GUEST POST BY FERESHTEH MOZZAFARI - 20.2.2016
Have you ever seen a refugee cat? Well I have known one recently thanks to Guardian.
According to the Guardian’s story, Kunkush the cat has become a refugee in Norway. Kunkush who separated from its Iraqi family on the way to Europe, was found and fostered in Berlin, where an international online search was co-ordinated in the hope of reuniting him with his family.
What the video:
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.
British Medical Journal: New proposals make the NHS the most restrictive healthcare system in Europe for undocumented migrants
The Department of Health is planning to extend charges on migrants into emergency departments and primary health services. Medics and researchers writing for the British Medical Journal have warned:
"Although the government asserts that the NHS is “overly generous to those who have only a temporary relationship with the UK,” these proposals will make the NHS a highly restrictive healthcare system for migrants to access care and treatment. Of particular concern is the effect on the thousands of undocumented migrants living without legal status in the UK, who are often marginalised, vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and have poor health outcomes." 
There has an outpouring of concern for how these measures will affect the thousands of undocumented individuals living in the UK without legal status.
The Migrants' Rights Network welcomed the BMJ group's conclusions, stating:
targeting undocumented migrants raises concerns because many of them will be unable to pay. The policy also has implications for both individual and public health and run contrary to other national strategies, including engaging high risk migrant groups in screening for latent tuberculosis. 
The BMJ report also stated:
The 2013 consultation, which launched the NHS visitor and migrant cost recovery programme, was framed in the context of restricting services and making the UK a “hostile environment” for undocumented migrants. It was debated alongside the 2014 Immigration Bill, described by the Migrants’ Rights Network as “the most draconian challenge to the rights of migrants, and the communities they live in, for a generation.” Phases 1-3 of the 2014-16 implementation plan have so far introduced incentives for services to identify chargeable patients, piloted the recovery of costs for European economic area (EEA) nationals, and introduced a 150% tariff in secondary care for non-EEA nationals and the immigration health surcharge. In addition, information sharing is now taking place between the NHS and Home Office systems to improve the identification of chargeable migrants and for immigration enforcement.
The group also insisted that as well making the UK's system incredibly restrictive and putting off migrants and undocumented individuals from seeking much needed healthcare, the new measures are also unworkable, as has been proved in other countries where such measures were implemented:
What is alarming in this latest consultation is the commitment to expand charging into emergency services. For many undocumented migrants, the emergency department represents their only source of government funded primary and secondary healthcare, alongside limited provision from non-governmental organisations such as Doctors of the World; for some vulnerable migrants,including victims of trafficking, the emergency department provides a safe and anonymous place to present. Migrants in the UK already face known barriers to registering with primary care services, leaving them few options. Currently, most other European countries allow undocumented migrants to access free care through emergency departments. In Spain and Sweden, where more restrictive access arrangements were introduced, the governments subsequently reversed the decision because they were unworkable and excluding migrants from healthcare and screening created numerous health risks.
Doctors of the World also released a briefing opposing the charges.
Read the full briefing here.
The BMJ article called for 'robust research' to be carried into the cost effectiveness and health implications of expanding charging systems further, before implementation.
The government should refrain from making policy decisions to address the NHS’ financial problems based on populist reactions, through targeting undocumented migrants for charging, rather than on robust evidence.
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.
GUEST POST BY FERESHTEH MOZZAFARI - 3.2.2016
I have been watching Shappi ( Shaparak) Khorsandi on youtube tonight. Shappi introduce herself as “an Iranian refugee”. She and her family were forced to flee from Iran after the Islamic Revolution following the publication of a satirical poem her father composed. He is a well-known comedian in Iran.
Shappi has graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Drama, Theatre and Television, then moving on to pursue a career in comedy. She has won many prizes and one of them for her charity works. She has also published her book ” A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English” in July 2009. The book describes the way in which young Khorsandi experienced England as a young girl. The narrative begins with her attending nursery school, The Kings’ International Nursery School, with her brother, Peyvand. Throughout the book, she explains the ways in which the Iranian language differs from English: “They called me ‘poppet’. Iranians said ‘jaan’ or ‘azizam’.” She also expresses pride in how her father took English classes and was praised for his affinity with the written word, though she also felt he was able to be more humorous in Farsi. Other themes include her experiences with English food and customs, the war between Iran and Iraq, and the hostilities that she and her family encounter–she notes, for example, having been referred to as a terrorist.
Watch her selected clip from Apolo:
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.
Hate Crime Awareness week starts from 8th February till 14th February.
Manchester City Council defines Hate Crime on it's website as:
any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s characteristic or perceived characteristic including:
You can see more information about reporting hate crime to 'third party reporting centres' here.
In one of our first Migrant Echoes Podcasts we discussed tackling hate crime with Greater Manchester's Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner, Jim Battle:
"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."
WATCH: Football players in Greece delay match with sit-down protest against 'brutal indifference' of migrant deaths
AEL Larissa and Acharnaikos players (and coaches) staged a sit-down protest consisting of two-minutes of silence at kick-off to show solidarity with refugees crossing the Mediterranean to escape the Middle Eastern conflicts. On Saturday, 39 migrants were killed while attempting to reach safety in Europe.
The protest was called to highlight the 'brutal indifference' of EU and Turkish authorities to the plight of refugees taking the dangerous voyage.
The protest has gained international attention as the video of the players engaged in two minutes of silence to remember refugee children who have been killed crossing from North Africa has been shared across the media.
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.