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Migrant Voices in London


Migrant and refugee communities across London explore their daily lives through film

Migrant Voices in London brought together researchers and local migrant communities to better understand migrant and refugee experiences in the capital. Led by Dr Leonie Ansems de Vries, Lecturer in International Relations within King’s Department of War Studies, the project focused on the challenges experienced by refugees in London and the impact of legal status and invisible borders on their daily lives.

Migrants and refugees are most likely to have their stories told from the perspective of journalists and researchers. To counter this, Migrant Voices in London invited four migrants and refugees to spend a week filming their day-to-day encounters in the city, creating a platform for them to demonstrate the unique challenges they face.

The group was trained to use basic video cameras and encouraged to record their daily lives. Their film explores experiences of travelling and of being stuck during often difficult journeys, as well as feelings of distress and joy. A series of workshops also invited participants to examine their experiences – ranging from social barriers to conflict and war – through creative expression and dialogue. The sessions included an ‘art expression’ workshop led by Anna, an artist currently awaiting her asylum decision in the UK, alongside theatre, narration and meditation workshops.

Migrant Voices in London forms part of a larger research project that seeks to understand refugee experiences across Europe. It draws on King’s previous collaborative research in Calais, which saw refugee groups use disposable photo cameras to document their experiences. The images and narratives that emerged gave insights into the feelings of hope, exhaustion, expectation, community and pain that dominate each refugee’s experience.

Dr Leonie Ansems de Vries said, ‘We want to understand whether or how experiences in London differ from those of migrants en route. What do refugees see, feel and experience in London compared to the experiences had during their journey? One of the insights gained so far is that journeys do not end in London as people continue to face uncertainty and hardship, yet they also continue to try to rebuild their lives.’

The research project will inform wider questions about the broader politics of migration management and negative discourses on migration in London and across the UK.

‘[It was] the first time I didn’t feel a border between myself and others, regarding my status as an asylum seeker.’

Anna, art workshop leader


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