The United Nations describes migration as “a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life”(1), and it has always been an important part of Hackney’s history.
Today, over a third of Hackney residents were born outside the UK and at least 88 languages are spoken in the borough. That diversity is something that Hackney residents celebrate: a 2011 survey found that diversity and multiculturalism are the main factors contributing to residents feeling proud of Hackney (2). Migrants in Hackney are our neighbours, friends, teachers, doctors, firefighters, chefs, community workers and more, and have helped to make Hackney the vibrant and welcoming place it is today.
But for people who have moved to the UK, whether as asylum seekers, to work or to join family, migration can also bring challenges. For example:
Challenges in physical and mental health
This is despite migrants on average having better health when they arrive in the UK than British born people. The challenges in physical and mental health and wellbeing are linked to living in poverty, a lack of information about services available, distrust in the health system, social isolation, language barriers and anxieties about healthcare charging.
Created with the support of Hackney Refugee and Migrant Forum, the Migrant Support Network is a project of 12 migrant and refugee community organisations in Hackney, who work together to improve health and wellbeing services. They offer drop in advice services which help people address the welfare, immigration and housing problems that negatively impact on their health. They help migrants to understand their rights to healthcare in the UK and get registered with GPs. They run social activities from lunch clubs to karaoke to bring people together and tackle social isolation. And they offer training on healthy eating, exercise and managing common health conditions.
This group unites migrant-led organisations from across Hackney’s diverse communities, from Turkish and Kurdish to Chinese, African, Latin American and more. They are searching for ways that communities can work together to tackle health inequalities in the borough and make sure that health and wellbeing services available to migrants are strengthened and expanded. Each organisation in the network has different skills, expertise and resources that they are sharing to build a community safety net for migrants across the borough, wherever they come from.
Celebrating the contribution migrants make to Hackney
On International Migrants Day, as well as recognising the challenges faced by migrant communities in Hackney, it’s also time to celebrate the amazing work they are doing to make Hackney a healthier and happier place.
And don’t forget, you can nominate any community organisation for the Adiaha Antigha Awards, to recognise their work and impact in Hackney. Nominations are open until 10 January 2020. ?Nominate here
"Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family".