In this post, Hannah Milton reviews the recent performance of 'Still We Rise' by Women Asylum Seekers Together and Manchester Migrant Solidarity who performed at the Zion Arts Centre in Hulme, Manchester.
Last Wednesday, members of Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) and Manchester Migrant Solidarity (MISOL) came together for a presentation of song, dance, drama and spoken work in "Still We Rise", a moving tale of the tragic struggle of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK made bearable by the collective.
The performance was peppered with powerful soul singing, demonstrating the powerful African roots of their vocal coach. The songs were descriptive of the situations the women found themselves in, and whilst many were in English, several women performed in their native languages; a nice touch allowing for the free celebration of the diversity of identities and cultures in the room, all united in support of each other.
Through the means of theatre, the women acted, danced and sang their stories onto the scene. The audience heard moving tales of exploitation, abuse and discrimination, played out across the unfair stage of the British Immigration System, with its unfeeling bureaucracy and ever-worsening reforms. An already emotional atmosphere was made all the more poignant by the announcement that one of the WAST members had lost her daughter that very same day provoking a minute's silence at the start of the show.
A number of issues were touched on, ranging from the day to day humiliation of failed attempts to pay with the government issue AZURE card (http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Advocacy/Refugees/Azure-payment-card) – the only “money” asylum seekers are entrusted with, to the ominous threat of the detention centre. For many of these women, being sent to a detention centre is an ever present threat; essentially a prison camp for them and their children where the majority of the possible futures hold little hope, and all are uncertain.
Towards the end of the play, scenes of protest were played out as the women recalled their experiences rallying against Yarl’s Wood detention centre, infamous for the abuse carried out there against vulnerable women who often arrive having fled persecution in their countries of origin. A powerful chant of “SHUT DOWN YARL’S WOOD!” was followed by the more emotive, but no less impassioned chorus, “We want Rosa to stay… Not today, not tomorrow, but forever.”
At its heart, the show came across as tragically honest, detailing the mistreatment of immigrants and asylum seekers under our current political system showing not only the many faces of desperation which result from these scenarios, but also the underlying determination and strong will of those who will not be beaten, even in the hands of a system which is designed to make them lose. Despite the challenges they face, these women come out fighting and resolute. United they will strive to better their lives and those of their families.
For more information on WAST or MISOL, or to find out how you can help visit their websites:
Sad news for refugees in Greece.
Deportation of refugees from Greece to Turkey begins today under the EU deal. According to this agreement people who apply for asylum in Greece and have their applications refused, will be returned to Turkey. Today 200 migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were sent back to Turkey.
One reason behind this deal is to stop human trafficking across the Aegean and The Mediterranean and therefore to stop death toll in the most deadliest sea crossings. It has been said that so far this year, the death toll has climbed at an even faster rate than over the same period in 2015. However, following the belated decision by Europe’s leaders in late April to reinstate an effective search and rescue mission, this has for the time being been stemmed.
Those migrants who are attempting this perilous journey to Europe mainly come from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia and Nigeria. But by far the single largest number by nationality is Syrian.
The EU is paying Turkey more than £4 billion over the next three years to contain 2.5 million refugees. However the deal to send people back across the Aegean Sea has been fiercely criticised by rights groups on ethical grounds. The Spectator leading article reiterates that ” the problem, is that Turkey is being offered more than money. The EU, in its desperation, says that within a few months it will offer Turkey’s 77 million citizens the ability to travel to any of its 28 member states without the need for a visa. Worse, it will fast-track Turkey’s application to become a full member of the EU — and turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses of Recep Erdogan’s regime. Not that he wants to join the EU: he just wants to show his domestic audience that can behave how he likes, lock up who he likes, and have the EU eating out of his hand.”
This article was originally featured on Fereshteh's blog. You can see the original article here.
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.
"How will the £35,000 income threshold for non-EU citizens settling in the UK affect you? Is the introduction of the income threshold affecting your future plans? How will the introduction of the income threshold affect your business, workplace and/or community?" 
Today Stop35K, a campaign that began in response to the UK government's plans to raise the threshold for Tier 2 Skilled Workers, is urging everyone to tell their story on Parliament's facebook page before the 35K debate goes to parliament.
On the front of their campaign website, Stop35K explains:
"Tier 2 General Skilled Workers who do not make £35,000 salary or who have been in the UK for 6 years, will need to leave or be deported.
The plans have naturally caused great concern for many individuals and families who have or are related to migrants who fail to meet this narrow criteria and who have already been long settled in the UK.
