Refugee and Migrant Forum
The Refugee & Migrant Forum Manchester aims to enable refugees and asylum seekers to express the needs and aspirations of their communities and to play a part in influencing policy in the city of Manchester and across the UK.
The Forum runs working groups linked to the themes of the Refugee Charter for Manchester, which meet on a regular basis to push campaigns forward. Working groups give refugees and asylum seekers the skills and opportunity to influence service provision and decision making at both a local and national level.These are organised through the Refugee Network events and current activity includes supporting campaigns against destitution in partnership with the Regional Asylum Activism Project, running activities to progress employment opportunities for refugees as a member of the Manchester Refugee Employment Partnership, and trying to improve health services (in particular mental health provision) for refugees and those seeking asylum.
In January 2006 the Forum launched the Refugee Charter for Manchester. The Charter is a unique statement of rights and entitlements written by refugees and asylum seekers, from 12 different community organisations, The Charter has been endorsed by over 100 individuals and organisations including Manchester City Council. The Forum now works to promote the principles within the Charter by
- Creating channels of participation by which our members can access decision-makers and influence policy
- Being a point of contact for refugees and migrants to share skills, information and resources
- Building respect and cooperation between Manchester`s refugee and migrant populations and developing solutions to the problems they face
- Raising awareness amongst the general public of issues facing refugees and migrants and making links with local communities
- Acting as a reference for information and advice for service providers.
Campaigns and Advocacy
The Asylum Rights Group has worked to improve asylum seekers` experience of local service provision in Greater Manchester. So far, much of this work has been focused on reporting and detention processes, involving extensive research into the issues by forum members and lobby meetings with UKBA.
As a result of MRSN Forum negotiations with UKBA the following changes have been implemented:
- Time slots for reporting resulting in a significant reduction in waiting times
- The introduction of a monitoring system by UKBA to ensure people feel they are treated with dignity and respect
- Awareness raising sessions with UKBA run by MRSN and Refugee Action
- An information leaflet in six different languages
- Obtaining consent from UKBA for conveying complaints regarding the Section 4 payment card directly to them, rather than to SERCO (the delivery agent)
- A more child friendly atmosphere through painting a mural in the waiting room