are considered potentially contentious,and, more positively, the expectation of gains to be got fromattracting migrants into the region, are all issues of importanceto policy makers.11
Asylum seekers and refugees31 In general, local authorities have adopted an ambiguousstance towards asylum seekers and refugees, embracingconcerns about both the demands they are seen as placingon scarce local resources, but also being prepared toconsider them as a resource for skills and diversity in regionallabour markets. City councils in Birmingham, Glasgow andManchester sponsor local networks aimed at supportingrefugee communities and make at least nominal efforts tointegrate these approaches into race equality strategies.32 Birmingham City Council has, jointly with the Children’sFund, published a book, Welcome to Birmingham in fivelanguages, (English, French, Somali, Arabic and Kurdish) whichreviews the range of specialist advice and community servicesavailable to newcomers. Its web-site contains a statement on‘celebrating sanctuary’ in the city, which describes refugeesettlement from 1750 to the present day, with accounts ofspecific refugee communities. The Birmingham CommunityEmpowerment Network (b:cen) is a council initiative aimed atproviding local communities across the eleven districts of thecity to play a role in policy-making at the civic level. Amongstthe b:cen groups, the Birmingham New Communities Network(BNCN) operates as grouping of around 70 organisationsbased in the recently-arrived communities. It has promotedthe work of CRIS (Community Resource and InformationService), a local charity which had aimed to provide trainingand support services to refugee communities in the city.CRIS had sought to build “knowledge about how the cityworks and what opportunities exist for citizens to becomeinvolved in regeneration and decision-making; building theskills and confidence for involvement, and exploring the mosteffective ways to act for themselves and their community.” Aconference held in February 2003 mapped out a strategy forthe organisation’s work which concentrated on supporting thedevelopment of refugee organisations, working “on commoninterests, influencing decision-making and policy aroundrefugees and their communities and their lives in Birminghamand their neighbourhoods.”33 Around 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers have come tolive in Glasgow since 2000, under the terms of the dispersalprogramme operated by NASS. This represents a 60% increasein the BME population of the city within a very short time.The task of developing community strategies has tended tofollow the initiative of the Scottish Executive, which promotesthe work of the Scottish Refugee Integration Forum whichoperates with an action plan for the whole of the country.A review of the situation in Glasgow was set out in theOctober 2004 publication, Building Bridges: Local responsesto the resettlement of refugees in Glasgow (Wren, 2004). Itreported that 10 partnerships were developed in the city underFrom Building Bridges: Localresponses to the resettlement ofasylum seekers in Glasgow“...There was a strong perception that there was aninherent lack of logic in the implementation of UKimmigration and asylum policy, and that relationshipsbetween different bodies responsible for servicedelivery were disjointed and lacking in cohesion. [...]“Particular problems were raised in relation to theNational Asylum Support Service (NASS), which wasperceived as ‘distant’ and ‘unresponsive’, often leavingthe voluntary sector to pick up the pieces where it hadfailed to deliver.’(Wren 2004, p.3)the arrangements promoted in the UK asylum strategy tosupport the immediate and urgent needs of asylum seekers.Concern exists amongst some community organisationsthat emphasis on immediate needs has prevented localorganisations from engaging in longer-term strategic planning.34 The City Council has acted as the lead partner in the£1.8 million funded ATLAS (Action for Training and Learningfor Asylum Seekers) Development Partnership. This projectwas motivated by the perception that the path to the orderlyintegration of refugee communities is often obstructed by thedifficulties generated for many local institutions in the handlingof diverse communities, and the problems experienced bynewcomers in rebuilding their lives when unfamiliar with thesocial, economic and political life of the wider community.ATLAS was intended to provide the framework in whichthe partnership model could address and overcome thesedifficulties. Its report, Evolving Practice, Developing Policy,published in 2005, details initiatives taken in a number of areasintended to develop strategies based on the partnership model.Amongst these, the Council in partnership has set up theGlasgow Asylum Seekers Support Project (GASSP) with policeand health services. The project has staff expert in education,police and health matters, and operational staff with socialworking and housing backgrounds. They provide informationand advice on local resources.12
35 Manchester City Council’s work in this area is structuredaround MARIM – the Multi-Agency Refugee Integration inManchester. Originating in efforts to deal with the situationcreated by the dispersal of asylum seekers into the city underthe provisions of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1999, theCouncil aimed to establish a collaborative approach bringingstatutory, non-statutory and voluntary organisations togetherto work in seven themed task groups. These groups deal withadvice and information, education, post-16 education andemployment and training, health, housing, mental health,and supporting communities. The objectives of each taskgroup is the effective planning and delivery of services, thedevelopment of strategies and working practices necessary toimprove service delivery, and the maximisation of resourcesused to support asylum seekers and refugees by reducing theduplication of work across agencies.36 A project team facilitates the work of