Symposium on Immigration at the University of Leicester tackled key issues faced by migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees

Posted by ap507 at Nov 17, 2014 01:40 PM |
Event organised by University of Leicester Department of Sociology

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 17 November

The Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester hosted a day-long symposium focused on understanding the politics and anxieties surrounding immigration in Britain as well as the responses of immigrant communities and advocacy organisations to anti-immigrant sentiment. Talks also tackled key issues faced by migrant communities, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups.

The event was held in association with the British Sociological Association (BSA) Diaspora, Migration and Transnationalism (DMT) Study Group:,-migration,-transnationalism.aspx

Amongst other topics, talks examined:

  • Anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK
  • Backlash to the celebration of diversity
  • The response of the UK's migrant population to anti-immigration sentiments and discourses
  • Immigrant activism in the UK
  • Key issues on migration and diversity today

The symposium brought together a number of organisations, advocacy groups, community associations and leading British academics working in the field of migration together. Speakers from community organisations and advocacy groups included Ms Zrinka Bralo of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum, Ms Rita Chadha of RAMFEL, Dr Lisa Doyle of the Refugee Council, Ms Ruth Grove-White of Migrants’ Rights Network, Ms Pam Inder of Leicester City of Sanctuary. The symposium aimed to create a space where academics and non-academics working in the field of migration could learn from one another and tackle the issue of anti-immigrant sentiment.

The event was organised by Dr Ipek Demir, of the University of Leicester's Department of Sociology and Dr Lucy Mayblin, from the University of Sheffield.

Dr Demir said: “A lot of the time we hear ‘we need to be able to talk about migration’, ‘but we must be allowed to talk about migrants’ usually followed by scaremongering. In the symposium we did talk about migration, but we ended up challenging and rigorously questioning the terms of the debate about migration in the UK.

“One inspiration for this came from 1970s. In the 1970s postcolonial migrants, especially African Caribbeans and South Asians drew attention to Britain’s colonial past and used the phrase coined by Ambalavaner Sivanandan ‘we are here because you were there’, reminding Britain that they were ‘settlers’ not ‘immigrants’; that they were ‘citizens’ not ‘aliens’. This put the point vividly and succinctly. It showed that colonialism and immigration were part of the same story and needed to be seen on a historical spectrum.

“A reminder of Britain’s historical, economic and social ties was indeed necessary. Today the fact that immigration cannot be fully understood if seen as divorced from global socio-economic and political processes which we create and maintain, for example the Neoliberal expansion into Eastern Europe in the 1990s, needs constant reminding. As members of the Kurdish diaspora in London who I interview for my research state, the borders of the region were largely drawn by two colonial powers, namely Britain and France in the first half of the 20th century. The Kurdish presence in the UK and the current crisis (for example the Kurdish and Syrian refugees) have a colonial past which we need to acknowledge.”

Dr Lisa Doyle of the Refugee Council said: “The immigration debate in Britain is as hostile as it is politicised, but the facts are often in short supply. As a result, although the UK is home to less than 1% of the world's refugees, the public consistently overestimate the numbers of asylum seekers and refugees in Britain whenever they're asked.

“At the Refugee Council, we try to inform and balance the debate by presenting the facts to politicians, the media and public.

“Britain has a long and proud history of offering safety to those who desperately need it, and we are keen to safeguard that tradition and ensure it is continued.”

The Refugee Council is currently calling on the Government to offer resettlement places to more of Syria's refugees. So far, the Government has only committed to helping 'several hundred people' over three years, a woefully inadequate response.

Dr Doyle added: “As winter is closing in, it is vital that the Government steps forward and opens our doors to more people desperately seeking resettlement places. People's lives could depend on it.”

More information about the campaign can be found at:


PANEL 1: Anti-Immigrant Discourses and Resistance Strategies

Ms Zrinka Bralo, Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum

Dr Jonathan Darling, University of Manchester

Dr Lisa Doyle, Refugee Council

Dr Pierre Monforte, University of Leicester

Dr Barbara Samaluk, University of Greenwich


PANEL 2: Immigrant Activism

Dr Leah Bassel, University of Leicester

Ms Rita Chadha, RAMFEL

Ms Ruth Grove-White, Migrants’ Rights Network

Ms Pam Inder, Leicester City of Sanctuary

Dr Hannah Jones, University of Warwick

Dr Davide Pero, University of Nottingham


PANEL 3: Key Issues on Migration and Diversity Today

Professor Bridget Anderson, University of Oxford

Dr David Bartram, University of Leicester

Professor Alice Bloch, University of Manchester

Dr Karim Murji, The Open University

Professor Jenny Phillimore, University of Birmingham


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr Ipek Demir at

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