Speaking for Ourselves

Migration. Making Scotland Great: Creating positive change through the power of sport

Migration. Making Scotland Great: Creating positive change through the power of sport

Emma Padner

 Migrant Voice - Migration. Making Scotland Great: Creating positive change through the power of sport

On Thursday 8 February, Migrant Voice held a bustling event at the Glasgow City Chambers launching our ‘Migration. Making Scotland Great’ activities in the region. The event, which focused on exploring the ways in which we can use the power of sport to change how immigration is talked about, brought together a diverse group of migrants as well as representatives of local sport and wellbeing organisations, statutory bodies, and political representatives.

Migration: Making Scotland Great, is a campaign created in collaboration between Migrant Voice, Show Racism the Red Card and IMIX.

Nazek Ramadan, the Director of Migrant Voice, who chaired the event, spoke of her belief in how, through working together, we can make diverse migrant voices heard to challenge the hostile rhetoric around migration. The audience members had a chance to later share their ideas on how this could be achieved, and several of these suggestions will be developed and published through a series of our signature ‘Media Lab’ sessions with training in a number of media skills, the first of them taking place on 5 March.

The ‘Migration: Making Scotland Great' event commenced with seven guest speakers, all involved in migrants rights, sport or politics, sometimes linking all three.

Imagine that for one day in the UK, everyone who migrated to the country disappeared... Billy Singh, Campaigns Manager for Show Racism the Red Card, called upon a room of about 100 people to imagine the chaos and disorder that would follow a switch where all migrants were gone.

“We all know that migrants make such a massive contribution to our country, and that will continue,” Singh said. “We’ve got to fight the fight, we’ve got to get that message out there to tackle that xenophobia, that anti-migrant rhetoric that's out there.”

Elahe Ziai, the head of Voice at IMIX, a charity focusing on changing the way migration is discussed in the UK, said the campaign hoped to alter the views of the 50% of people who are undecided on their views of migration in the UK.

Like Singh, she emphasized how vital educating children and young people is to promoting positive views and stories about migration to the public and policy makers. It can spark conversations at home between children and parents, and give them knowledge and a perception they may not have reflected on in the past.

“This campaign is trying to educate and influence those children so that they can teach their parents,” Ziai said. “This campaign is not about how or why they came to the UK, it's about what they bring, their contribution.”

For a first-hand perspective of the relationship migration and sport holds, Razgar Hassan and Mahnoor Sultan Campbell shared their stories. Both Hassan, the Chief Executive of Outdoors For You, a charity focusing on reconnecting people and nature, and Sultan Campbell, a founder and cycling coach at Women on Wheels, a charity that serves as a cycling hub for women in Glasgow, share a passion for the outdoors, and are migrants from Iraqi Kurdistan and Pakistan, respectively.

When Hassan migrated to the UK in 2001, he searched for a way to be outdoors and help bridge the gap between mental and physical wellbeing. He founded Outdoors for You in 2018 as an answer for himself and other migrants, locals and community members.

Outdoors for You hosts group sports like football, volleyball and running, holds outdoor hiking and camping trips and plans tree planting and litter picking events to promote nature, sport and recreation and eco-friendly lifestyles in the city.

Hassan showed photos of Outdoor for You groups and reminisced on running the Great Scottish Run with some members this past October. For many migrants, running in a new city can promote a sense of community, he said.

"That is a great thing to come to a country, be part of a run and feel you belong to the city,” Hassan added.

Sultan Campbell shared her journey from not being able to cycle at 40-years-old to coaching for Women on Wheels, which has taught over 150 women how to cycle in Glasgow.

As a young girl growing up in Pakistan, she hiked and trekked, but was not allowed to cycle because she was a girl.

“But the thing is, if you don't have something, you don't miss it,” Sultan Campbell said “So I never knew cycling was something that I needed to do.”

Women on Wheels works to address the domination of white males in cycling by promoting women riding through adult classes, bike maintenance courses, refugee specific lessons and family lessons.

She emphasized the power and independence cycling provides people. Like Hassan, she believes cycling can bridge the gap between mental health and physical wellbeing and is passionate about linking migration with sport.

The audience also heard about the work of Achieve More Scotland, who work with up to 1500 young people each week. Through sport and dance, they strive to lead and empower children and young people from Scotland’s most deprived communities to enhance life chances.

Last but not least was the former Hibernian, Bournemouth and Burnley midfielder, Marvin Bartley, now manager at Queen of the South, who spoke of the unjustified and unnecessary ongoing demonizing of migrants , and how throughout his footballing career he has been part of a truly multinational community. “We have 49 different nationalities playing in Scotland. That is a cause for celebration and long may it continue."

The event ended with a discussion among the participants, reflecting on how we can all come together to help influence public opinion of migrants in a positive way, by showcasing their stories. In particular the discussion focused on how we can tell the stories of the impact migrants make in sport and how sport brings communities together and build on the ways this affects people’s perceptions of migrants.

Participants spoke on the importance of sport as a sense of community and belonging, especially when arriving in a new country, as well as having diverse positive role models to look up to and seeing stories similar to one's own reflected in the mainstream media.

Sport has the power to promote all of these factors.

At the beginning of the evening, Rosa Salih, Bailie and City Councillor, spoke passionately about the joy she felt speaking to a diverse group. Salih is the first refugee elected to Glasgow City Council and she felt like she was home when she saw the group, and felt inspired about the hard work happening in the Glasgow community.

She emphasized the power of sport as community, culture and diversity. Because sport is such a large part of Glasgow’s culture and identity, it is fitting for the event to be hosted there, Salih added.

“Now is the time for wisdom, level heads, and constructive dialogue and genuine desire to bring harmony within and across our communities,” Salih said.

Get in touch

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

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: info@migrantvoice.org

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

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