In 1995, 3 refugee community organisations came together to setup Manchester Refugee Support Network (MRSN). Its aim was to bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of refugees and those seeking sanctuary. MRSN realised that refugees and asylum seekers are often isolated and vulnerable in their new environment. Their growth and assimilation in a new society would be made easier with the help of a community. With this motivation, MRSN endeavoured to build strong and independent Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs). Furthermore, it nurtured skilled leaders from among the community to manage the RCOs. This ensured sustainable and holistic growth of the communities.
Over the last two decades, MRSN has nurtured fledgling RCOs. It currently comprises 21 member organisations that support the development, training and information needs of over 40 RCOs. These organisations bring community members together who find strength and support in each other. They provide valuable services and conduct activities for members. This transforms them into empowered, confident, skilled and knowledgeable citizens. Who subsequently contribute to the local economy with their talents and hard work.
MRSN established the Refugee Advice Service in 1997. It lent support to RCOs struggling to cope with the needs of its community members. They were impacted by immigration and asylum support legislation, homelessness, poverty, discrimination, and unemployment. MRSN raised funds to develop its own free, impartial, and accessible advice service for refugees and those seeking asylum. The Refugee Advice Service is MRSN’s longest-standing direct service which augments an RCO’s ability to effectively deliver social welfare advice services to its vulnerable members.
MRSN celebrates contributions by refugees and asylum seekers to the UK as part of its community development programme. It helps to organise and promote cross-cultural arts and sports activities each year during Refugee Week. MRSN works in partnership with different organisations to develop and promote a wide range of creative activities that raises public awareness and encourages appreciation of the refugee’s experiences and skills. MRSN launched the Refugee Cultural Festival in 1997 as a platform for refugees to showcase their talents. It launched the Refugee World Cup in 2000 to welcome the Kosovar community to Manchester. Today, it is a highly anticipated annual event which has grown from having 4 participating teams to over 20. The number of participants has grown 5 times from 40 to 200. The teams are formed either, as per the country of origin, or can be fully integrated teams.
MRSN established the Refugee & Migrant’s Forum in 2003. In the same year, it launched the Community Leadership Programme in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University. The first group of community leaders conducted a research developing a set of principles, objectives and priorities which would became the ‘Refugee Charter for Manchester’. It was successfully launched in 2006 at the Manchester Town Hall in front of an audience of 800 people. These objectives have been reviewed and refreshed over the years but still form the backbone of what the network wishes to achieve in order to improve the lives of all refugees and asylum seekers across Greater Manchester.