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Hackney Migrant Centre Annual Report 2016

a place for migrants


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Hackney Migrant Centre Annual Report 2016

about us

Hackney Migrant Centre is a small charity running a weekly drop-in advice service for vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Stoke Newington. We provide high-quality advice on immigration, welfare, housing and access to health services. Each week we serve our visitors a hot and nutritious meal cooked by our volunteer kitchen team. Hackney Migrant Centre was established in 2008 by local people concerned by the lack of advice and support services for migrants. Since then, we have seen a steady increase in visitors coming to our weekly session. We have a very small staff team and rely on the tireless dedication of our many wonderful volunteers, and the support of a range of partner agencies.

We welcome all migrants regardless of immigration status or nationality.


Hackney Migrant Centre Annual Report 2016

The political landscape has changed fundamentally from a year ago, with the vote to leave the European Union. There is an argument that the vote reflected, among other things, years of growing public hostility towards migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, as successive governments introduce ever more punitive legislation and sections of the media continue to demonise and scapegoat incomers. For Hackney Migrant Centre, the impact was immediate – we saw an overnight increase in the number of visitors from the European Union, fearful for their future. As always, it will be the most vulnerable who suffer: those struggling to find work, those who are poor, with young families. Meanwhile, the Immigration Act 2016 included more stringent criminal sanctions for employers who hire illegal migrants, and the ability to freeze the bank accounts of migrants who do not have permission to be in the UK or to seize their driver’s license. All migrants will be subjected to the government’s ‘deport first, appeal later’ scheme, which means any migrant who has made a human rights or asylum claim can now be removed to their home country pending the outcome of their appeal against the decision to remove them, unless such removal would cause them ‘serious, irreversible harm’.

The Act also contained a measure to relocate unaccompanied refugee children in Europe to Britain. There was no move to implement this measure until pressure following the destruction of the camps in Calais in October 2016 forced the government to respond. Desperate people continue to make the dangerous journey to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 4,220 people have died or gone missing at sea in 2016, up from 3,771 reported for the whole of 2015. In last year’s annual report, we asked whether this could be the beginning of a new era of compassion for people in exile. We clearly still have a very long and hard road ahead.

migration

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Hackney Migrant Centre Annual Report 2016

‘Coming to Hackney Migrant Centre was the first time I ate properly. I was cold, and it felt like I had come to a warm place. The centre gave me expenses of £20 and it felt like a million – I had nothing. After just two weeks I became involved at the centre, working in the kitchen. I had been a business man so I had no experience of kitchen work, but I learnt on the job! The food is from donations – we make one meat and one vegetarian dish for visitors. Working here was a good support – it made me feel stronger. Before I was desperate – I felt abandoned. I now have a job, but whatever I do I plan to continue working in this kitchen, and giving back to Hackney Migrant Centre.’

josecharles Jose-Charles came to London from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012, where he was imprisoned for his political activities. Because of issues with his asylum claim, Jose-Charles had absolutely no income for six months. He now manages our kitchen at the drop-in and is a member of our board of trustees.


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Hackney Migrant Centre Annual Report 2016

our year The biggest demand on our service continues to be immigration advice. Many of our visitors want to regularise their immigration status but legal aid for this is generally unavailable, so applicants also have to pay legal costs on top of constantly rising fees for immigration applications. Migrants applying for Limited Leave to Remain (30 months only) have to pay a Health Surcharge of £500 on top of an application fee of £811 per person. Without free immigration advice at our drop-in, many of our visitors would be unable to obtain any legal help for further immigration claims.

Our partner, Islington Law Centre, took on the immigration cases of 17 of our visitors, and over 100 others were directed to other reputable solicitors. Given that very few projects provide pro bono legal support, we are increasingly requesting legal aid funding for particularly exceptional cases which do not come under the usual eligibility criteria. We submitted almost 20 of these applications in the past year. This year we launched a new five-year ‘Moving out of Hardship’ project, generously funded by the Big Lottery Fund. We are excited to be collaborating with Coram Children’s Legal Centre and Haringey Migrant Support Centre in this. The scheme has enabled us to employ a second welfare caseworker and provided funds for an immigration solicitor specialising in working with families. By the end of the first year the project aims to have provided shortterm interventions to over 500 families, and follow-up casework to over 200 of them.


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This year 833 people attended our weekly Wednesday drop-in, making a total of 2330 separate visits.

