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The Regional Democracy Think Tank for West Yorkshire

What do new migrants think about our region?

In a guest blog, Pria Bhabra and Rosemary Brookes reflect on their experiences working on the Migrant Access Project in their part of our region.

Leeds is an amazing and diverse city that has so much to offer for all the citizens that live here, new and old. But if you are new to the city, how much do you actually know, and how do you learn to navigate your way through to services and society?

Working with some of the new migrant communities through MAP is fantastic as we learn so much about their culture, how things were back home and how different things are here. Different individuals say there are both good and bad things both here and back at home, but feeling safe is why many are here. There is a lot to learn as new migrants start to integrate, for example the specific way we define ‘safeguarding’ is something new, something not discussed within communities because it’s not a definition that really existed back home, but they are learning in their own way to understand the bigger picture.

Do we all understand Leeds in the same way? How does it look through different eyes? Yes, there are some pictures and views of Leeds that are put out at a corporate level, but for each individual who lives in Leeds and are part of its existence these ideas and images may not be exactly the same.

In April, MAP was invited to attend a workshop for Leeds 2023 European Capital of Culture bid bid. We had the opportunity to hear people’s thoughts and visions of Leeds, but also a chance to share our own views. Two volunteers came along with us, Michaela came to the event representing the Roma community, and Bei came representing the Chinese community. For Michaela, Leeds was about different communities and cultures. It was good to see that people of Leeds are starting to learn about different communities and work with them, and she wants this to grow. Also, Leeds is a friendly city with opportunities. It’s about looking at some of the things that are negative such as deprivation, but also seeing the good. For Bei, she similarly saw the options that Leeds could offer, whilst highlighting some of the city’s contrasts in terms of prosperity, history, architecture and culture.

Every time MAP meets someone from a new migrant community, both staff and new migrants learn more about what Leeds is now, and what it should ideally be. These ideas may vary from person to person, but overall MAP, and the majority of people we meet, want Leeds to be a safe place to live and raise children, just like everyone else.

The Migrant Access Project (MAP) is developed by Leeds City Council, Touchstone and Feel Good Factor, aiming to reduce pressures on services where migration has impacted the most whilst helping new arrivals to put down roots in Leeds. It works with different migrant communities, often training volunteers up to become members of Migrant Community Networks through leadership training. For more information about MAP, or anything else in this blog, please contact Pria Bhabra pria.bhabra\

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