Original Link: http://ramfelspeaksout.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/ghostbusting-with-panorama-national-and.html
Ghostbusting with Panorama – National and Local debates on Immigration
We are months of from Halloween but obviously Panorama likes to get in quick. Whether imagined or real there are ‘ghosts’ within all communities, people who for one reason or another are forced to live in the shadows by the state apparatus that either conspires against them or is too incompetent to work with them.
There is good and bad in every community, but Panorama’s documentary ‘Immigration Undercover’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01q9vds
would have us believe that all migrants are bad, fused with an inner evil that makes them prone to criminality. We need to recognise that it is the state system that doesn’t recognise them emotionally, financially or politically that can in some cases force people into such behaviour.
There is so much said and written at the national level, both by government and the growing industry of ‘think tank’ organisation’s like British Future, who claim to be promoting integration, and a better understanding of immigration. However, it’s a different dialect and approach to working at the local level, which dare I say is where most of the work needs to be done, especially in the run up to next year’s local council elections in London and the general election in 2015.
Tweeting endlessly about immigration, does no one any favours, it is a closet group of concerned activists, who share reports and diatribes amongst their own. Reaching Joe and Joanne, or for that matter Jagdeep and Jana public is far more difficult.
After the last election a group of funders got together and formed what they called the ‘Changing minds’ initiative. Absolutely what was needed at the time and well meaning, interesting to see how such thinking has now become embedded at the national level but remains so disconnected from what is going on locally.
Immigration debates today at neighbourhood, ward meetings are not about the old issue of black and white racism they are as likely to be embodied with community tensions between different ethnic minority groups – a more complex system of Fugi’s and Freshies, ethnic minorities with rights and those with out.
So let’s take a local area like Ilford and look at what last night’s Panorama means at the local level.
First the facts about Ilford. The issue of street sleepers from the Asian community has been an issue for some time in the borough. There is an issue around prostitution in the area, but not as defined by the Madame in the programme. The council along with various other agencies have tried time and time again to ‘deal’ with the situations, but it is a stop and start approach, fuelled by a hesitancy and lack of resources, and a definite lack of leadership.
The street sleepers spend the day either at our offices, those of another local charity or opposite the local police station because that is where they feel safe. They come from all communities, and it is the best example of community cohesion and integration there is. Walk past the benches any time of the day or night and you will hear at least six or seven languages being spoken, and people joking and jostling with one another. To the outsider it can appear intimidating, can appear hostile, and alien, but that doesn’t make it criminal.
At the moment two shelters are being run in the borough to support these individuals the vast majority of whom are homeless. What is interesting about this is the way the local council chooses to support such activities. All the support and funding for the Cold winter Shelters locally is being ploughed into the Salvation Army (who are doing a fantastic and amazing job), however the council have said that they can’t and won’t support the main Gurdwara in the borough.
Reason because they work on the basis of Equal Opportunities! No we don’t understand it either.
At the moment RAMFEL is providing, (90% unfunded), legal advice services to those staying both at the Salvation Army and Gurdwara. There must be at least 100 people sleeping every night across both sites. So far we have been able to get 2 people into private housing, have another 11 awaiting for properties (both in an out of the borough) got two people into employment and training and helped six opt for voluntary return back to their country of origin, whilst another 3 have possible immigration applications that need to either be made or looked into.
Last time Panorama came to Ilford was about operation Norman, when it looked at the issue of child trafficking in the Romanian Roma community. At the time even the signs on the A12 saying Ilford scared the council senseless – what would this do to the reputation of Ilford? house prices, and tensions between local communities.
A lot was said by all concerned including the police, but very little happened. The real issue is if the legislative framework which means that the Romanian Roma cannot access benefits, cannot get work or now even become self employed as easily means fuelling tensions, based on false perceptions and a lack of understanding about immigration law. At the moment what all we hear about nationally is the prospect of all of Bulgaria and Romania emigrating to the UK in January 2014.There is a rightful place and need for such debates and discussions, as the excellent Migration Observatory’s work shows (another Changing Mind’s initiative, but possibly only one of a few that has the power to actually change minds), but it does also need to be understood at the local level. We have all (national, local government and voluntary organisations) collectively missed a trick, we should be seeking to make the Integration guidance a part of the statutory framework, because there remains such a huge disconnect between the national media, national agencies and what is going on locally on the ground.
Ilford and Redbridge is not a bad borough because of migration, it’s a better borough for it, no ifs and no buts, but who apart from the us is going to stand up locally and say that.
The silence is deafening.