MRSN was set up by 3 refugee community organisations in 1995, currently has 21 member organisations, and supports the development, training and information needs of over 40 refugee community organisations across Greater Manchester every year. Its core purpose is to help build strong and independent refugee community organisations (RCOs), run by skilled leaders, to help bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of refugees and those seeking sanctuary.
Over the last two decades, MRSN has brought together often isolated and vulnerable refugees and helped them to form their own organisations to find strength and support in each other; nurtured fledgling RCOs to enable them to flourish and provide services and activities for their own community members; and empowered individual refugees to become confident, skilled and knowledgeable citizens who have developed and led their own community organisations, and settled and established themselves and their families in Greater Manchester, thereby contributing their hard work and talents to the local economy.
MRSN set up the Refugee & Migrant’s Forum in 2003 and established the Community Leadership programme delivered in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University. The first set of community leaders conducted research to support the development of a set of principles, objectives and priorities which became the Refugee Charter for Manchester, successfully launched in 2006 at Manchester Town Hall in front of an audience of 800 people. These priorities 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 across Greater Manchester.
Our community development work has been funded by Manchester City Council for the last 20 years, and is seen to have a continuing role to play in building community resilience amongst refugee communities across the city.
As part of our community development programme, MRSN also provides a focus for celebrating the contributions refugees make to the UK by helping to organise and promote cross-cultural arts and sports activities each year during Refugee Week. This enables us to work in partnership with a variety of other organisations, producing and promoting a wide range of creative activities which raise public awareness of and appreciation for the experiences, skills and abilities of refugees, and provides a platform for refugees to showcase their talents. We launched the Refugee Cultural Festival in 1997 and held the first Refugee World Cup in 2000 to welcome the Kosovar community to Manchester. This has become a highly anticipated annual event and has grown from 4 teams to 20 teams taking part each year; from 40 to 200 participants; from teams segregated along country of origin lines to fully integrated teams.
Our longest-standing direct service is our Refugee Advice Service, first developed in 1997 as a result of demand from our members, who were struggling to cope with the needs of their individual community members who were facing impacts from immigration and asylum support legislation, as well as homelessness, poverty, discrimination and high levels of unemployment. RCOs did not have the capabilities required to effectively deliver social welfare advice services to these vulnerable individuals, leading MRSN to raise funds for and develop its own free, impartial and accessible advice service specifically targeted at refugees and those seeking asylum.