each of these taskgroups and coordinates all activities through a forum bringingthem together on a periodic basis. Over 50 organisations arelisted as partners in the work of the forum, several of whomare refugee or race equality groups who can be expected toassociate grassroots refugee community organisations in theirwork. However, no direct representative role is suggested forany of the main refugee communities in the city.37 Alongside this structure a community-based initiative existsin the form of the Manchester Refugee Support Network,(MRSN). In existence since the early 1990s, the network wasoriginally established by settled refugee communities in thecity, including the Chilean, Bosnian, Sudanese and Kurdishcommunities. In more recent years it has drawn in groupsfrom the Somali, Darfuri, Iraqi, Zimbabwean and francophoneAfrican communities. With core activities aimed at buildingthe organisational capacity of refugee groups, MRSN has alsoplayed an advocacy role in local policy making by promotingthe Refugee and Migrants Forum and the Refugee Charterformulated by this forum.Refugee Charter for Manchester“...the current situation for many asylum seekersand refugees is critical. We see our communitiesincreasingly marginalised, denied or unable to accessemployment, with limited and problematic access tohealth services, and dispersed to highly deprived areaswhere individuals are isolated, vulnerable and subjectto harassment and physical attacks.”38 From these brief descriptions of the ways in which refugeeand asylum issues have emerged in the three cities it can beseen that the assumption of the same task devolved on civicauthorities by central government, namely the managementof compulsory dispersal schemes, has resulted in an arrayof organisational, administrative and political responses bythe bodies concerned. In all cases the local authorities havepursued strategies which have sought the involvement of thevoluntary sector in its work, and have ascribed functions toRCOs as service providers. Beyond this, the character of theinvolvement of representative groups is affected by broadercivic traditions and conjunctional factors such as the state ofdevelopment of developed politics in Scotland, and the localhistories of migrant arrival and integration in each city.39 A further similarity which exists in all three areas is thesense of tension between local policy and the tasks imposedon local government by national policy. The essence ofthis national policy has been the imposition of a regime ofdeliberate austerity on newly-arrived refugees as a part of thedesire of national government to ‘send a message’ to would-beasylum seekers that their presence in the UK is not welcomeby the authorities. Whilst this approach serves the agenda of anational government which measures the success of its refugeepolicies by the month-on-month reduction in the numbersarriving as claimants, it conflicts with many aspects of thepolicies of local government which regards the stigmatisationof asylum seekers as running counter to good race andcommunity relations and other policies aimed at counteringsocial exclusion and marginalisation. 1440 RCOs would hope that local government saw a role foritself in engaging with the national authorities discussing inrefugee and asylum policy. Badly conceived asylum policiesenacted by national government have the potential for amajor negative impact on community relations and it might beexpected that local government would develop a consistent,and where necessary, critical voice on the development ofnational policies. For a brief period the Local GovernmentAssociation (LGA), the body promoting the interests of localgovernment in England and Wales, appeared to be interestedin developing an advocacy role on these matters in the face ofthe dispersal programmes which were planned in the Asylumand Immigration Bill and debated in Parliament in 1999.The LGA briefed the House of Commons during the secondreading of the Bill in February 1999, spelling out five ‘keyobjectives’ it wished to secure from legislation, which included“to influence Government policy and the resultant legislationto ensure that the statutory scheme is consistent, fair andsufficiently based on establishing best practice.” The LGA’sinterest in best practice appears not to have lasted beyondJuly 2000 when its series of bulletins on the implementationof the dispersal scheme and ‘good practice information packs’were discontinued.14 For a detailed discussion of the conflicts in policy between the social inclusion andimmigration policy agendas, see Somerville, W (2006) ‘Success and Failure under Labour :Problems of Priorities and Performance in Migration Policy’, JCWI/ IRP discussion paper, athttp://www.jcwi.org.uk/news/SomervilleIRP_3.pdf.13
41 The task of influencing asylum policy has been taken onby a few regional and local government bodies since thisdate, but generally acting on their own and representing theconcerns of single regions and towns rather than collectivelocal government interest. The Mayor of London’s Office,for example, has developed a line of active advocacy whichstarts from the premise that punitive asylum policies aimedat withdrawing support from refugees are bad for the capitalcity. 