A delegation of Manchester based activists and supporters from a variety of different organisations, including MiSol, RAPAR and anti-fascist groups came together on March 19th to join the 'M19' demonstration called by Stand Up To Racism in support of refugees fleeing to Europe.
The 20,000 strong nation-wide demo was one of many marches happening around the world.
Migrant Echoes' Project Worker, Sophie Gardiner, who has conducted many of our interviews for the Migrant Echoes' podcasts since the project's inception, volunteered to cover the events from the perspective of the Manchester convoy as they marched from Portland Place to Trafalgar Square, where a rally, chaired by anti-racist campaigner Weyman Bennett, saw speeches from many inspiring individuals including 'Campaigner Maz', actress Vanessa Redgrave, Lee Jesper of 'BARAC UK', the mother of Sarah Reed and members of the refugee community.
The rally saw the attendance of a huge variety of organisations from across the country; trade unions of various cities and counties, student unions from universities across England, the 'Black Lives Matter' movement was a very strong and vocal presence, 'Free Palestine' campaigners, Kurdistan Solidarity groups, Socialists, Labour Party members, LGBT rights activists, Anti-War protesters, and so on.
About the march, Sophie said; "I've been to the Stand Up to Racism national demonstrations for the passed couple of years, but I was interested to see how this one would go, taking into account the Refugee Crisis, and there was definitely a huge number of new comers. Some of the girls I interviewed at the rally from the Manchester group said this was their first protest, and I think there were a lot of first timers there who've seen what's going on, with the Refugee Crisis, with Islamophobia and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement- it's really got people coming out and protesting more than we have seen previously- Weyman Bennett said this was much bigger than last year, so I think people are by no means losing faith in these movements."
Recording for Migrant Echoes' podcast, Sophie spoke with Stand Up To Racism Campaigner, Nahella Ashraf as well as fellow protesters on the road to London and fellow marchers at the rally such as former asylum-seeker and Sudanese rights campaigner for the Beja Congress, Mohammed al-Halengy.
"I know Mohammed, he was a case with us at RAPAR where I've also volunteered for some years now, before he got his status and moved down to London. You always run into someone at these events."
"It was also great to see LGBT rights people and NHS folk there, especially because xenophobes and right-wingers, they often like to use the NHS and gay rights issues as arguments against immigration claiming that migrants exploit or burden the National Health Service, and have this perception that migrants- particularly Middle Eastern migrants, are all homophobic, so this show of solidarity is very important in proving these stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions wrong, when the NHS relies on migrants to function and many refugees, Muslims and people of Middle Eastern origin, are also members of the LGBT community!"
"There was some good speakers as well this year. There was a really energetic young Kurdish woman who is seeking asylum, she was great. Vanessa Redgrave spoke really well, comparing the current crisis with WW2, I got really excited because she mentioned my hero, Sylvia Pankhurst, and how she campaigned for Jewish refugees to be given visas to escape the Nazis but they were refused. The comedian Jeremy Hardy spoke as well, he's always very good. The mother of Sarah Reed, a young black woman who died in Holloway, she spoke and it really struck a cord with everyone. Lee Jesper of BARAC UK, he was fun, everyone liked him. I tried to record as much of the speeches as I could with the time we had before we had to get the bus back to Manchester."
The 'Refugee Crisis' was the central theme of the march. Stand Up To Racism has been a central movement in support of the refugees fleeing Africa and the Middle East, and has organised a number of fundraising initiatives and events as well as delegations of solidarity to the refugees currently trapped in what is known as 'The Jungle' refugee camp in Calais, that has been repeatedly destroyed in recent weeks by French authorities, harassed by French police and attacked by racists.
"Everyone was really optimistic at the end of the day. Nahella spoke to the coach about how successful it was and all the future activities from SUTR. A few right-wing nationalists have been saying we achieved nothing, and everyone's just laughing at us and no one wants refugees in the UK, but all I can say is, 20,000 people protesting alone- not to mention everyone we know who support us but couldn't come along to the march, and all we saw of anyone opposing the march was like, 20 'Britain First' protesters near Piccadilly Circus. The outpour of support for refugees has been so much more than I expected."
Many thanks to Sophie for covering the events of the M19 march for Migrant Echoes through photography, video and audio interviews which you will soon be able to enjoy in our upcoming podcast.
This article was written by self proclaimed 'full-time asylum-seeker' Hannibal Albendago who hails from Libya.
Hannibal is currently working on his fresh asylum claim and has been homeless in Manchester since his last refusal. Here he talks about his experiences in the British asylum system and living as an asylum-seeker in Manchester...
This is a true story of my life as an asylum seeker. I really appreciate the valuable time you have taken to read my account.
An asylum-seeker is someone whose claim for refugee status is still being decided.
The procedure can take anything from several months to a few years to be resolved, including the possibility of appealing against a refusal. Personally, it has been over 8 years and I still don’t know when I will finally be able to live as a normal person.
