Engaging with migrants

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Co-financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals

5. Engaging with migrants

5.2 Making contact with migrant communities

5.2.1 Existing groups and organisations

There are many groups set up to support and bring together migrants at local level in Scotland.  These are an invaluable starting point for engaging with migrants.

As a first step, it will be important to map existing migrant groups or networks in your area (both formal and informal), to find out more about what already exists within local communities.  You might then want to consider whether additional support is required to develop and strengthen these groups or networks.  For example, by providing grants, training or staff time.   Overall, it will be important to:

  • Work with trusted organisations where communities have already built up linkages and trust. 
  • Work with group leaders to build up trust and gain respect, so that people will want to get involved in community engagement activity.
  • Take time to develop relationships particularly in areas where there are no formalised networks or groups.

5.2.2 Developing new networks

Where there are either limited, or no established networks, you might want to consider different ways of making initial contact with local migrant communities. You might need to be very imaginative about how you find people, particularly when migrant populations are dispersed. Here are some ideas:

Places – Think about how to engage people within schools, libraries, health centres, places of employment, gyms and sports clubs and community education classes.

Develop opportunities - Create or support new music, arts, sports and other opportunities that can bring people together.

Culture – Build relationships and trust, have visible role models and create welcoming and ‘neutral spaces’ to have conversations in.

Methods – Use lots of different methods, like social media, setting up a migrants’ panel, using buddying schemes, having lots of conversations, and using migrant community based media such as magazines and websites.

Approach – Recognise that migrants are diverse!

Source: Participant comments at COSLA Workshop, February 2015

In developing and promoting networking opportunities, it is important to be aware of some of the barriers that might prevent people getting involved.  This might include:

  • language and communication issues;
  • time constraints due to work commitments, and/or different work patterns;
  • childcare and other care duties;
  • lack of affordable transport.

You should look at ways of addressing any potential barriers. For example, by providing translation or interpretation services; ensuring that venues are local, familiar and accessible; ensuring that the timing of events is suitable, and providing childcare, or covering care costs.

Find out more...

There are a number of useful resources that you can use to help you make contact with, and engage with migrants, for example:

5.2.3 Role of voluntary organisations or intermediaries

Local third sector or voluntary organisations can also play an important role in integrating migrants – by helping them become better informed of their rights, signposting them to local services, organising community events and providing access to language classes etc.

Case study

In Fife, the Fife Migrants’ Forum is a not for profit organisation that is run by a committee and provides free help, advice, support, information and referrals for anyone who comes for an appointment.  It also runs a volunteer programme, where volunteers can gain valuable experience and learn new skills.   

Fife Migrants Form runs a number of activities including:

  • Daily Advice Clinic - For free advice, information, help, support and referrals to mainstream service providers. 
  • A Job Club – this runs on a weekly basis, and is supported by Fife Council Client Action Team.
  • CARF Advice Clinic – a monthly dedicated advice clinic with help and advice from a Citizen Advice & Rights Fife advisor.
  • Kingdom Credit Union – a weekly collection point for Kingdom Credit Union.

Case study

In Perth and Kinross, PKAVS Services for Minority Communities (MEAD) works 

in partnership with the Council and other partner agencies to:

  • support the expanding migrant population in Perth and Kinross, to play a full and active role in their community, while helping statutory and voluntary service providers to respond more effectively to their needs.
  • provide a local authority-wide service, supporting migrant workers and minority ethnic carers and service users (those affected by long-term health conditions, disability or older age)
  • establish itself as the lead agency for minority ethnic issues within Perth and Kinross, and to facilitate consultation between service providers and targeted minority ethnic communities, to ensure services meet the needs of service users.

MEAD’s key client groups are from the local South Asian, Chinese and Eastern European communities.  Recent work has involved:

  • providing an annual Community Intelligence Report to the Council; 
  • running a number of information and employment events to encourage the integration of new migrant communities across the area (particularly seasonal workers); 
  • having a literacy partnership with the Council, delivering many ESOL services directly; 
  • developing its own social enterprise for interpreting and translation called Language Base, which has enabled local migrants to gain skills, qualifications and employment opportunities; and
  • working closely with the Council on its multi-cultural events, and community lunch club programme. 

MEAD also hosts regular surgeries and provides translation support for key council services, including Welfare Rights and Housing, to encourage access to these services from minority ethnic and migrant communities.