15 In addition it is known that networks of council serviceshave emerged which are exchanging information amongstthemselves on the ways in which government policies onasylum are impacting on their respective areas of work.The ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ Network, which bringstogether council officials from around 25 different authoritiesworking on refugee integration, social services and housing,is an example of such a group, and its current programmeof work on destitution suggests that some capacity for overtrepresentation of critical local authority viewpoints does existwithin the system.42 Despite the evidence of intense involvement in refugeeissues by local authorities there is still little sense that acollective interest in lobbying for better policies by city andregional authorities across the country has emerged. Further,although RCOs orientate a high proportion of their worktowards developing constructive relations with local authoritiesthey have only recently taken on the task of defining a broadercivic interest in the promotion of progressive asylum policies.The activities of the MRSN in Manchester and BNCN inBirmingham are examples of city-wide networks constructingarguments for refugees which are rooted in the logic of civiccitizenship. What needs to be considered are the ways inwhich projects of this sort might extend beyond single townsand cities, by urging that local government develop a strongercollective sense of its interests in lobbying for policies fromcentral government which acknowledge the centrality ofrefugee rights in the formulation of policy across the wholeof the UK.Anti-poverty and social exclusion43 Across all three regions examples of projects beingundertaken on anti-poverty and social exclusion themeswere found.44 In Birmingham the focal point for this discussion appearsto be the social deprivation experienced by specific ethniccommunities. Organisations representing communitiesas various as ethnic Albanian, Asian, Bosnian, Sudaneseand Somali report that a major part of their activities liein addressing disadvantage in the labour market, in theestablishment of businesses, and in housing.45 The reasons why disadvantage persists has commonstructural features across the communities, but also withsome degree of variation in specific cases. Asian communityorganisations, representing some of the oldest establishedimmigrant communities in the city, report on the effect ofthe retraction of the manufacturing industries which hadattracted migrants in the 1960s and 70s. The availability ofredundancy payments had encouraged a movement towardsthe establishment of businesses, particularly in the restaurantsector, but had left people vulnerable to highly competitiveconditions of trade with high levels of failure. Low levels ofmobility across the city had contributed to the entrenchment ofdeprivation amongst some Asian communities, particularly theBangladeshis and Pakistanis, and in the neighbourhoods wherethey are concentrated. 1646 For other groups disadvantage is associated with morerecent arrivals, usually as asylum seekers. Long drawn outprocedures for determining asylum applications, during whichtime refugees are required to live on low levels of incomewith few opportunities for employment, produce situations inwhich chronic depression becomes common. The experiencesof trauma, demoralisation and mental illness, as well as poorlevels of knowledge of the English language, and the undervaluationof vocational and professional skills are all foundamongst large sections of migrant communities.47 Community organisations advocate a number of strategiesto deal with these issues. English as a Foreign Languagetraining is regarded as fundamental and organisations devotea great deal of work to ensuring that the provision of coursesfor their communities. Activity to obtain other forms of adulteducation and vocational training is also a high priority acrosscommunities. Discussion with professional associations to reachagreement on the merit of particular qualifications also figuresas an aspect of the work of many groups.48 In Glasgow the disadvantage experienced by recentmigrant communities who have arrived as refugees in thecity is compounded by their settlement in areas of high socialdeprivation. An association working for the regeneration ofthe Gorbals, Govanhill and Toryglen includes a refugee andasylum-seeker time bank as a core project, allowing time spentworking with a local community organisation or company toaccumulate credits which can be exchanged for training. 1715 See Great London Authority publications on refugee policy at http://www.london.gov.uk/gla/publications/refugees.jsp for details of the several reports of this nature.16 Account provided in discussion with representatives of the Birmingham Asian Resource Centre.17 From discussion with representatives of the The Initiative – http://www.gorbals-init.org.uk.14
49 Even with projects of this sort, the barriers to socialinclusion for recently arrived migrant communities are still seenas formidable by most local networks. A project funded bythe European Refugee Fund, ‘Filling the Skills Gap in Scotland’has the aim of promoting “economic development, refugeeintegration, community cohesion” and reducing “povertyin Scotland by enabling refuges to access employmentopportunities, accommodation, training and support in partsof Scotland where there are skills shortages and job vacancies,creating jobs and social enterprises, for the benefit of localcommunities.” (Filling the Skills Gap in Scotland, 2006).50 In Manchester groups acting in support of migrant andrefugee rights have been proactively involved in challengingaspects of national government which are considered todisadvantage asylum seekers and to expose them to socialexclusion. Section 55 and Schedule 3 of the Nationality,Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which, respectivelywithhold NASS support from asylum seekers considered tohave delayed lodging applications for refugee status afterarrival in the UK and withdraw support from those whoseappeals have been dismissed, are seen as major sources ofdestitution in the city and have been rigorously opposed bymany community organisations. Public demonstrations haveattracted the support of the leadership of the City Counciland the town hall authorities have refused to follow nationalgovernment guidance requiring the eviction of refused asylumseekers from Council-leased accommodation.51 The position of migrants in the labour market inManchester has been studied by community based projectsworking in the Moss Side area. These have concluded thata significant cause of social exclusion is the character of theinformal economy which extends over much of the low paidservice sector. This largely unregulated part of the labourmarket contains many features which trap workers andlimit prospects for employment outside this sector. Fromthis perspective, tackling social exclusion and poverty as itaffects migrants will require substantial structural reform ofthe economic sectors where employment opportunities arecurrently concentrated. 