Case Study: New Migrants
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Recent Chinese migrants to London have come mainly from mainland China and not, as previously, from Hong Kong and South-East Asia. CiBF, working in partnership with the London School of Economics and the social research company ESRO undertook groundbreaking research into the difficulties that new migrants face in accessing existing support mechanisms within the Chinese community. The research findings have put the needs of these new migrants on the map of central and local government and Chinese third sector organisations. They have helped change the prevailing view of the Chinese community as a ‘model’ community, with no need for external support, to a more realistic appraisal of the needs of its vulnerable members, who suffer hardships and require help.
A. Put the needs of the Chinese community back on the Government’s agenda:During the 2000s, much public and third sector attention switched from race/ethnicity to faith-based organisations, leaving CiBF in a relatively marginalized position. This was not helped by the Chinese community’s reputation and willingness to project itself as a ‘model’ migrant community that was not in need of support. The New Chinese Migrants report enabled CiBF to re-establish a relationship with governmental institutions, in particular the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the former Minister for Social Cohesion, Shahid Malik MP, as well as the former Big Society advisor, Lord Nat Wei.
As a consequence of the report launch – which Shahid Malik attended – CIBF was asked to present results from the research to senior DCLG policy officials at a workshop. Also as a result of the report, Communities Minister Andrew Stunell convened a roundtable meeting for members of the Chinese community, enabling them to explore matters of concern with DCLG. Finally, despite changes in government, CIBF has managed to maintain a relationship with the DCLG, which would not have been possible without the report
The research and publications have given CiBF an empirical basis for approaching policy-makers, thus helping it fulfil its mission to strategically identify and respond to the needs of the Chinese community, to promote these interests to government, and to encourage the community’s active civic participation in British society.
B. Strengthened the hand of the local government to gain more resources: The report was distributed to over 200 Local Authorities and Westminster City Council used it to improve the collection of census data in 2011 [B]. It did this by sharing the findings with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and pushing for more resources to increase engagement with the Chinese Community and to better tackle cultural and linguistic issues. As a result, ONS committed additional resources to train interviewers, and provide community support and comprehensive training on cultural sensitivity. One new census officer was given a specific remit for the Chinese community for the 2011 census. The report has strengthened Westminster City Council’s ongoing efforts to highlight the specific challenges of this particularly diverse London borough and has enhanced its commitment to pioneering innovative approaches to understanding the needs of Westminster’s population.
C. Focused the need for Third Sector organisations within the Chinese community to provide better support for new migrants: By highlighting differences between the needs of new and older migrants, and by demonstrating that many third sector organisations effectively exclude the former, the report has accentuated the need for Chinese community organisations to cater for these newcomers. It also legitimated the proposal that CIBF lead the formation of a new group of Chinese third-sector providers, supported by DCLG, although this was delayed by the change in government.
The report has been cited and used widely:
• A number of other Chinese organisations cite the report as evidence of the changing needs of the Chinese community in Britain and of the new challenges confronted by the Chinese community, third sector providers and political representatives .
• The Chinese Information and Advice Centre (CIAC) has used the report to legitimate its existence, challenge assumptions about its clients and advocate for its service users.
• Migrants Rights Network cites the report to illustrate the significant problems faced by many new Chinese migrants to the UK in accessing public services and earning decent wages. This is exacerbated by restrictive immigration policies towards migrant workers, students and undocumented migrants.
• As a result of the report, CIBF has been invited to become advisory members of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Ethnicity and Poverty Programme, and has consequently changed the group’s perspective on the issues facing Chinese community. The report has been cited in their publications.
D. Raised the profile of issues facing the Chinese community in London: Extensive media coverage on the launch of the report, in China and in Chinese language media in Europe has drawn attention to the needs of Chinese migrants in the UK and raised the profile of CiBF. The report earned the prestigious Market Research Society’s first Virginia Valentine Award for Cultural Insight in 2011. Judges commended the report for overcoming “…the huge linguistic and cultural barriers and the problems of accurately identifying communities and sub-communities. This study…challenged the received wisdom regarding the Chinese community in the UK, with the result being a new “official” understanding of the Chinese community and a seat at the top table of strategy making for the CiBF”.