April 2015 – March 2016

We provided:

Our visitors:

738 consultations with immigration specialists

came from about 80 countries

265 welfare consultations with our in-house destitution adviser

more than half have no recourse to public funds which means they have no rights to most mainstream benefits or public housing 264 (almost 1/3) were visa overstayers, 121 (almost 1/6) were refused asylum seekers, while about 65 have Limited Leave to Remain, which allows them to work but not to claim benefits. Many have children and are unable to work and so become destitute.

59 health advocacy consultations 405 hardship grants of £20 to visitors in crisis Our volunteers: helped fill out 123 HC1 forms to obtain free prescriptions to which anyone on low incomes is entitled referred almost 100 of our visitors to emergency accommodation (winter night shelters) and hostels obtained individual grants totalling almost £23,000 to buy basic necessities for 193 visitors and their families – an average of nearly £120 per grantee


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Hackney Migrant Centre Annual Report 2016


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beatrice ‘When I came to Hackney Migrant Centre I felt half dead. They made me feel hope when I had no hope. They made me strong, psychologically, emotionally and physically. They gave me some food and a little money from the hardship fund, as well as wonderful encouragement and advice. Recently I have become involved with the Natural Resilience Project – with a group of other women and our children we go to the wetlands and become immersed in nature. We do activities and we are given assignments such as finding oak leaves. It makes us forget our problems, and the children can play all together. I am happy because of that project – it makes me feel on top of the world.’ Beatrice came to London from Nigeria in 2011. She was forced to leave the place she was staying in the UK due to mistreatment. She is working with Hackney Migrant Centre to regularise her immigration status.


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volunteers Volunteers are absolutely integral to the running of our service and there are usually more than 20 at each drop-in session. Many people have been with us for years but we also regularly recruit new volunteers as others move on in their lives. Over the course of the last year over 90 volunteers welcomed our visitors, provided advocacy support for them, made them tea and coffee, collected food and cooked meals for everyone at the drop-in – no mean feat! Volunteers also help with follow-up work in our office and we are pleased that a growing number are former visitors to our drop-in.

We depend on volunteers to continue the vital work we do.


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Volunteer’s report ‘When I applied to be a volunteer at Hackney Migrant Centre, I said that I wanted to learn how to help. During the first weeks, while shadowing an experienced volunteer, I was told that one of the most helpful things we can do is listen. Giving the visitors access to free legal advice and destitution support is crucial, and getting them to the right adviser is dependent on the volunteer’s ability to listen, to unravel the narrative in a chaotic story, and on helping a visitor to identify their own key questions. Listening isn’t always easy. Sometimes the stories are hard to bear, when someone has been abused, trafficked, or has witnessed horrific things. And sometimes the room we work in is incredibly noisy, and it can be hard to catch a soft voice, an unfamiliar accent. Yet the cacophony also creates a kind of privacy. No one else is listening in. And with perseverance and patience on both sides, a visitor can find a way to tell their story. Because at the Migrant Centre, I was happy to discover, we don’t judge. There are no more or less deserving migrants, no queues separating good from bad, no refusals unless someone excludes themselves through abusive language and behaviour.

Often there are useful things I can do – a letter to a school, a foodbank voucher, or apply for a small grant, find a bed in a hostel. But sometimes there’s little that can be done to offer immediate relief. Hostels are full, grants take months to arrive. Our own hardship fund is tiny. It can be very tough, but a highlight is eating lunch with our visitors. It’s brilliantly prepared by a skilled international team, who turn whatever has been donated into inventive hot meals, as well as salads and endless loaves of bread. Sometimes even cakes and scones mysteriously appear. When the session is over, all of the tables are put away, files locked in a cupboard, carpets hoovered. Like a circus once the tents are struck, you’d never know we’d been there. Except for the odd scattered crumb. Which just might be the seed of someone’s problem being solved, the start of a sense of security.’


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‘I came here because I had problems with my visa, and because of this I am homeless. I am waiting for an operation on my hip and another on my eye, but they can’t be done at present because I have no safe place to go to recover when I am ready to be discharged from hospital. I have no money, and I find it difficult to get food. I have nothing to eat unless I come here. I can’t sleep when I’m outside, so I sleep on the bus on the way here. I slept for a few minutes on the way to the centre today. Things are difficult and my cough is very bad. But people are very nice to me here – they are very good people.’

frederick Frederick came to London from Accra in Ghana in 2001. He is in poor health and was until recently a rough sleeper. Hackney Migrant Centre is working to find accommodation for Frederick, but there are few options for people in his situation.