Whilst lengthy asylum procedures prolong uncertainty for asylum-seekers and costs for the state, rushed decisions could put people at risk and in need. The challenge of a good system of asylum is to balance speed with quality.
A brief note about the Home office: it is intimidating and scary. You can't know what they're thinking, but because of my past experiences with them, I can tell already what they’ll say: “no”, I already know they're going to say “you're lying”.
You just never know with them. It's just so uncertain, you don't know whether they’ll grant or refuse your application. Inside, when you go to sign on, you don't know if they're going to call you in for an interview or if they're going to give you a refusal straight there and then. They can do anything they feel like doing.
Whatever you say, however honest, pleading and desperate you are, they'll listen and tell you the same thing: “I don't believe you”, “I can't help you”, “Contact your caseworker”, “Contact your lawyer”. They make everything so complicated, everything is so hard.
You don't know what's going to happen to you. Eventually you find out that there's something you can do to help yourself and to make life better. So I say, ok, let me go and seek that. Now, I know I was brave but when I went I was very naïve. It’s down to the asylum seeker to prove himself.. I came from
persecution, but some people come from war. They just run. They have nothing.
I thought that claiming asylum was all I needed to do, but you have to do so much more. The burden of proof is so big. I hate the word “evidence”, it’s horrible and frustrating. They push people so far that they start forgetting things or having to lie about evidence because all they're thinking is the impossibility of returning to where they’ve come from.
I have been in the UK for a long time now, so how do they expect me to get new evidence for a fresh claim? It’s a difficult and complicated procedure.
The burden on proof should lie with the Home Office, not the person who's running away from persecution or war. Not on the person who's suffering, the person who's scared of being imprisoned, who's facing discrimination.
It shouldn't be that way. Vulnerable people should not have to prove themselves in this way, rather the burden should lie on the other side.
The “asylum seeker” label, makes people treat you as if you're beneath them. Most of the English people I've come in contact with are nice, but some are nasty.
This game is all about surviving, since I was refused in 2012 my life has been turned upside down. I get support from the red cross, but this isn’t much for a person to live on; a Food parcel and £5 per week.
Living on £5 a week, the boredom of waiting for trial, this dehumanising system and canned food, it reminds me of WW1 and WW2. I really hope we don’t have an apocalypse - I hate canned food so much! Now the Red Cross has decided to cut my support because I have been with them for over a year, it’s so ridiculous it makes me laugh! But now I’m living off £10 a week which I get it from the Boaz Trust, and thanks to them I am hosted by a very kind British couple.
I’m not competing with anyone, I have no desire to play the superiority game. I am simply trying to be a better person than I was yesterday and the day before yesterday and before that and before etc...
No permission to work and dependent on charities for food and clothes.
I'm trying to keep myself busy. I try to get involved in different organisations. It helps me to reduce the stress in my life. I may be an asylum seeker and homeless, but I love to be healthy and fit. I enjoy physical activities, exploring and living adventurously! You don't need to visit the Himalayas, the Andes, Inca ruins, Egyptian pyramids or Mount Everest to have adventures and
explore - It's all around you right where you are.
I may be homeless but never hopeless. Nor desperate. Because that’s what the UKBA (UK Border Agency) wanted me to be. Humans sometimes make things so complicated for each other; since when do you need documents to prove that you human? They never thought “This person came to our land in need of help, lets help the poor guy".
Where are the human rights? Because I thought UK was all about human rights and equality. Even though I am homeless and broke, I am still keeping up with what I love to do and what I enjoy, not even Jesus could stop me now! I have been down so many times, but I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and come through the other side.
My final words
As a young man in Libya, you don’t have any dreams. You can’t.
I want to thank all my friends and people who been involved and supported me during my life in UK so far.
Thank you for the safety, respect and values you share with refugees. Thank you for sharing with us your shelter, food, time, thoughts and smiles.
GUEST POST BY FERESHTEH MOZZAFARI - 19.2.2016
Hundreds of Mancunians and Chinese braved the cold and hailstones to celebrate Chinese New Year parade in the heart of Chinatown on February 7. The ritual started with dragon Parade as usual and continued with traditional lion dances, music and acrobatics, a funfair and fireworks finale.
I had the chance to be around town hall just before the venue starts and see Chinese dance. I liked it that Chinese have managed to become a very powerful and successful community in the UK and run such a huge festival in Manchester city centre. I have been to Mega Mela which is the largest celebration of South Asian Culture in the North of England, but Mela usually takes place at Platt Field park.
According to Chinese calendar, 2016 is the year of the Monkey. Monkey is ninth of the 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. Monkey is a clever animal. It is usually compared to a smart person.
It has also been said that this year is the year of the Fire Monkey. But what that means?