5152 To summarise, the evidence suggests that activity aroundpoverty and social exclusion makes up a substantial proportionof the work programmes of community-based organisationsin the regions examined. There are many common themesin the work undertaken by groups, but also enough varietyin experience to suggest that approaches are varied fromone town and region to the next, depending on specificcircumstances. The task of considering these experiences acrossthe country has not yet been undertaken in a comprehensivemanner and as a result many of the actions of nationalgovernment which have had an adverse impact on the socialinclusion of migrants have not yet been effectively challenged.Immigration law and policy53 Immigration policy aimed at the control and managementof the movement of migrants and their dependents is theresponsibility of the Home Office. In attempting to put inplace a system of comprehensive managed migration thisdepartment has aimed for a system of strict, hierarchicaldifferentiation between groups of migrants, ascribing rightsand limitations on rights depending on a variety of factors,which include skill levels, the nationality of the workersconcerned, and the sectors of employment in which theyare engaged.Migrants on the margins –Fighting back against poverty“As a result of the lack of support and initiatives toexploit and maximise the use of their skills, manymigrants and refugees see themselves as wastedresources [...] The Government needs to encourageand facilitate the recognition of qualifications andcertificates from abroad, and to provide specialtraining to make it easier for qualified migrants andrefugees to work.”From “A stronger voice” - report of the workshops carried out by the Anti-PovertyGroup of the Migrants Resource Centre, London, for the Get Heard Project54 In order that the management of migration under theseschemes can be effective the national authorities increasinglyrequire the involvement of agencies outside the traditionalimmigration control agencies, including local government,the public services, and private sector employers to monitormigrant communities and report apparent transgressions oflaw and policy to the immigration control services.55 The efficient operation of this system of surveillanceand action against migrant communities has required thesystematic reduction of long-established rights to challengethe decisions of the immigration authorities through channelsof legal representation and appeal before tribunals and thecourts. This has been done by both limiting access to legallyaidedlegal representation for immigration cases, and also thereduction of categories of immigration decision against whichan appeal is possible. The impact of all these measures hasbeen felt in all the areas examined by the MCOP team, andhas provoked responses from local communities.18 From discussion with representatives of the Race Equality Programme, Oxfam UK PovertyProgramme, Manchester.15
56 In the West Midlands examples have been seenof immigrant groups developing their own capacity toprovide legal advice and assistance to their communities. InWolverhampton this was taken on directly by a refugee-basedcommunity organisation and the service is provided underthe name of WARS - Wolverhampton Asylum and RefugeeServices. 19 In Birmingham a network of groups supports theactivities of ASIRT - the Asylum and Immigration ResourceTeam - which provides legal advice on immigration matters. 2057 A community response to what are seen as immigrationinjustices has provoked action in the form of anti-deportationcampaigns, with many examples of this taking place in theBirmingham area. The approach of such campaigns is to enlistthe support of community organisations, trade unions, and insome instance local authorities and schools. 2158 In Glasgow the Ethnic Minority Law Centre provides aspecialist immigration law resource for groups and individualsacross the city and the adjacent regions. 22 Community action insupport of migrants experiencing problems with the authoritieshas included initiatives such as ‘Glasgow Girls’, a grouping offemale school students acting in support of friends threatenedwith removal as a part of families refused immigration statusby the authorities.59 Manchester has been a long-established basis for antideportationcampaigning, extending back to the 1980s andthe example of the Viraj Mendes Campaign. Specialist legaladvice services to immigrants are available in the city. InNovember 2005, on the initiative of local trade union branches,a conference was held to launch a campaign within the unionmovement to build stronger support for refugees and peoplerefused a residence status.60 Activism on immigration policy issues is evident in allthe regions considered. To a large degree experiences ona regional and local basis are reviewed and integrated intonational campaigns and policy positions by such groups as theNational Coalition for Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC),the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) 23 , theJoint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) 24 and theImmigration Advisory Service (IAS) 25 . However anti-deportationwork tends to concentrate on the position of individuals.Attempts to engage the government in discussion aroundthe types of regularisation or amnesty policies favoured inother European countries, which have had success in grantingsubstantial numbers of undocumented migrants legalresidence status, have only recently begun to be consideredby campaigning groups.61 To conclude this section attention should be drawn to thefact that, although detailed critiques of