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The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

Immigration Week: The Social Dimensions Of Integration

18th December 2013

Holding social life as a marker of success, Jitka Markova proposes a localised, relation-based approach to integration

According to the concerned public bodies and much of the media, migrants are the bane of the NHS. In October last year an official report commissioned by the government, announced that the NHS was spending up to £2bn a year on foreign visitors and short-term migrants, with so –called ‘health tourists’ costing between £70m and £300m a year. The proposed new immigration bill includes restrictions on free access to NHS services by migrants.

One of these groups of migrants is women from outside the EU who arrive to the UK to join their British husbands. They are not short-term migrants or health tourists with the hope of having free plastic surgery or a hip replacement; they are ordinary women who wish to spend the rest of their lives living with their husband, having a family and a home. They have a legal right to be living in this country and are part of our communities. However due to their immigration status under the proposed changes they will now be required to pay for NHS services; something that goes against the founding principles of the NHS and something we believe is unacceptable.
A holistic approach to integration on the ground, especially from a practitioner’s side should look to maximize engaging in social life, knowledge of local public services and contribution to the local economy. Traditional targets of integration such as obtaining a job and/or learning the language should be perceived as means rather than objectives for integration policies and practice. A good example of achieving this in a culturally diverse community is the Arbour.
The Arbour is a leading organisation in the social inclusion of newly arrived migrant women and runs a wide range of delivery and advocacy programmes for migrant communities in the East End. One of our projects – Lead to Inspire is working closely with a campaign group called Keep the NHS Public. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the proposed changes. Participants from Lead to Inspire have been active in lobbying local politicians in Tower Hamlets and joining on indirect actions. The project supports newly arrived migrant women (from countries outside of the EEA who migrated to the UK within the past 5 years on visas leading to settlement) to become community leaders and trailblazers for local and national integration. We identify the most promising female leaders from within the migrant communities and give them intensive training, skills and opportunities. The project aims to develop a new generation of emerging community leaders by supporting its beneficiaries to represent migrant issues, to be active in their communities and to instigate local initiatives which promote local community cohesion and support other newly arrived migrant women in their integration process and active citizenship.
In our most recent programme, our participants chose to work on the Keep NHS Public campaign after a presentation by one of the campaign leaders Dr. Anna Livingston. Over the last 3 months they have visited their MP Jim Fitzpatrick to raise their concerns, mobilised the local community to sign the petition and were guest speakers at demonstrations and community meetings. This example clearly shows that not only can migrants integrate successfully but they can also be the catalysts for change in their local community, working towards a common goal of an inclusive and equal society.
Migrants are an important part of British society and their contribution is invaluable to the up keep of the British principles of democracy, equality and fairness.

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