A new report has explored the barriers to migrants integrating into their local areas, including language and community cohesion issues. Here we speak to some local migrants and authority leaders on their views of the report.
Data released by the Migrant Rights Network last week, looks at the views of 136 migrants in Boston, revealing that two-thirds of them would like to see more done to bring communities together.
It includes a number of anonymous comments from migrants in the Boston area and highlights three key areas that could help, including better access to ESOL classes to help students learn English, ending exploitation of migrant workers and building community relationships.
One of the biggest issues raised was language with a suggestion the barrier closely linked to both cohesion and the exploitation of workers – particularly for accessing information on right to live, work and study in the United Kingdom.
The report also discusses the impact of the Brexit vote and raises concerns over migrants’ futures in the area, with some fearing they may ‘not be allowed to come back to the UK’ if they went abroad.
There are reports of negative attitudes, with one migrant feeling that “most of them [local population] are unhappy, disappointed and tend to blame migrants about everything”.
They said there had been an increase in hate crime and several comments relate stories where migrants are sworn at and told to go back to their country of origin.
It also explores the reasons why migrants feel the town voted Leave with one EU National from Bulgaria and now living in Boston saying: “The government was too busy investing in big cities and big projects so this little town had no money to improve its old and ineffective infrastructure and, in time of austerity, cuts hit really hard the weakest points.”
There was also comment on the coverage of Brexit and the influence of political parties on people’s views.
Some mentioned that there had been an increase in crime as one of the reasons, with people perceiving the crime to be carried out by migrants.
There is also debate over the migrants contributions to the UK economy, with those asked saying they did work, but acknowledging concerns over job availability, the willingness of the local population to work certain jobs and migrants claiming benefits.
Jurate Matulioniene, the Migrant Rights Network’s Outsider Project coordinator in Boston led the volunteers who conducted the research and will be coordinating the local level action that will be taken to work on the report’s recommendations in Boston over the coming months.
Ms Matulioniene said that the purpose and aim of the Migrant Rights Network report was to help build stronger bridges between communities, as well as help to create a positive perspective of the migrant communities.
She said it was fair to say the 136 people interviewed could represent the community, adding many of those taking part were relating experiences of friends, families and co-workers.
Jurate, who has met with hundreds of people in her daytime job as a teacher, said the views were representative of what she had heard from those as well.
Jurate said the interviews had been emotional at times.
“It was a little bit sad. You can see that some were upset and it was very, very emotional to hear such stories. When you hear them you feel you want to help people.”
Mrs Matulioniene said many migrants wanted to learn English, but she said there was more to be done to encourage them, including hiring native speaking teachers.
She said some students had been ‘embarrassed’ and put off when attending an ESOL lesson where they could not understand the teacher fully.
Mrs Matulioniene agreed with a comment that the situation maybe had to get worse to get better.
“After the Brexit vote the situation did get worse in the town in the beginning,” she said, noting that there had been reports of hate crimes and others.
“But I think later, when we started working together with groups like BMIC and also migrant and native communities, we tried to build bridges to make that situation how we could help it to be.”
She said that more and more she was hearing positive things, including in the media, and said that she agreed that it could be that the situation had to get worse before it got better.
“The vote was bad, in my personal opinion, but you can find something good from that and now we are taking positive actions and building bridges.
“People started trying to make links and make bridges and communities began to build cohesion and understand each other.
“It’s very, very positive and I hope that more and more local people will try to be more positive and understanding.”
Boston More in Common member, volunteer for Lincolnshire Police and learner support at Boston College Hana Rafajova said the biggest issue was language (the inability to communicate in English) and exploitation.
She said: “The language barrier closely links to cohesion, therefore it is the key to any further actions.”
“The inability to speak English links to exploitation and other abuse, isolation, crime and general unpleasant situations created by misunderstanding.”
Mrs Rafajova has begun setting up free English lessons for absolute beginners and has already had a huge response.
Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman said the report covered a lot of common ground, adding: “There is always someone saying one side should be doing more than the other, but we all want to get to the same place and thats a community that’s integrated and content with itself.
“The report does demonstrate that the issues that English people want to deal with and the issues that the migrant community want to deal with are often very similar.
“You hear people talk about community integration in terms of language barrier and different social attitudes.”
He said the report could be used in future to bolster applications for further funding from both the Controlling Migration Fund.
He also said it supported the case for English Language lessons, putting forward money for improving public services.
He looked to reassure migrants that following Brexit the aim was not to ask people ‘who have established themselves in this country to leave, there’s not going to be the aim that people are unwelcome and Britain is going to continue to welcome the people who want to come and be an active part of our country’.
Chief Insp Deborah Clark, of Lincolnshire Police, has also responded to the report, praising the work of two ‘dedicated officers who perform the role of community cohesion within the town’.
The duo look to improve engagement with the diverse communities with the aim of achieving a safe and secure community, through working with partner agencies and the communities.
“Our community cohesion officers are heavily involved in community engagement and examples of this include attending factories, faith groups, community groups and local schools. This contact builds trust and confidence within the police and as result of this we have forged some strong relationships,” said Chief Insp Clark.
“We have had numerous engagement activities in the Town which promotes social cohesion.
“A recent example of this relates to a personal shopper experience at a local supermarket Korzinka.”
Chief Insp Clark continued: “In respect of hate crime, we deal with this robustly and we encourage members of the public to report incidents so we can deal appropriately.
“I encourage members of the public to report hate crime or incidents to the police or to make contact with their local Neighbourhood Policing Team to discuss any issues.
“I am confident that the measures we have in place to promote social and community cohesion are working and Boston is embracing the diversity.”