Migrant Support Centre opens in Bristol

Issue date: 06 December 2010


A one-stop shop which will help support Bristol's migrants is launching on Human Rights Day in the heart of St Paul's. The Migrant Rights Centre, Bristol is launching at 15:00 on Friday 10 December 2010 at the Pierian Centre, 27 Portland Square, St Paul's.

Run by a coalition of Bristol organisations and the Human Rights unit at the University of the West of England, the Centre will feature a drop-in, run every Friday morning, which will give on-the-spot support and referrals for migrants and their families in the city regarding employment, housing, legal or financial matters or any other situation where they may find themselves vulnerable.

The drop-in will be open from 10:00 to 12:00 on the 17 December and then every Friday from 7 January 2011.

Dr Christien van den Anker, Reader in Politics at UWE and one of the founders of the Migrant Rights Centre, said, “Together with charities and organisations in Bristol who work with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, we have identified several issues which make them vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, forced labour, forced marriage and other human rights violations. Many times migrants and their families have nowhere to turn for help and knowledge of their rights. The Migrant Rights Centre will do just that - provide support, advocacy and act as a social centre where migrants can come to share their stories."

Each week the drop-in will feature various support organisations including the Citizen's Advice Bureau, legal advice or a trained counsellor. This means that migrants will get the support they need on the day, without having to make a call or join a waiting list.

The Bristol Counter Trafficking Coalition developed the Migrant Rights Centre, which is modelled on a similar centre in Ireland. The coalition comprises a host of regional stakeholders aiming to collaborate in developing better responses to the contemporary forms of slavery including trafficking for forced labour. The centre achieved all-party support from Bristol City Council in January this year.

The Pierian Centre in Portland Square is the setting for the Migrant Rights Centre. June Burrough, founder director of The Pierian Centre and chair of City of Sanctuary, said “We're proud to be hosting the Migrant Rights Centre. Supporting human rights is core to our work of social inclusion – and this is a great opportunity to further our work with marginalised communities in Bristol.”

As well as the drop-in sessions, Bristol's Migrant Rights Centre also campaigns for the rights of migrants.

Dr van den Anker from UWE, said, “We will meet hundreds of migrants each month so we're in a good position to understand the issues they face, and the gaps in the provision of services for them. All migrants have rights. Even those who are undocumented and do not have secure permission to stay and work in the UK should have access to proper working conditions and adequate pay, healthcare, counselling and education. All migrants have the right to a life free of discrimination, fear, destitution and isolation - and the Migrant Rights Centre Bristol is working towards this goal.”

Refugee Action Area manager Elinor Harris said, "Refugee Action works with people fleeing persecution who have made claims for asylum in the UK. However we see people coming to our door who have found themselves in situations outside of the asylum systems who are also living with enormous levels of fear. They have often lost jobs, homes, family connections or safety, and are experiencing exploitation, abuse and danger which many of us in Bristol would not think existed on our doorsteps.

“The Migrant Rights Centre will help to fulfil the huge need for information, advice, and support for some of the most dispossessed and marginalised people living in our City, and we're grateful to UWE and the Pierian Centre for such practical action."

The launch will feature a panel of speakers including Cllr Sue O'Donnell, the Chair of Community Cohesion and Safety Scrutiny Commission, Dr van den Anker and Caroline Beatty of Bristol Refugee Rights. Guests will also watch a pre-recorded video with a person talking about their experiences of being trafficked. The launch will finish with a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside of the Pierian Centre.

After the launch guests will be invited to a celebration and information evening at Newton Hall, organised by Bristol Refugee Rights, Bristol Defend the Asylum Seekers Campaign, Bristol City of Sanctuary and St Nicholas Tolentino church. The evening will give guests a chance to find out about the UKBA's policy of returning asylum seekers to Afghanistan and Iraq and will include contributions from people in Bristol who are facing removal to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more information contact Jane Rogers on 0775 123 7049 or e-mail guccimiss@hotmail.com

ENDS

FFI: Jane Kelly or Mary Price, Press Officers

BRISTOL UWE

Tel: 0117 32 82208

E-mail: Jane.Kelly@uwe.ac.ukor Mary.Price@uwe.ac.uk

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