“When you become a city that has to give hospitality to the experiences of trauma and torture, and become a world city – not one that has sent people out as traumatised bodies as happened from the clearances and the poverty of the 1930s in Glasgow – but actually starts to receive that back in the early 20th Century, then your narrative as a city has to change, and change is always a really tricky process.”
This is how one participant of the MIN@20 project has explained the change that took place in Glasgow since the beginning of the Dispersal programme that has brought thousands of asylum seekers and refugees to the city since the early 2000s.
No doubt, Dispersal has shifted Glasgow’s demographics and culture and posed significant challenges as the city responds to changing needs of accommodating asylum-seeking and refugee communities. But this experience also shaped Glasgow into where it stands today in terms of welcoming newcomers and hospitality.
This change that shaped Glasgow throughout the last 20 years is also closely tied to the development and evolution of extensive networks of the third sector and community organisations supporting asylum seekers, migrants and refugees resettled in the city. But, how did these organisations experience 20 years of Dispersal? Many organisations have organised efforts to help, support and care for newcomers. Some don’t exist anymore, some do. How did organisations that continue supporting asylum-seeking and refugee communities adapt to changing policy environments? What sort of approaches have they developed throughout the years?
Our report, written for MIN’s 20th Anniversary and working in collaboration with the GLIMER project, provides answers to these questions by drawing on 20 years of Dispersal experience of one of the oldest community organisations in Glasgow, Maryhill Integration Network (MIN). We conducted 12 remote interviews with participants from diverse groups, including MIN’s service users, staff, volunteers, directors, founding members as well as people from the public sector who have worked with MIN and people engaged in refugee-related subjects long enough to observe MIN’s place in this landscape, who have reflected on how a small church group evolved into an organisation pioneering “us” based integration, using innovative methods, and engaging with the policy interventions.
Findings from the report underline the development and maturing of extensive networks of support and solidarity, as well as the experience and expertise built in Glasgow over the last 20 years. These changes are also linked to MIN’s development. Today, as one of our participants commented, MIN and the sector embraces the richness and wider reach partnership work allows in responding to challenging immigration environments.
“I think partnership working is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity. We need to do it. It’s not like, it’s good to do it because it just looks good on us, but for almost every organisation […] if you look at the strategy and plan and vision for the future, partnership working and collaboration, sharing learning and everything is a specific objective where everyone wants to work together.”
What ‘integration’ means today is also not the same as what it meant 20 years ago. Integration is now embraced as a long process involving people feeling part of inclusive, safe, resilient communities. This vision requires actors from across different fields to work together in wider partnerships to broaden social connections and expand channels of dialogue across communities. Along with others, MIN plays an important part in this vision by enabling spaces for new connections across the community to emerge, by connecting people with debates that matter to them and by bringing lived experience with expertise to create a meaningful change.
Despite these positive changes, 2020/21 also marked important societal changes and disruptions to service provision for most community organisations like MIN. With the global COVID-19 pandemic adding further layers of inequalities to the lives of asylum-seeking and refugee communities, it forced community organisations to think further about their work and find more creative ways to continue creating and fostering social connections within the community. The MIN@20 Project and the 20th Anniversary Report also marked this.
We believe the report provides important insights for community groups and organisations working in similar fields and have aimed it to be an invitation to expand the conversation on what welcoming is, or how it should be in the future as the sector surpasses 20 years’ of asylum Dispersal.
Maryhill’s 20th Anniversay Report can be accessed here: https://maryhillintegration.org.uk/reports/
 The MIN@20 Project was a collaborative project between Maryhill Integration Network and the GLIMER Project, University of Edinburgh. Project collaborators included: Rose Filippi, Development Manager, Maryhill Integration Network, Dr Emma Hill, Oyku Hazal Tural, and Professor Nasar Meer, Sociology, University of Edinburgh and Dr Timothy Peace, University of Glasgow. This research was given administrative support by Liane Coia, Operations Manager, Maryhill Integration Network, and Michaelagh Broadbent, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh.
Blog post by Oyku Hazal Tural, Doctoral Candidate, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK