Speaking for Ourselves

We launch 'Migration. Making Britain Great' in Birmingham

We launch 'Migration. Making Britain Great' in Birmingham


 Migrant Voice - We launch 'Migration. Making Britain Great' in Birmingham

A Cameroonian asylum-seeker who plays football and loves watching motor-racing. An Iranian woman who said she has no sporting ability but then casually mentioned a fascination with mountaineering. An Iraqi Kurd who has won “love and respect wherever I go in Britain” for his Mixed martial arts (MMA) skills. 

They were just three of the participants at the launch of Migrant Voice’s 'Migration. Making Britain Great' project activities in the West Midlands last week.

The project, which is a partnership with Imix and Show Racism the Red Card, aims to challenge and address many of the myths surrounding migrants and to use sport to tell positive stories about migration and challenge racism and xenophobia.

Top-level footballers from abroad playing for English teams, Migrant Voice director Nazek Ramadan told the meeting in Birmingham, were popular figures but the public didn’t think of them as migrants. Talking about sports’ stars was a way of “drawing people into conversations with us and when people listen to us, hear from us as people, they change their view of us as migrants.”

Sporting role models were important, she emphasised, a point illustrated by Ged Grebby, Chief Executive of Show Racism the Red Card. He recalled how a famous football goalkeeper, Shaka Hislop, who played for both England and Trinidad and Tobago, was racially abused outside his own team’s stadium in Newcastle. When he turned to confront his abusers, they stopped in their tracks and one called out to his mates, “Wait a minute! It’s Shaka Hislop.”

Grebby also noted that the 20 teams in football’s premier division field players from 70 countries - a migrant presence as great in sporting terms as the migrants who provide 50 per cent of the National Health Service workforce and 20 per cent of NHS doctors.

Gary Pluck, the West Midlands regional lead of IMIX, the third project partner, reiterated the importance of using the impact of sport in society to challenge negative images of migrants and migration: “We want to reach an audience we don’t usually reach. It’s about what migrants bring with them for the welfare of everyone.”

Koyar Kurdy, a Kurdish mixed martial arts (MMA) star, said that the beauty of sport was that it involved large numbers of people sharing an activity. When he found a gym after arriving in Britain and announced that he wanted to be a fighter, “everybody laughed” and one man told him, “You’ll change your mind when you get punched in the face.”

But he persevered, and attributes his subsequent successes to building “on my experiences, in Kurdistan and as a migrant here in UK. You’ve got to do it your own way,” he emphasised.

The Migration. Making Britain Great project will run a number of activities in 2024. Our next activity is our project launch event in Glasgow on 8 February, 2024. For more information about the project contact [email protected]

Get in touch

Migrant Voice
VAI, 200a Pentonville Road,
N1 9JP

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: [email protected]

Registered Charity
Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

Our Social Links

Sign up for our mailing list

For more information on how your data is stored and used please see our privacy policy