In addition to the twelve year cycle corresponding to each of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, there are Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) which are associated with their own “life force” or “chi”. This energy blends with the corresponding animal to determine that year’s fortune. In 2016, the corresponding element is fire. Fire is also associated with the colour red. Therefore it is the year of the Red Monkey.
Read this to find out what this year will bring us.
Migrant Echoes & Migrants Supporting Migrants will mark International Women's Day on 8th March 2016 with events during the week held in Manchester and Crumpsall.
In preparation for the event, ME and MSM will be bringing women from the organisation and from the wider community together to attend a collaborative workshop to produce creative zines that will be available to purchase at these events.
Anyone who wishes to participate and who identifies as a woman is welcome to attend these workshops which will be held in the Methodist Central Hall every Thursday 11am-12pm in the run up to International Women's Day.
The workshop will be run by Sophia Gardiner, Migrant Echoes' project worker and visual artist.
If you would like more information on the workshops, please contact her at sophie(at)migrantsupport.org.uk
[PLEASE NOTE: If you are unable to attend the workshops, you are also free to send in any submission you write/make to the above email address. You are also encouraged to bring along your own materials to contribute to the zines]
You can find the Facebook event page here.
Podcast: Sarah Ayub talks #TraditionallySubmissive and Dianne Ngoza talks about her life as a migrant rights campaigner
We invited blogger, writer and MPACUK member, Sarah Ayub, to discuss the recent response to David Cameron's alleged comments regarding Muslim women which caused a strong reaction on social media.
After the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party announced that there would be funding for English Language programmes- specifically aimed at Muslim women to combat 'extremism', suggesting that Muslim women are 'traditionally submissive' and therefore more at risk of being 'radicalised', the Muslim women of twitter were not going to take his comments lying down.
#TraditionallySubmissive saw Muslim women of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds boasting of their achievements. Many held up signs listing degrees and hobbies that subvert the stereotype of the 'submissive' Muslim female.
Sarah Ayub discussed her concerns how such a mainstream political figure could make such harmful statements; "The link to extremism is what's worrying. He said himself- and he's contradicting himself- that learning English or language barriers lead to extremism."
"It was a very irresponsible comment for a Prime Minister to make."
Ayub also discussed the origins of these stereotypes and how the media perpetrates these images of Muslims that fuels racism and Islamophobia.
"A large responsibility also lies with some fragments of the media, where they show Islam and Muslims to be of a certain type, where they like to have a certain type of Muslim to show that this is what Muslims are like and that type of Muslim is always the really extreme, really conservative sort of Muslim and when that type of Muslim is depicted in the media, that is all that people see."
Meanwhile, Dianne Ngoza, a migrant rights campaigner originally from the Congo discussed her work with an impressive myriad of organisation in Greater Manchester including MiSol, United For Change, Women Asylum Seekers Together and City of Sanctuary as well as discussing her own experience as a migrant 'in limbo' in the UK.
You can hear the full podcast episode on Soundcloud.
Wednesday 20th January 2016
14.00 - 16.00
Central Methodist Hall
Migrant Echoes are hosting another induction for all prospective volunteers! If you're interested in volunteering with us and gaining valuable experience with our media project, feel free to join us!
We will be looking at interview techniques, audio recording, film, editing and more!
For further information just contact sophie(at)migrantsupport.org.uk
Migrant Echoes are looking for volunteers who are interested in podcasts, interviewing, presenting, editing and also journalism, writing and other forms of information sharing and creative initiative that can help us raise the voices of migrant communities around the North West and discussion migration issues for a migrant audience.
Currently Migrant Echoes is creating regular podcast interviews to be streamed on Soundcloud, exploring issues such as hate crime, rights in the workplace, the refugee crisis, visas and integration.
The podcasts are recorded in our studios on Oldham Street in the centre of Manchester in the English language, featuring interviews with members of various migrant and ethnic communities in the North West as well as speakers from organisations and public bodies to discuss issues affect the migrant population in the North West of England.
If you are interested in volunteering with us, we have an upcoming Volunteer Induction Session on 16th December, and then again in the new year on 20th January.
To request an application or for more information on volunteering roles with Migrant Echoes, simply email sophie(at)migrantsupport.org.uk or come along to the induction on the 16th December.
WEDNESDAY 16th DECEMBER 2015
14.00 - 16.00
CENTRAL METHODIST HALL
(Just a minute away from Piccadilly Gardens)
We are pleased to announce the start of Migrant Echoes, a new media project committed to raising the voices of migrant communities around the North West!
We will be distributing information about Migrant Echoes on 28th November 2015 at the Migrants Supporting Migrants 'Latin Night' fundraiser in Whalley Range, Manchester.
Tickets for the event can be purchased here, or you can purchase your ticket at the door or book your place for £7. Each ticket includes free meal.
For information about this event and about Migrant Echoes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
7.00pm - 11.30pm, St Margarets Centre C of E Church, Rufford Rd & Whalley Rd, Whalley Range, M16 8AE.