Beatriz Martínez: Latin Americans are fighting for visibility - and all migrants should celebrate

GMT 16:13 Wednesday ,18 December 2013

 Migrant Voice - Beatriz Martínez: Latin Americans are fighting for visibility - and all migrants should celebrate

Beatriz Martínez

Latin Americans in the UK reached an important milestone last month, but how can it benefit the whole migrant community in UK? Have you ever taken the 133 bus from Streatham to Liverpool Street Station early in the morning? The route offers an insight into the lives of many Latin Americans as it traverses the two boroughs in London with the densest Latin American population and takes them from their homes to their jobs in the City, many of them as cleaners. When most of us are still snoozing our alarm clocks, these immigrants are already en route to Central London to start their work day. Latin Americans live, work, socialise, buy, vote and take their children to school in places all around the UK. What can be an obvious statement for all of us, becomes blurry for local Authorities. Until last year no British Council considered Latin Americans as an ethnic group, instead they were categorised as “Others” in the statistics. This is although around 186,500 Latin Americans live in the UK with an 85% employment rate, mainly in low-paid and precarious jobs, according to the No the Longer Invisible report. As Latin Americans have been saying for years, not being able to monitor the size of their community in the UK makes it very difficult to ascertain their needs and create or manage services accordingly. Ethnic monitoring aims to gather data and information from all ethnicities that form a population and design politics and resources to tackle inequalities among them.  According to Lucila Granada, Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator at CLAUK (Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK), the current ethnic monitoring system is faulty because it needs “an updated mapping of London's diversity and for a better representation of all minority groups.” However, last November the Latin American community saw two important victories, signaling a change for the better. Firstly, Lambeth Council agreed to include Latin Americans as an ethnic minority in its census and official documents, as Southwark Council had done only one year before. Secondly, cleaners at London University - the majority of them migrants and amont them many Latin Americans - managed to improve their working conditions and increase their salaries, after 2 days of strike. Can this achievement be applied in a more general struggle for migrant rights? We asked Lucila Granada and her answer was affirmative: “Lambeth Council is committing to start reaching out to our community but is also demonstrating willingness to adapt their frameworks to include newer groups”. In her opinion “Recognition implies including these groups, not only by monitoring their access to services but also by acknowledging their social, economical, cultural and linguistic contribution.” Latin Americans’ struggle for their rights has already started and it could be an example of community empowerment for other migrant communities all over the UK. Where this fight will take them is yet to be seen, but no one can deny Latin Americans are on the right track. Beatriz Martínez is Online Community Administrator at Sharehoods. Sharehoods is a global platform that aims to make easier for migrants to settle in a new county by creating local micro-communities, enabling people with shared origins to connect directly with their peers. Today Sharehoods is available for the United Kingdom in Arabic, English, French, Romanian, Polish and Spanish and offers both a peer-to-peer platform and a wide variety of information for new, as well as already settled migrants. In 2014, Sharehoods will follow its sister site Migreat and offer its services in France, Italy, the United States, Germany and Spain.   Photo: A delegation of Latin American charities presenting the deputation for recognition to Lambeth Council    


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