Future of migrants' rights discussed at GCU event

23 January 2017

Future of migrants

The conference was organised by Migrant Voice.

Academics, activists, civil society groups and politicians, including Minister for International Development and Europe, Alasdair Allan MSP, gathered at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) on Saturday (January 21) to discuss the future of migrants’ rights following the Brexit decision.

The conference, organised by migrant-led advocacy charity Migrant Voice, was the first of its kind and focused on ways to tackle anti-migrant sentiment and change the political landscape.

In his keynote speech, Dr Allan said: “All of us would agree that this past year has been particularly challenging. Although immigration is a power reserved by the UK Government, it is important that the Scottish Government talks about it. It is vital Scotland remains a welcoming place to those who want to make it their home. We have to eliminate the barriers of prejudice and discrimination.”

He spoke of the value of the “distinctive contributions that all migrants bring to Scotland”, stating that they are more likely to be in work and paying taxes than people born in Scotland. He criticised language used in the media which “devalues” migrants and has a negative effect on public opinion.

Dr Allan used the forum to call for the UK Government to provide a guarantee of rights to EU nationals following the Brexit decision. He also emphasised his desire for post-study work visa rights.

Migrant Voice Chair Habib Rahman said it was “vital to take positive messages out to the community”, emphasising the positive contribution of migrants to society in Scotland, including as doctors and nurses within the NHS.

The speeches were followed by a series of interactive workshops, which included raising peoples’ confidence to tackle hate crime and xenophobia, campaigns and media training with broadcast journalists, and a detailed overview of challenges facing migrant rights from EU nationals to Syrian refugees.

The conference closed with cultural events including the launch of the ‘A Story in a Poem’ project with Makar Jackie Kay, alongside dance performances by Maryhill Integration Network, a multicultural ceilidh and food.

GCU’s Dr Ima Jackson said: “As the University for the Common Good, GCU is working with communities to transform lives and innovate for social impact at home and around the world. We were pleased to be part of the Migrant Voice conference in Scotland, to provide a welcoming environment for the community, for academics, activists and media in an attempt to understand this historic moment and discuss the challenges this new landscape brings and articulate an increasingly important Scottish perspective."