immigration controlpolicies have been developed by national NGOs and researchersbased in academia and policy think-tanks, the implications ofthis work has not been followed through into the practical dayto-daywork of community-based groups 26 . This is undoubtedlydue to the fact that locally-based organisations require aspecific and practical focus for the work they engage in andare not usually well-equipped to deal with what often seemlike abstractions in the policy debate. Nevertheless it can beasked whether this dilemma is not, in part at least, the resultof a failure of policy activists to adapt their work to the needsof community-based groups and to build up a capacity forgrassroots advocacy. This, after all, has been achieved in otherareas of social policy, where community groups are intenselyactive on such issues as anti-poverty and social exclusion,housing and homelessness, disability, and discriminationon race, gender and other issues.Health policy issues62 The MCOP team identified health and health serviceprovision as a feature of migrant community work in all theareas considered. The sources for this area of concern comefrom, firstly, concerns about the mental health of refugees whohave experienced trauma as a result of persecution and theconditions of flight from countries of origin; and, secondly, thespecific needs of women in migrant communities for culturallysensitive services with particular regard to reproductive healthand mental health.63 In this area at least the presence of healthcare-orientatedcommunity organisations appears to have a basis in theneed of parts of the health service itself to reach out intolocal communities to provide more effective coverage ofneeds. Inadequate health care provision tends to show up instatistics which reflect poorly on statutory services, such asthe arrest and detention of mentally ill people by the police,or higher rates of mortality during childbirth. Wider concernsabout public health and the potential for illnesses incubatedin poor, socially excluded communities which threaten thewider community with the potential for epidemics, such asHIV infection or tuberculosis, also create an interest within thehealth service establishment which favours positive outreachwork into the communities of newly-arrived migrants.1619 See WARS website – http://www.warsiag.org.uk.20 See ASIRT website – http://www.asirt.org.uk.21 See the website of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC) forinformation about anti-deportation campaigns – http://ncadc.org.uk.22 See Ethnic Minorities Law Centre – http://www.emlc.org.uk.23 See ILPA website – http://ilpa.org.uk.24 See JCWI website – http://www.jcwi.org.uk25 See IAS website – http://www.iasuk.org26 For example of this critical policy work, visit the websites of the Joint Council for theWelfare of Immigrants, the Immigration Advisory Service, the Immigration Law PractitionersAssociation and Asylum Aid (http://www.asylum aid.org.uk) and Asylum Rights (http://www.asylum rights.net) For the work of policy research centres, see COMPAS (www.compas.ox.ac.uk), .ICAR (www.icar.org.uk) and the Institute for Public Policy Research (www.ippr.org),amongst many others.
64 The MCOP team received several accounts from communityorganisations of their first forms of funding for work beingprovided by health authorities and trusts for the provision ofspecific services, such as translation or counseling sessions.On the other hand, it was also reported that the expectationsfor community involvement from the authorities was oftenlow and limited to very basic facilitation of interpretation andfacilitation of contact at clinics. The interest of communitiesin providing higher standards of care in the health servicemainstream, such as at GP practices or in accident andemergency departments was often resisted on the groundsthat it would entail the rebalancing of budgets for this coreparts of primary and acute care at least slightly more in favourof immigrants.65 Looming on the horizon for migrant health concerns arethe government’s plans to introduce checks on immigrationstatus for GP and other primary care services. The implicationsof this development are potentially sweeping and at least oneprimary care trust has attempted to map the adverse effects itexpects to have on services as the new regulations are rolledout in local health centres. It is likely that a comprehensiveresponse from migrant communities involved in this area ofwork will be required to prevent the worst potential outcomes.Health service risks“International studies have shown that restrictiveaccess policies may deter individuals from approachinghealth services. Although there is little evidence thatimmigrants delay seeking care for tuberculosis: studiessuggest that irregular migrants delay seeking care fortuberculosis and STIs/HIV if they fear repercussionsfrom immigration authorities. 82% of respondents inone study of irregular migrants felt that their illegalstatus, and lack of identity card, stopped them fromapproaching health services despite health needs.Most reported reluctance to take their children,despite the child’s entitlement to free health care,because they feared repercussions for the family.”Other issues and conclusion66 In addition, migrant community organisations showedthemselves to be active in the areas of the rights of women,the maintenance of cultural and religious traditions, youngpeople in relation to the education system and the criminaljustice system, the experience of discrimination, the negativeportrayal of communities in the media, and relations withgroups outside their communities. Opportunities to participatein networks which brought migrants into contact with groupsbased in the host community were generally welcomed,though it is common for such groups to feel poorly equippedto contribute in ways often expected.67 To conclude this section, the essential point to consideris that the immersion of community organisations in issuesgrounded in specific, local experiences