"If you are a skilled worker in the UK, your legal status depends on your Tier 2 Skilled Worker visa. This work visa usually expires after 5 years, after which you must either leave the UK or apply for settlement (known as Indefinite Leave to Remain or ILR). From this April, if you apply for settlement then you need to earn over £35,000. If you earn less than this, you will not be allowed to remain in the UK even if you have lived here for years, contributing to the UK culture and economy."
There has already been a huge turn out on the UK Parliament facebook page which has been designated for the public to share their stories on before the debate goes to parliament. Some of the most recent examples include:
"This is really amazing, I am an immigrant and have been working in the NHS for the past 14years, till date my salary as a band 7 nurse is £32,000. So please tell me how you expect this people to earn £35,000 within a year, when a government organisation is paying this low. This is indirect discrimination in a developed country. And it's an unfair way of dealing with migrants who are willing to contribute to the economy of UK as these people are not entitled to any social benefits and also restricted in what they can do earn more" - Bukky Omopariola
"NHS pharmacists are not on the protected list and do not earn that sort of money until many years into their careers. We can't recruit enough as it is and now the government are going to deport my colleague?" - Sarah Reed
"I am currently teaching at a university in China and met my American boyfriend - a teacher - here two years ago. I'd like to one day move back home with him but although we of course both plan to find full-time jobs; the realities of the sort of salary he could expect to make as a full time teacher and the fact that my salary is not even included in the £35k calculations means that even if I have a job with a significantly higher salary this policy would make it almost impossible for me to move long-term back to the UK." - Rachel Ashe
"What about Non-EU university students? They're one of the biggest sources of revenue for British Universities with extremely restricted after-graduation working rights. That's preposterous! Great Britain's progress is BECAUSE OF IMMIGRANTS not DESPITE them." - Neel Deshpande
"I have three university degrees and work in the international development sector, where very few jobs pay over £35 000. I support myself comfortably and present no burden whatsoever to the UK system, but this rule means that soon I will be forced to leave my home, my partner and my job. This £35k threshold determines the worth of an individual based solely on income rather than contribution to society, which is not just inhumane -- it's shortsighted." - Megan Daigle
The Petition Committee has scheduled a debate on a petition about this issue on Monday 7 March. Tell Parliament how this would affect you by commenting on their facebook page by midnight on Thursday 3 March.
Your comments will then be shared with MPs and used to help inform the debate.
The Dublin Law - The government wants to maintain the right to deport asylum-seekers to the first EU country they arrive in
The Dublin Law is being challenged in court in several cases where lawyers are battling against the government's use of the legislation.
The Dublin Law means that the UK can deport asylum-seekers and refugees back to the first EU country that they enter, with issues such as individuals facing continued persecution in the first EU country of entry being put forward.
The Guardian reported how one Syrian refugee arrived in the UK to join his family, but was threatened with deportation to Italy when the police found that he had already been fingerprinted and processed there.
In the article by Harriet Grant, the Syrian national (who is given the alias Ahmad) describes his experience of brutality at the hands of Italian police in Rome as well as his violent forced deportation back to Italy on the orders of the Home Office; "They tied me up with straps and four men took me on to the plane crying and screaming, including a doctor because I said I was going to kill myself.”
“I pleaded with them to send me back to Syria, I told them I would rather die than go back to Italy,” he said. “In Rome, the police held me down and beat me to get my fingerprints and I slept on the street. But they say this is the European law, you must go to Italy.”
Campaigners against the Dublin Law insist that the regulation puts pressure on services in these countries that are already spread very thin, but also endangers vulnerable people and separates families already struggling to reunite.
The Home Office as usual, responded with; “The UK has a proud history of offering protection to those who need it,” the spokesperson said. “Each case is considered on its individual merits and in line with the rules, but we will not shoulder the burden of asylum claims which should rightly be processed by other countries.” They denied that they send any individual back to unsafe countries where they are in danger of persecution.
Maurice Wren of Asylum Aid insisted; “It’s wholly inappropriate that at a time when the rest of the EU is working together to relocate arrivals away from the countries on Europe’s borders whose asylum systems appear to be dysfunctional, Britain is trying to send asylum seekers back there.”
Is the UK not taking on it's fair share of refugees?
Since the refugee crisis escalated with continued conflict in the Middle East and the spread of persecution and poverty in countries such as Eritrea, European countries have been floundering with how to cope with the new arrivals, with many other EU countries pointing out that the UK has not taken on it's fair share of refugees, and that countries such as Greece, Italy and Germany are struggling to maintain their services, and have seen the rise in power and popularity of far-right groups and calls to turn back the boats and crude 'deterrents' such as prosecuting tourists and coastal denizens who attempt to help rescue refugees arriving by boat from North Africa.
