One of our main focuses at Right to Remain is championing the work of grassroots organisations – those that embody radical solidarity and are so important to their communities. One such organisation is The Magpie Project. Based in Newham, The Magpie Project supports mums and children under 5 in temporary and unstable accommodation, or at risk of homelessness.
Born out of a group of Newham residents: mums, grandmothers, daughters and members of the community who were concerned about the real threat of homelessness facing mums and their young children in the borough, The Magpie Project has since grown into a vital hub, providing a safe space for mums and minis (so aptly and lovingly named by Magpie staff and volunteers) through play sessions, cooked meals, advice signposting and varying workshops.
When I first spoke with Jane Williams, CEO, she explained how, although the centre was first conceived to support those at risk of or facing homelessness, it has since adapted to include support services for those in the asylum and immigration system. She found that the majority of mums accessing the centre were either in the system, had dropped out, or had insecure immigration status. This need to adapt is something we are seeing more organisations the migration sector undertake, with Home Office policies becoming harsher as they attempt to “clear the backlog”.
For example, the seven days eviction policy has had a drastic effect on destitution organisations, with demand far outweighing capacity. Similarly, we expect the Illegal Migration Act to have a serious impact on exploitation, destitution and detention. Indeed, this has prompted the team at Right to Remain to look beyond just the asylum pathway, to understand the wider spectrum of immigration as a whole. By initiating the process of connecting with organisations who support these communities, we can prepare a universal and joined-up response to these issues.
So, on Wednesday 8th November, we visited The Magpie Project to facilitate a workshop for 20 mums on how to use the Toolkit. None of the mums had seen the Toolkit before, so we went through its format as a group, asking mums to choose pages to look at. We focussed on the hyperlinked menus, the action sections, and the google translate function. Highlights included when one mum read aloud from the Toolkit in Yoruba to the group, while another was impressed to see the Toolkit written out in Twi. There was a wide range of immigration statuses within the room, and the attendees were encouraged to find information about immigration pathways, as well as asylum. Our other resources were well received, particularly our Youtube videos.
We finished the workshop with an activity, splitting into smaller groups to find information in the Toolkit. In our groups, we looked for, and discussed, the definitions of internal relocation, asylum support and evidence, with attendees going head to head to find the answers quickest (with Jane’s healthy competitive spirit guiding the way!)
The workshop was a great success, and allowed us to introduce the Toolkit directly into the community, achieving one of our key action points identified through our Toolkit reflection exercise. And this is only the beginning; following the session, we sat down with Jane to discuss future workshops with the mums, securing the foundations of what we are sure will be an important alliance.
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