provides a very detailed,practical agenda to work to. Further, the public authorities whichmigrant communities confront on a routine and immediate basisare as likely to be local councils concerned about communityrelations or public services wanting to ensure access for thenewly arrived, as much as unambiguously agents of controland enforcement in the form of the immigration authorities.68 Yet even when pursuing a benign agenda concerned withinclusion and good community relations, public authoritiesacross the UK are increasingly required to ensure that theirwork accommodates the immigration control agenda. Thecapacity to disaggregate policy agendas operating at localand regional levels to determine the parts which promote therights and interests of migrants, and those which run counterto these rights, is a skill which needs to be acquired by locallybasedgroups. If it is possessed at this level the developmentof a robust and widely-supported movement for immigrationrights, capable of addressing the failings and inadequacy ofcurrent national policy will be more readily achieved.69 In the next section we consider the prospects for theestablishment of a migrants’ rights network as a meansfor providing a framework within which local and regionalcommunity activism can structure and advance national policydebates. We set out proposals for building such a networkand a working methodology to ensure that its activities areaccountable to the wider movement.From The identification and charging of Overseas Visitors at NHS services inNewham: a Consultation. (Hargreaves, Friedland, Holmes and Saxona 2006)17
Section ThreeA Migrants’ RightsNetwork – Is thisthe next step?70 During the first period of its work MCOP has established a range of themesand issues that concern migrant community organisations across the country.18
73 Because the MRN will function as a network, the right toparticipate will extend to all organisations identifying with itsbasic aims and objectives. As well as migrant and refugee-ledgroups the network would seek to make itself relevant to thework of other NGOs with an interest in immigration and socialinclusion policy, in part or in whole, civil society associations onthe same principle, and people working in the public services.Network membership at this basic level would enable thesegroups to receive information from the MRN and attend itsopen conferences, seminars and workshops.74 Beyond this the question of management of the directionof the MRN is raised, and the sort of organisations whichought to be most closely associated with that. What could beconsidered here is a membership structure which brings tothe forefront groups whose membership is drawn largely frommigrant and refugee communities, and who consider that thekey part of their work is representing migrant and refugeeinterests. Groups of this type might be invited to becomefully associated members of the MRN, with a formal role inmanaging its work and overseeing the activities of its full-timestaff. More definite proposals on the network’s membershipstructure will be made when these issues have been consideredin more detail during the course of 2007.75 The chief resource of the network would be its projectteam, seen as a group of staff with research, communicationand organisational skills, charged with the following tasks:a) to create conditions for a dialogue and co-operation ofrefugee and migrant organisations in the UK;b) to promote “joined up” strategies on all aspects ofimmigration and integration policies, facilitating discussionsand exchanging of opinions and experiences across thewhole range of migrant groups;c) to monitor legislative and policy activities of governmentalbodies in regard to rights of migrants, analyzing impact oflegislative norms in the field of migration and advocatingand promoting human rights of migrants;d) to ensure the representation of the interests of memberorganisations to the UK government and other decisionmaking entities so as to effectively influence policies andpractices related to migration;e) to ensure the representation of the interests of memberorganisations in policy discussions taking place at theEuropean and international levels.76 The principal activities and services of the MRN will include:a) developing policy analysis which directly serves the needs ofrefugee and migrants’ community organisations;b) providing refugee and migrants’ community organisationswith “opportunity maps” identifying key areas where theycan aim to influence national policy;c) creating platforms for discussion at national and regionallevels, including an annual conference of refugee andmigrants’ community organisations;d) producing a research agenda supporting three annual corecampaigns in topical areas of policye) acting as a capacity-builder, bringing forward leaders frommigrant communities and helping them to become insertedinto national policy campaigns.77 In roundtable discussions organised by the MCOP projectteam the view was expressed that an MRN would not seeka representative role on behalf of migrant communities indealing with public authorities. The strength of a network liesin the resources available across its constituent parts and thequality of the dialogue it is able to promote horizontally, acrossorganisations, with the capacity for campaigning and otherwiseengaging with authority being found amongst groupsoperating closest to the concerned communities. However, asthe experience of the last decade has shown, such capacitydoes not arise spontaneously. If the logic of communityorganisation is purely local and/or ethnic specific, the tendencyis likely to be towards a reduction of capacity to intervene inpolicy discussions as the de-combination of networks bringsthe collective response below the level of the critical massneeded to shape and influence developments.78 The balance that needs to be struck requires that thenational network conceives of its fundamental task as addingvalue to the work being done at grassroots and local levels by:a) facilitating discussion between committed organisations;b) providing a strategic analysis of policy developments as theyare driven by the logic of national governance;c) and providing mechanisms to allow local groups to actoutside of their immediate context and address the nationalpolicy agenda.20