Italy has been the main country that has received requests to return refugees and asylum-seekers. The Guardian reported that "last year, the UK made just over 2,000 requests to transfer asylum seekers to another EU country under the Dublin regulations, although only about a quarter of those requests ended in a removal within that time period." 
Angelino Alfano, Italy's Internal Affairs Minister insisted that the Dublin Law "does not reflect reality and called the requirement of asking for asylum in migrants’ country of entrance a “complete absurdity.”
"Alfano said that both Italy and Greece can no longer pay the price for the “constant flow” of refugeess across Europe. If the situation is not changed, Europe will face even greater problems"
“I think that two countries cannot pay the total bill alone. By saying it I mean neither Italy nor Greece can pay for the constant flow of immigrants, who run from atrocities in their home countries. If it continues this way, it will be an end of Europe" 
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.
News circulated this week that the EU is writing up legislation meaning that people who help to rescue drowning refugees will face prosecution, criminalising them as smugglers.
The news comes from Statewatch, who say that interior EU ministers were drawing up the plans to deter the flow of refugees trying to make the life threatening journey across the Mediterranean, many aiming to reach the shores of Greek Islands such as Lesvos, and southern Italy.
The Director of Positive Action in Housing, the refugee homelessness charity, Robina Qureshi, said in response in a recent statement: “If the EU plans to criminalise charities and volunteers who help refugees arriving on Lesvos or any of the Greek islands, does this mean that are also going to criminalise and arrest the UNHCR, OXFAM, Doctors of the World, Doctors of the World, International Rescue, the Spanish Lifeguards, the Greek Lifeguards, Ai Weiwei, Eric Kempson, Philippa Kempson, Ken Loach, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Corbyn, Trade unions, politicians, old age pensioners, students and medics as well? So they are going to let refugees drown and imprison the world’s humanitarians? And how will the history books record it. The fact is we have a growing movement of charities and volunteers from across the world who are in danger of being criminalised for doing the right thing and resisting the EU's de facto genocide of refugees. We are making a significant difference on the island by supplying funds for lifeguards, medical facilities and shelter, as well as doctors, volunteers, clothing and medical supplies. We need voices from across the world to speak out and challenge the EU’s secret plans. We are not going to stop helping.” 
Other public figures and commentators responded to the news with outrage at the notion of criminalising aid workers, volunteers and well-meaning public trying to assist refugees who have just overcome a harrowing, incredibly dangerous journey from the shores of North Africa, many calling for opposition to the plans and urging European citizens to continue to help vulnerable people who's lives are at risk.
"Landlords are now expected to act as Immigration Officers" the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants warns in recent report on the Government's 'Right to Rent' scheme
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has published a scathing report on the government's Right to Rent scheme, claiming the new legislation discriminates against migrants and BME individuals.
Saira Grant warned in a recent press release; “This scheme encourages discrimination and will create a hostile environment for all."
JCWI, who have been monitoring the scheme since it's pilot was launched last year, also warned that under the new scheme, landlords are forced to act as Immigration Officers; "We have no doubt that this scheme will cause confusion and place a significant burden on landlords who are now expected to take on the role of Immigration Officers. Local authorities, who are already under pressure due to funding cuts, will now find themselves burdened with more work."
"JCWI’s independent evaluation showed direct discrimination by landlords against those legally here but with complicated or unclear immigration status. These checks are also leading to increased racial profiling. Those who appear foreign or have foreign accents are finding it increasingly difficult to access tenancies."
Last year, JCWI reported "The Right to Rent checks form part of a package of measures intended to create a “hostile environment” for irregular migrants in the UK." 
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has conducted an independent evaluation of the Right to Rent scheme and has uncovered a number of negative impacts on tenants and landlords as a direct result of the scheme. The main findings are as follows:
The report also stated; "Landlords do not agree with the scheme with 69% stating they should not be made to undertake these checks."
"The Government rushed through the nationwide roll out, without proper consideration of the evidence found in our independent evaluation, and even evidence disclosed by their own evaluation."
"The Home Office has responded to our concerns surrounding the scheme here but the response is inadequate."
Theresa May is looking to enforced further restrictions on migrant workers in the UK. From April 2016 non-EU migrants are required to be earning £35,000 to be able to remain in the UK regardless of the time they have spent here.
Holly Harwood has set up a 38 Degrees petition directed to Theresa May to overturn these destructive restrictions on migrant workers.
