Speaking for Ourselves

'Integration: Everybody’s Business' – an International Migrants Day discussion

'Integration: Everybody’s Business' – an International Migrants Day discussion

Stavros Papagianneas & MV

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - 'Integration: Everybody’s Business' – an International Migrants Day discussion

On 17 December 2019, Migrant Voice organised a round table debate in London in collaboration with Moneygram’s Participate.Integration initiative, to celebrate International Migrants Day.

The debate – ‘Integration: Everybody’s Business’ – brought together migrant and British academics, journalists, communications experts and successful business people to share their valuable insights and to challenge the pervasive assumption that integration is a one-way street.

Around 30 people attended from many different backgrounds and had the chance to contribute their own thoughts in what became a lively, challenging discussion.

Those attending were also treated to the first showing of several films made during Migrant Voice’s Feel at Home project – funded by Moneygram – where migrants and Britons came together to explore and make short films about integration.

Introducing the round table, Migrant Voice Director Nazek Ramadan said, “We work, we pay taxes, we follow the law, we have friends and neighbours. The one thing that stops us feeling part of this country is the rhetoric, the narrative.”

Dr Roza Tsagarousianou, Reader in Media and Communication at Westminster University, shared her thoughts next, urging us to interrogate “the terms on which migrants are being asked to integrate and how that is being measured”.

Maya Goodfellow, journalist and author of Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats, made the link between cuts to public services as the result of austerity and the difficulties some migrants face when trying to “integrate”.

"We need to look at what is in place to support people who have come to the UK whether that be access to language classes, public services, or whether it be community spaces for people to get to know their neighbours," she said.

Rafael dos Santos, migrant entrepreneur and founder of the High Profile Club, had a more positive message – that successful integration is in the hands of each migrant.

“Integration is about recognising that you belong, picking the best of each culture, celebrating your success, following the rules,” he said.

Dr Federica Mazzara, Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Communication at the University of Westminster, spoke next, focusing on those migrants who don’t have the chance to even make it to the UK and instead lose their lives in the Mediterranean or elsewhere on their journey.

"We are implementing policies that are causing deaths on a daily basis,” she said. “We can't talk about integration until that is changed. And for that to happen, we must change the discourse."

Kate Boguslawska, partner at Carter Lemon Camerons LLP, supports entrepreneurs in the UK, many of whom are migrants. She spoke about the resilience of many migrants.

“Migrants have to work harder than locals to prove themselves. That's why so many are so successful.”

The final speaker was Stavros Papagianneas, Managing Director of StP Communications and author of "Rebranding Europe". He said: "There should be more investment in communicating the facts on migration and integration to unmask fake news. We need more focus on real people, real stories.”

The event was just one of several organised by Migrant Voice to celebrate International Migrants Day. The discussion was followed by a Media Lab, where participants created positive messages for the day through photos and short blogs, and a party where dozens of Migrant Voice members from all over the world came together to share food, stories and music.


TOP IMAGE: Integration, Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)