Islington has been at the forefront of much of the work to welcome refugees and migrants and has a flourishing voluntary and community sector. We should be proud of this achivement in light of a trend towards xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment.
We launched our project as a pilot between June and October 2017. In this period, the project was entirely volunteer-led and made possible by support from local migrant rights charities and the local community, as well as a spirit of learning, empathy and commitment.
We were inclusive to volunteers of many ages and backgrounds– our eldest volunteer is proudly 78! We strove to find a role for everyone dedicated to helping and learning, including cooking, childcare and welcoming, as well as casework. We provided 2 full training days. We also raised awareness of the issues these migrants face among the New Unity community.
We cooked lunch for around 40 people each week, relying on generous donations from local businesses. Any leftovers were given to people to take away or donated to a neighbouring refugee advice centre.
Migrants in the UK live in what the government calls a ‘hostile environment’, with barriers to healthcare, housing, education and legal advice. In 2013, the government began routinely granting people with human rights cases leave to remain with ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF). People with this status can work and pay tax, but are unable to claim benefits or access most state support.
Whilst not always a problem, it can in some cases be the cause of homelessness and extreme poverty.
You can read more about NRPF here.