79 The important question of the accountability of sucha network to its membership has to be considered. At theconclusion of its discussions with organisations it was clear tothe MCOP team that the initial stages of the growth of an MRNwould involve an organic process in which interconnectivitywas built up across organisations and across regions andconfidence built in an emerging methodology of work. To guidethe network through this period interim structures should beestablished which would consist of a steering committee, anetwork team, regional network groups, and project teams.These groups would assume the mandate of:a) Building further contacts for the network across the UK;b) Preparing for a national conference on migrant communityorganisation and national policy, to take place in theautumn of 2006;c) Preparing proposals for a membership structure anda constitution for the MRN;d) Preparing and acting on a funding strategy;e) Establishing the basis for three projects around whichthe network would structure its activity during theinterim period.f) Working towards a date at the end of 2007 for the foundingconference of the MRN.80 The interim structures would function as follows:Steering Committee81 The core steering committee has emerged from the MCOPphase and has a membership based on (a) representation fromthe initial regions; (b) an ethnic and gender balance. It alsocontains a majority or representations of organisations rootedin refugee and migrant communities. It has the authority to cooptrepresentatives of organisations joining the network duringthe interim period, with consideration being given to the needto maintain the said balances.82 The steering committee has the authority to appointofficers to oversee its work: a chairperson, secretaryand treasurer.The Network Team85 It is envisaged that during the interim period the networkteam will consist of (a) a project director; (b) research officer;and (c) resource officer. These will be paid workers engaged oncontracts covering the interim development stage.86 The team will be led by the project director and will assumecollective responsibility for accomplishing the tasks set for theinterim period, in preparation for the launch of the MRN. It willbe advised on all aspects of its work by the steering committee.The job descriptions of each team member, in summary, are;Project Director To assume responsibility for the developmentof the MRN during the interim development period in line withobjectives set out in paragraph 5.7 and whatever additionalprospectus and business plans that might be agreed andadopted. To work closely with the steering committee andto provide a full account of all work to this body on a regularbasis. To manage other members of the network teamto ensure that agreed objectives for their work are met.Policy Officer To review public policy agendas operatingat national, regional and local levels insofar as they impacton migrant and refugee committees. To report on all keydevelopments on a regular basis and, with in conjunctionwith the project director, to agree a format for reporting keydevelopments to the network. To identify issues likely to be ofcrucial importance to the work of specific organisations in thenetwork, and other network groups, with a view to advising onthe establishment of project groups (see below). To assist suchproject groups in the development of their work. To recruitintern and voluntary staff to further develop research capacityfor the network.Resource Officer To manage the MRN office on a day-to-daybasis. To develop and maintain internet and IT resources, inparticular a website, allowing regular and efficient reportingof the work of the network to its membership and externalparties. To maintain a database of members and contacts. Toorganise, in conjunction with other team members, meetings,seminars and conferences. To recruit intern and voluntary staffas appropriate to assist in all these tasks.83 The principle task of the steering committee is to reviewthe work of the network team and to ensure that this developsin accordance with the terms of an agreed mission statement.Through the steering committee chair, it will work with theproject director (leader of the network team, see below) toaccomplish the tasks set out at paragraph 5.7. It will participatein staff recruitment committees for network team members.21
Regional Network Groups87 The Network will seek to provide its membership withthe capacity to review policy in terms of different impactson the UK regions. To this end it will encourage the formationof regional network groups. These groups will be encouragedto develop the capacity for regular reporting and discussionacross their memberships, to undertake projects and campaignsrelevant to regional needs, and to meet as a regional networkgroup at least twice a year to consider its work and plans forfuture activity. Regional Network Groups will be able to callon the resources of the national network, either directlythrough the use of the network database, or through theuse of network team members.Project Teams89 Project teams will be established on agreement between thenetwork team and the steering committee whenever it has beendecided that a particular policy issue merits such a responseand where resources for the activity have been identified acrossthe network. The teams shall consist of steering committee,regional network groups, and members on an ad hoc basis andwill be convened by either the project director or the policyofficer or a steering committee member authorized to act asproject team convenor. The project team will make whateverrecommendations for research or campaigning activities as itsees fit