How we can make Haringey a welcoming placeHustings event saw debate over how borough could become more welcoming for migrants and refugees
The local election campaign might be over, but it prompted some interesting discussions locally that will likely continue for a long while yet.
Nationally the main debates at present are the cost-of-living crisis and various Westminster political scandals, but in Haringey a group of activists organised an event to focus people's attention on the so-called 'hostile environment' and what it means for migrants and refugees in this country.
Haringey Welcome, a campaign group which works for “fairness, dignity and respect for migrants and refugees”, held a film screening and hustings event at McQueens Theatre in Wood Green.
During her opening address, campaign co-ordinator Lucy Nabijou invited the audience to “collectively consider how our communities are welcoming to people who have arrived”.
The event began with a screening of the documentary NHS Borderlands, which told the story of Angela, a refugee living in London who was charged £8,000 for an NHS hysterectomy. The film was followed by a hustings hosted by London School of Economics professor Myria Georgiou who, along with voters, put questions to two election candidates, Lucia das Neves (Labour) and Josh Dixon (Liberal Democrats).
Both candidates said they supported Haringey Council's Welcome Advisory Board, established in 2020. Cllr Neves said: “We’re really passionate and really committed to the Welcome Advisory Board, to making people feel welcome and making sure that we're not participating [...] in practices that actually alienate our communities.”
Prof Georgiou asked for specific measures the council could use to resist the hostile environment. Cllr Neves said the council should “continue to support schools in enabling and welcoming young people and children who are coming” and also mentioned pushing the council’s partners to be more welcoming and making sure new arrivals can access healthcare. “We're doing everything that we can within the powers that we have,” she said.
The candidates both mentioned the constraints placed on the council by recent Westminster legislation, such as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and the Elections Act 2022, all of which were passed in April. Josh said the Elections Act would disenfranchise many people in Haringey. He added: “The council will need to use its weight in this. It's going to need to use its relationship with the local police and say we don't want to see an expansion of stop and search and we want to see you actually working with us as a partner to build cohesive communities and not divide people.”
At the end of the evening Lucy Nabijou stressed the importance of “working together and building trust”.