On the 27th of September, the IARS team, with the input of everyone involved, from academics, authors, activists, mental-health workers, journalists, organisations supporting refugees and migrants, as well as refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers themselves, successfully hosted the Move On Roundtable event on "Integrating migrants & refugees into the labour market” at Canada Water Library.

Our speakers, workshop presenters, and the IARS Women’s Advisory Board offered a powerful insight into the ways in which the integration of refugees and migrants are held back, and what needs to be done to overcome these barriers.

The key moments for many of those who attended the Roundtable, was hearing first-hand testimonies from migrant and refugee women from our Women’s Advisory Board, followed by the Q&A session chaired by Abdulwahab Tahhan, who is also a Syrian refugee and researcher at Airwars. This was a key part of the event for two main reasons. First, this session in particular was one of the most emotional and enlightening aspects of the event, bringing to life the challenges and personal stories refugee women have faced in attempting to navigate the UK system and integrate. Making a clear case for why debates platformed at Move On Roundtable need to keep happening.

Second, the journeys of the women showed a direct link to what was outlined by our keynote speakers Amanuel Woldesus (Integration and Development Manager at Migrants Resource Centre), Don Flynn (Former Director at Migrants’ Rights Network and past President of PICUM, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants) and Jill Rutter (Director of Strategy and Relationships at British Future, and Author of Moving up and getting on). The speakers laid strong foundations as to what integration really means, and put into perspective the definitive and systematic barriers that are faced by migrants evidenced with statistics. They persuasively identified the risks relating to such reality and presented alternatives to overcome such barriers as well as highlighted where support is available in regards to non-governmental organisations.

Having a diverse range of workshops delivered from professionals across the spectrum also meant that we were able to address an array of obstacles in light of integration. The selection of workshops allowed for a more productive and focused insight into areas which can often be ignored, or given little attention to in hindsight.

The workshops delivered at the Roundtable were as follows:

Dr. Panagiotis Pentaris (Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich), explored the not unlawful discrimination faced by migrants who wish to enter employment, addressing what subtle ways migrants are discriminated against, which the law does not cover;

Ruth Appleton (Founder of the Santé Project) and Sharif Muhammed (Asylum-Seeker) presented a workshop entitled ‘Current Challenges in Policy & Service Provision of Mental Health for Asylum-Seekers and Refugees in the UK’;

Aloysius Ssali’s (Founder of Say It Loud Community Support Group for LGBT refugees in the UK) workshop focused on working with LGBT Refugees, offering a unique insight into the challenges confronting LGBT refugee and migrant communities accessing employment;

Theodora Cadbury (Founder of Xenia) and Anna Aitken (Teacher with Xenia), gave a workshop entitled "Taking a step back to take a step forward - Integration and language learning in women-only spaces", which looked at what refugee and asylum seeking women need primarily before entering the labour market.

With more than 46 participants, 15 of whom were migrants or refugees, the event shared a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and theoretical angles. Our aim was to make the event as accessible as possible for everyone, and to bring numerous experts to the table in discussing the current challenges for migrants’ and refugees’ integration into the labour market, as well as sharing, developing and transferring effective practices, training and knowledge of professionals working with migrants and refugees.

Overall, event attendees provided a very good feedback on the Move On event. Participants particularly welcomed the opportunity to network with other professionals and organisations in the sector and expressed a desire to continue the conversation, to have more events like this where different initiatives, experiences and expertise can be exchange and opportunities for collaboration in the future can arise. Given such feedback from the audience, an open mailing list will be shared with all event participants whereby an informal network of organizations working on similar issues can be created to share information and collaborate in future projects.

Once again, a special thanks to everyone who attended and made the event an opportunity to bridge the gaps which hold so many refugees and migrants back!

The event presentations and more information about the MOVE ON project can be found here: http://www.moveonproject.org/roundtable-event-london/

More information on our speakers and the workshops are available to view at: http://www.iars.org.uk/content/speakers-workshops


This post was written by Dilara Efe, Equalities Projects Intern at the IARS International Institute