I just started volunteering with a local organization called the Haringey Migrant Support Centre, a drop-in centre which provides free immigration advice from legal professionals, and advice and signposting services on welfare and health issues.
I’m still going through their training course now to become a volunteer advocate, which works to understand the issues of the visitor to the centre, sit with them with the legal advisor to make sure they understand the legal advice given, and to also signpost them to other organizations for help. It seems like it will be a really interesting role.
On Monday we did some training on immigration issues and common things that we will be seeing with visitors who attend the drop-in. As an immigrant myself to the UK (first as a student and now on a two-year working visa), I had absolutely no idea how hostile the immigration environment actually is here. Cuts to legal aid, really harsh Home Office decisions on leave to remain, right to family life, and even asylum and refugee claims are just making life absolutely terrible for so many people. We can argue about the right kind of immigration policy and what “kinds of people” should be “allowed” into countries, but honestly, at the end of the day, people are people, and are deserving of respect and dignity. This article was just published today, which I think really encapsulates how hostile the situation is now.
Also, a point that I think isn’t mentioned enough in the immigration debate is about the people who self-select to migrate. There are always going to be chancers and cheats who want to take advantage of benefits (from people born in a country to the people who migrate to that country), but by and large, the people who move are ambitious, driven, intelligent, and searching for a better quality of life and better chances than are available in their home country. These are absolutely positive attributes, and we should be celebrating people who are brave and adventurous and courageous enough to pick up, leave everything behind, and travel to the great unknown in search of prosperity. We should be providing more opportunities for people to succeed, not putting restrictions on their capabilities.
Anyways, rant over! I think volunteering at HMSC will be a really good way to learn more about the immigration situation in the UK, and the kind of housing and welfare issues that also face migrants and other people here. And hopefully, I’ll be able to do some good work too.