This Sunday is International Migrants Day with the UN calling on the international community to take action to ensure that migration issues are taken more seriously. IARS has been working on migration issues for a number of years to help improve the support offered to those who have migrated so that they are supported in a more effective and dignified way. Our projects are user led, meaning the those benefiting from our work are also the ones helping to decide  what to focus on and what form the projects should take. Our aim is to empower those who have been disempowered by both their past experiences and how may still be going through.

For example our Gender Justice and Empowerment  project seeks to support and empower refugee and asylum seeking women in relation to their rights around victimisation. Even after leaving some harrowing experiences in their home country many women suffer abuse and exploitation when they get to the UK.

Bola (not her real name) one of the members of our Women’s Advisory Board was a victim of FGM, and her mother had made a deal to sell her to be married off back in Nigeria. Thankfully for her another family member intervened and brought her to the UK. However shortly after she got to the UK the family member who brought her to the UK stole her passport and kicked her out onto the streets.  At this point Bola didn’t know what to do and was left to rely on support of people from a local church. Thankfully their kindness meant that Bola had somewhere to live, however like so many other women who have similar stories it was a few years before she understood that she could claim asylum. Even after she contacted a solicitor it took nearly 10 years for her to be granted her leave to remain in the UK.

The delay that Bola experienced is all too common and places women in her predicament in such a vulnerable position having to rely on support from those who may take advantage of them.  Shola (again not her own name), another woman IARS works with, told us recently how she stayed in an abusive relationship for years because she didn’t know where else to go. Despite Shola being trafficked to the UK it still took several years for the Home Office to approve her asylum claim.

This is why immigration is one the main issues we concentrate on at IARS.   Many of our projects focus on the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees once they arrive and begin to settle in the UK or other parts of Europe. Alongside working with migrant women, we support young migrants through our Abused No More project and are also starting to work with LGBT migrants, who are often discriminated against on multiple levels, through our Epsilon project.

 For more information on a projects on general, click here.