Standing room only: Haringey Welcome Relaunch Event

Standing room only: Haringey Welcome Relaunch Event

On 23 February 2018 we held an afternoon event at the Engine Room in Tottenham Hale, to celebrate the re-launch of Haringey Welcome. We wanted to invite the community to join us in our campaign against this government’s “hostile environment policy” and to sign our pledge to make Haringey a welcoming and safe place, for refugees, migrants, people with no recourse to public funding, and anyone living in our borough who is vulnerable.

We were overwhelmed by the response. The room was filled with over a hundred people: local residents, volunteers, migrants, community organisations, doctors, teachers, and families with children (for which our member Alison had organised a wonderful crèche). Everyone queued up to sign the pledge, including candidates from the Labour, Lib Dem and Green Party running in the next local election. They also queued to taste the lovely Turkish food!

Inspiring speakers like Dr Jess Porter – representing the Doc not Cops campaign – and Rockhaya Sylla – welfare advisor and educator specialising in Migrants’ rights – talked about the painful consequences of the hostile environment’s policy, which is threatening to turn GP surgeries, schools and councils into immigration check points. The enormous frustration and fear that women with no recourse to public funding experience on a daily basis were illustrated in the video performances presented by Open University Senior lecturer Umut Erel and anthropologist and performer Erene Kaptani. They’ve been running a theatre project featuring migrant women with no recourse to public funding, part of a research exploring Participation, Arts and Social Action.

But the most poignant moment was certainly when local children took the stage to collect an award for a poster competition on the theme of Haringey Welcome. Five local schools had entered the competition: Our Lady in Muswell Hill, St Mary’s Priory Roman Catholic School, Seven Sisters Primary School, West Green Primary School and Brook House Primary School. We were amazed by the entries. Colourful, thoughtful, moving, and showing an enormous empathy. One of the most impressive posters featured the slogan “Persecution is not the solution”, which we immediately adopted. The three winners were welcomed on stage by MP for Tottenham David Lammy, who also signed the pledge and gave a touching speech about his own family’s experience of migration. It must be said David stayed until the end, which is quite rare for a politician!

The day ended with Zrinka Bralo from Migrant Organise inviting everyone to stand up and commit to action. It was a powerful moment and a perfect conclusion to an incredible afternoon. We all felt galvanised and ready to continue our campaign.

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