On the petition she states:
"This devastating new immigration rule must be stopped, as immigrants who have lived and worked in the UK for longer than 5 years should have the right to stay regardless of their income. We cannot allow this policy to happen, as it will split up families, jeopardise the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people and severely damage the economy. The Royal college of Nursing recently announced that this policy will cost the NHS MILLIONS because so many of it's nurses are non-EU migrants who earn under £35,000 and who will be deported under this policy. Recruiting new nurses will be time consuming and expensive, and will drain more of the money needed to save the NHS. Also, the average income for a UK born citizen is £26,600, so it is entirely unfair to deport immigrants who may earn more than the average UK born citizen, but less than £35,000. Please sign the petition to hopefully prevent this devastating policy from becoming reality"
Please sign the petition here.
Today's podcast features Nahella Ashraf, one of the leaders of Stand Up To Racism, an organisation campaigning against racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in Manchester and across the country.
In the wake of the attacks in the Middle East and Paris, Nahella explains how migrant communities suffer from racism and xenophobic policies and scapegoating.
"I don't think the scaremongering that we're seeing around the bombings in Paris is helping. You see this huge media frenzy around this idea that they could be Syrian refugees, it's a ridiculous idea that the Syrian refugees are involved in what happened in Paris, and even the Parisian authorities are saying they weren't involved, but it doesn't stop the press from linking the two together." Ashraf explained that equating Islam and refugees with terrorism makes their work harder. "It creates a fear in society as well, that isn't helpful for anyone."
Ashraf also talks about Stand Up To Racism's recent delegation to the Calais 'Jungle'. "It's not fit for anyone to be staying in." She stressed the importance of fundraising for the charities on the ground in Calais, but more importantly, to campaign against the government's policy to deny entry to the refugees.
"Our country's rich enough to take these people in, we can accommodate these people and we also have to take responsibility for some of the reasons why they're here." She cited conflicts in the Middle East that have been caused or exacerbated by Western interventionism and funding.
When discussing the similarities between current events we are seeing in the Middle East and World War 2, when many Western European countries and the US shut their borders to refugees fleeing the Third Reich. Nahella reminded us of the story of Anne Frank, who's family applied for a visa to flee to America "but because they decided that she might be a Nazi spy or a German spy, they didn't give her a visa- it's very similar to what we're seeing with the refugees in Calais presently."
When asked if a rise in hate crime was expected in the wake of the attacks, as well as the 'refugee crisis', she said "there's no denying the fact that what we've seen in Paris has resulted in people feeling more suspicious about Muslims and about refugees and the 'other' within society, and we have seen more attacks on individuals- especially on women out and about - and this isn't out and about in dark corners late at night, we're talking very much out in the open on public transport." She also advised that people who see or are the target of hate crime should report incidents to the police "I understand why they don't, because a lot of people don't trust the authorities right now, but it's important that it's reported and we hold our police force to account and say what have you done about this?!"
Ashraf stressed the importance of 'pushing back' when the media spreads misinformation that targets migrant and faith groups, whether through complaining, fundraising, protesting or boycotting, citing the campaign against The Sun after the Hillsborough disaster as an example; "Up to this day, the people of Liverpool don't buy The Sun, it's not delivered in Liverpool, it's not in any of their shops."
She emphasised the importance of independent media and social media in the fight against mainstream misinformation; "social media has a massive influence on what people think, and see, and learn about these issues. So when the media goes on about stuff like, you know, there's been a passport found near one of the bombers in Paris, the amount of people on social media that will say, so what? He blew himself up and the passport survived? It's really interesting that the narrative that the media is trying to put out there can be countered by social media. It's that independent media that's absolutely key, if we support our independent media, it sends a clear message to the establishment that we're not going to buy into their poor journalism."
Migrant Echoes also spoke to Roxana, a young Roma woman from Romania, who tells her story of migrating to Manchester and growing up the past few years in Greater Manchester.
"I'd been living in a place called Slobozia, it's a really nice place, it's just that we can't get proper work there, and the education is not as good as here."
"I'd first been in France, I stayed there for two years- Spain, for two years and something... then I was coming here." Roxana explained her family chose to come to Manchester as they already had lots of relatives residing in the area. "Manchester is a really nice place, we like it. This is the reason. The people are really friendly. I have lots of friends here."
When asked about the political scapegoating of new Eastern European Migrants, Roxana denied that she or her family had experienced hate crime.
"No, everyone here are good people. I like Manchester. When we first arrived, people were helping us with getting into schools."
"They were just helping us when we need something. I never get this like... 'go back to your country' or something."
Roxana highlighted the importance of education in her life, explaining her desire to attend university to study drama and her own enthusiasm for writing and performing arts, and her wish that other young people in her community will pursue education in the future; "for my culture, I just want them to be in the place with everyone. I want them to be able to do what they want. Especially the girls and the boys that are in education."
She agreed it was important for people to hear stories from her community "because people think that Gypsy tradition is strict tradition, but that's not right. That is why I made that play about Roma people."
You can listen to the full podcast here>>>