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our casework Significant changes to immigration and welfare legislation in the last 5 years have resulted in a 70% increase in the number of single-parent families experiencing destitution seen at Hackney Migrant Centre.

We are able to assist with the practical work of finding a solicitor, accessing housing through social services support under the Children Act 1989, finding places in homeless shelters and hostels and providing access to free food via food banks and soup kitchens. We also refer people to places such as the Akwaaba Sunday social centre in Hackney, where they can access social support, learning opportunities and free recreational events.

Hackney Migrant Centre now has two staff members who, alongside our volunteer advocates, are dedicated to working with people experiencing destitution. Some 89% of families with No Recourse to Public Funds are single-parent families, mainly headed by mothers, and often with one or more children. We see over 20 women per month who are in this situation, and the vast majority are single mothers.

This summer, Hackney Migrant Centre collaborated in the Natural Resilience Project, to address the social and psychological impacts of being undocumented and living in poverty by encouraging relaxation and wellbeing through connecting with nature. The project worked with 10 single mums and was a huge success, with participants reporting ‘now that we’ve poured this out we can go home lighter’ and, after one session, ‘I haven’t slept as well as this in months.’

These women often deal with rogue landlords and live in overcrowded houses which are in poor condition, or they may have been pushed to sofa surfing/street homelessness. They are at increased risk of sexual exploitation, may have already experienced sexual violence and have poor mental health due to strains of living on the margins of society.

Hackney Migrant Centre is looking forward to further collaboration with the Natural Resilience Project and other forms of creative partnership in 2016/17. Anna Rudd Destitution Coordinator


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our info Hackney Migrant Centre St Mary’s New Church Rooms Spensley Walk London N16 9ES

Staff (since April 2015)

07504 332 706 info@hackneymigrantcentre.org.uk www.hackneymigrantcentre.org.uk

Gerry Hickey (until December 2015)

Charity number: 1122363 Company number: 06426744

Giulia Gosi

Helen Hibberd (currently on maternity leave) Daf Viney

Anna Rudd Trustees: Chair Rayah Feldman Vice chair Mark Palframan

In 2015–2016 we received £177,335 in income, and incurred expenditure of £144,051 in running costs and £30,006 hardship and individual grants payments. Expenditure Staff Drop-in costs

44% 11%

Advice

34%

Other

11%

Treasurer Roy Hiscock Secretary Dot Lewis Jose-Charles Makassa Carla Montemayor Wendy Pettifer Rosemary Sales (resigned 2016) Hannah Ward


thank you Harvest N16

Thanks to the following organisations for funding our work:

Thanks to organisations for individual grants to our most vulnerable visitors:

Growing Communities

Clothworkers Foundation

Catholic Women’s League

Jaines & Son Fishmonger

Dentons CSR Charitable Trust

Hackney Parochial Charities

Mediterranean Supermarket

East End Community Foundation – Hackney Giving

Heinz, Anna and Carol Kroch Foundation

Garden Court Chambers

Hornsey Parochial Charity

Greggs Foundation

Mary Strand Trust

Hackney Community Law Centre

Methodist Church Fund

London Catalyst

Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress

Thanks for their generous food donations to:

Nawaal Fund Stoke Newington Tea Rooms Spence Bakery Whole Foods Stoke Newington Thanks to advisers from: City and Hackney Mind Coram Children’s Legal Centre Doctors of the World Hackney Community Law Centre Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Islington Law Centre

London Community Foundation – Dispossessed Fund London Legal Support Trust Metropolitan Migration Foundation MSN Fund

Lambeth Law Centre

The Hackney Parochial Charities

Project 17

Trust for London Tudor Trust West Hackney Parochial Charity and to many individuals for their donations

Sheila Hind Trust

South Hackney Parochial Charity West Hackney Parochial Charity Special thanks Thank you to St Mary’s Church who continue to be generous hosts of the Centre. Big thanks to our volunteers from Stoke Newington School – Ella, Alina, Sebastian, Celia and Victoria – who help us tidy and clean after each drop-in. A huge thank you to all of our wonderful regular volunteers.

Hackney Migrant Centre annual report 2016  
Hackney Migrant Centre annual report 2016  

Hackney Migrant Centre is a small charity running a weekly drop-in advice service for vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in St...

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