MiSoC and the Essex Centre for Migration Studies, with support from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, hosted a knowledge exchange workshop last month for case workers, local charities and support organisations, authorities, researchers and legal representatives to discuss the current challenges they face in providing help to vulnerable migrants in Essex and surrounding counties, as well as priorities for research and action to improve services.
Discussions focused on identifying who vulnerable migrants are and how best to support them in practice, with presentations by the Centre for Migration Studies, Essex Law Clinic, Migrant Help and a local solicitor.
Participants identified several themes surrounding difficulty in reaching migrant populations as well as various characteristics of vulnerability. These themes can be summarised as: legal status (for example, the difference between asylum seekers and refugees when it comes to the right to remain and access to benefits), gaps in bureaucracy and documentation, socio-cultural characteristics (including lack of English language and other cultural barriers), demographic characteristics (gender, disability status and national origin), and children.
Strategies for helping to address the current challenges include improving communication with policy makers and local authorities, increasing migrant involvement in support service structure to enhance ownership and the sustainability of these services, strengthening local and regional networks to better disseminate best practice, improving the information available and providing training for local officials and support organisations on migrants’ rights and procedures.
The group also highlighted the role of the University’s Centre for Migration Studies in linking research projects to the specific needs of these organisations, and opportunities for the Essex Law Clinic to provide expertise to these organisations.
A full report on the findings will be presented to Colchester Borough Council’s Migrant Agency Forum in Spring 2020. Members meet quarterly and include Essex police, local community organisations (including Refugee Action Colchester) and the Essex Red Cross. The Forum is chaired by Eddie Campbell of Essex Integration.