and, if agreed by the appropriate bodies, shall furtherdevelop this activity, subject to proper oversight from thesteering committee and network team.91 In line with this consideration the MCOP favoursmembership to be open to all groups who, either exclusivelyor partly, are engaged in work which involves support for therights of migrants. This extends to such groups as refugeecommunity organisations and migrant worker associations,through to trades unions, human rights associations andanti-racist networks, and can even involve local and regionalauthorities. Though the participation of party political groupsconcerned with these issues is envisaged, the network itselfwould not provide a platform for party political debates andwould maintain a strictly non-partisan position in such matters.92 It is expected that the level of participation would differin a membership based network on such a wide spectrum. Tounderpin the structures of network governance therefore it canbe anticipated that a two level membership be adopted, withgroups willing to demonstrate their commitment by paying amembership fee acquiring the status of full membership andentitled to participate in votes on policy matters and to sit onthe various project and regional committees. Any membershipfee would need to take into account the size of the prospectiveorganisation and its financial status. Differential membershipfees would reflect these factors.93 Associate membership status would provide for all otherorganisations which want to be kept informed of the network’swork and to receive whatever information is provided on afree basis. This status will be available to anyone indicatingagreement with the terms of the network’s mission statement.90 The MCOP group were conscious of the fact that what isenvisioned is a network, rather than a more formal association,implying a looser arrangement in which connectivity betweenthe various parts are carried out at the initiative of networkmembers on a horizontal, rather than through a verticalstructure. Generally speaking, networks acquire strength fromthe involvement of the widest possible range of groups, subjectto broad agreement on the principles behind the existenceof the network.22
Summary andconclusions94 Over the period since the early 1990s a ‘new immigration’ hasled to the establishment of an extensive network of organisationsacross the UK. These have ranged from groups rooted in refugeeand immigrant communities themselves, through to ‘mainstream’organisations working on social policy issues which have focuson non-immigration matters, but which have been drawn intoinvolvement in this area to a greater or lesser extent.95 Whilst these developments have contributed to the breakingdown of the former isolation of groups working on immigrant rights,it has not necessarily led to an increase in the ability of the neworganisations to influence national policy. This has been becausea great deal of the focus for this work has been on local issues, ormatters specific to particular ethnic and national groups, or the policyagendas of the mainstream organisations. Too often immigrationrights work has lacked a strategic grasp of crucial issues and as aresult activities have been diluted into separate lobbying efforts.96 At the present time national policy is notable for the way it hascentred on an array of issues, concerning ‘managed migration’,European regional cooperation aimed at curtailing refugee movementsand people smuggling, and a diffuse agenda addressing socialcohesion, on which migrant rights groups have not succeeded inmaking a significant impact. The viewpoint expressed in this report isthat there is no inherent reason why such an impact should not havebeen made, and that groups supporting immigrant and refugee rightsmight yet rally to achieving this end. But if progress is to take place inthis direction new resources for the networks of migrant communityorganisations will need to be constructed which can bring a greatercapacity to intervene in policy issues to the wider movement.23
97 The MRN is proposed as an initiative to develop this policyintervention capacity to migrant community organisations.98 The MRN is intended to function as a resource serving existingorganisations and networks, rather than as a new organisation. In itswork it will address policy issues which have the potential to affect allimmigrants, whether their immigration arose from flight as refugees,economic migration, family reunification, the exercise of EU freemovement rights, or irregular migration. It will seek to bring migrantgroups across ethnic and national categories into dialogue with oneanother, and to bring the resultant network of collaborating groupsinto contact with mainstream civil society organisations known tobe supportive of the rights of migrants.99 In proposing to establish such a network we are aware thata whole spectrum of tactical and strategic issues will need to beaddressed, and that the working out of a methodology for sucha network will require an organic approach, based on dialogueand experimental collaboration in the running of agreed projectsand campaigns.100 The proposers of the MRN believe that the opportunity toestablish an MRN will remain for as long as official governmentpolicy remains in its current conflicted and tension-ridden stage ofdevelopment. The project will be viable to the extent that it facilitatesthe emergence of a new migrant community leadership, workingconstructively with representative organisations from the mainstreamof civil society, is addressing the causes of tension within public policy,and is proposing measures which allow these tensions to be overcomein a new stage of development for immigration policy.101 During its next stages of development the MRN project willbe transparent in all its areas of work and will invite comment andinvolvement on the part of all interest groups. Contact details areprovided in the appendices to this report.24
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