Published: 23 June 2014

Country: UK

by Alexia Kalaitzi

Migrantscontribute1They bring new skills, new ideas, different talents, tastes and sounds and above all the strength and passion to build a new life. Immigrants contribute largely to the economy and multicultural character of the British society, but the last year they found themselves in the centre of a negative political and media discourse, which accused them for many of the problems occurring in the UK.

The new campaign #MigrantsContribute, formed by a coalition of 40 migrant-led organisations came to change this narrative. Its aim is to reverse the negative stereotypes and increase the presence of immigrants in the mainstream media.

Tatiana Garavito, Director at the Latin American Women’s Rights Service and Young Woman of the Year for 2014, talks to MDI about #MigrantsContribute campaign and explains everything about this ambitious project.

How has the idea of the campaign started?

I have been working for the Latin American community here in London for the last 9 years; within our community we have formed a coalition for Latin Americans (CLAUK) which has proven to be very successful. Inspired by that successful collaborative work and after realizing that the active demonization campaign against migrants will continue to escalate with the upcoming general elections, we got together with a diverse group of migrant communities to challenge this unscrupulous rhetoric and provide real facts. The network behind the campaign is comprised by 40 organisations working by and for migrants in the UK. All of us we are very upset to see how the lives of hard working people who have contributed so much to this country have been dehumanized.

Which will be the main activities?

#MigrantsContribute is a media campaign but the network is always exploring other actions. We are providing a platform for our communities to speak up and to tell their stories. If you have read the new research by Migrant Voice, you will see how little migrants are quoted in media stories and instead how we have become numbers and statistics which tell nothing about our lives. #MigrantsContribute will present the stories of our communities, the contribution we make, our knowledge and skills.

During the campaign, we will work with journalists wanting to really inform the general public about facts; we will be talking to the local press; we will send articles to ethnic press and other media outlets like the Guardian.

Our “Change Makers”, a group formed by members of the coalition, will offer training on how to approach media, own the campaign and take it everywhere. We are also preparing a social media campaign to maintain a dialogue with migrants, supporters or friends of migrants. We just open Facebook and Twitter profiles, which have reached almost 300 followers in a week. We will also participate in events in order to promote the message of the campaign.

What is the message you would like to send to and via media?

We want migrants to be treated with respect, as human beings who come to the UK to contribute and to succeed. Ultimately, we want migrants to unlock their potential and feel free to speak up and challenge negative stereotypes.

We also want the general public to be aware that immigration has been used as a rhetoric for some political parties to win votes, and that those negative stereotypes that have been created for migrants are false and harmful for our societies, that we have to work towards a more inclusive society that respects life. In this debate against migrants, whoever is the “other”, the one who is not white or doesn’t speak the language, is presented as a scrounger who is taking advantage of the system. The consequence is that our communities are facing even more discrimination and more racism. We have been affected by this debate and it is everyone’s responsibility to challenge politicians and anyone talking about immigration in those terms, because it is not fair. It is not true.

What stories of the Latin American community we never hear in the UK media?

Despite being one of the fastest growing migrant communities in the UK, Latin Americans continue to be invisible. If you ask, many people know about salsa or Mexican food, many people are interested in Latin America but sadly not in Latin Americans living in the UK. Because of this invisibility of the community we are more vulnerable. Most of our community members are working in over-exploitative sectors such as the cleaning or catering, only 1 in 5 Latin Americans are registered with the GP and there is a very low service take-up. Latin Americans work really hard, and they are getting paid very little. They get trapped in this cycle of low paid, low skilled jobs which excludes them and limits them from achieving more. Latin American women are even more vulnerable to abuse and violence. At the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, we work with over 5,000 women every year facing multiple discrimination on the grounds of their gender, nationality and immigration status.

For info on #MigrantsContribute campaign, email migrantscontribute@gmail.com