English classes: the key to integration

by Dr Jenny Philimore For many years now politicians and the tabloids have pointed to so-called self-segregation of migrants and their alleged reluctance to speak English as responsible for their lack of integration into economy and society in the UK. As a result much policy focus has been placed on trying to encourage cross-community connections and linking applications for citizenship to ability to speak English. New research from the Institute for Research into Superdiversity, University of Birmingham, and the University of Cardiff provides evidence showing that for refugees at least, there is no reality behind the rhetoric. Using survey data – the [more]

Latin American Regimes

  An overview of a troubled past   By Tania Farias “From the deep crucible of the homeland. The people's voices rise up. The new day comes over the horizon. All Chile breaks out in song…” claims the first verse of We Will Triumph, a supporting song for the Popular Unity coalition led by Salvador Allende in Chile. According to the Revolutionary Democracy journal (2003) the Chilean songwriter and activist Víctor Jara sang this song defiantly after having been violently tortured in the Chilean Stadium (renamed later Víctor Jara Stadium). He had been arrested – and five days later assassinated - because of his [more]

Asylum seeker pregnancy: a very sad situation

By Tania Farias Pregnancy is a very special state for a woman, one which requires complex and specialist care to assure the well–being of both, the mother and the unborn child. Pregnancy is also a time to share and be cheerful with family and friends. However, not every woman can enjoy such a protective support and some of them are exposed to very unstable situations. A pregnant asylum seeker under the support of sections 4, 95 or 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 will be offered accommodation and financial support but she won’t be exempt from UKBA dispersal policies, meaning [more]

Reflections: Through the eyes of a refugee

By Mercedes What do I hear when I listen to the city, when I look to the future in this place that surrounds me? I see a neighbourhood of multiple languages, cultures, sounds, and fragrances. I see a woman wishing to tell the city that she and her child crossed the ocean and several continents to feel secure. She did not want to hear the screams of people running from the effects of war, hunger and disease. She wants to explain that she doesn’t understand what happened. Her town was peaceful before the modern tanks and men in strange clothes speaking strange [more]

Each journey entails a hundred possibilities

By Kate Monkhouse Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) works with refugees and other forcibly displaced people, promoting their rights and providing a range of direct services. In London, JRS UK runs a weekly day centre at its base in Wapping, where each week up to 120 refugees come for lunch, some practical help and to share the joys and sadness of life in this country. In carrying out its activities JRS UK works in partnership with like-minded organisations, such as English PEN, a free speech and literature charity that campaigns to defend and promote free expression. English PEN’s trainers have run several creative [more]

From Sri Lanka With Surgical Skills

Vicky Ilankovan interviews her father Since I was eight I wanted to be a doctor. I still remember using pencils as injection cylinders and giving people sachets of powder from the kitchen to make them feel better. The concept of doing something to help people has always fascinated me. However, the year that I was to enter medical school in Sri Lanka was the year the policy of standardisation came into force. This meant that Tamils needed substantially higher marks than Sinhalese in order to get into university. For example, Tamils needed 250 points to get into medical school whereas the Sinhalese [more]


Focus on migration at the Tate

By Shirvan Arslan

'Between the Two My Heart is Balanced' by Lubaina Himid. Photograph © Lubaina Himid

The Migrations: Journey into British Arts exhibition at Tate Britain explores the rich contribution of immigrants to British Arts. As a German with Kurdish-Armenian roots, the museum’s promise that it would “reveal how British Art has been fundamentally shaped by migration” aroused high expectations within me. Sadly it failed to deliver. The exhibition begins with a portrait of Mary Rogers, Lady Harington, by the Dutch artist Marcus Gheeraerts in 1592. The visitor is then taken on a journey from the 16th century to the 20th century through the work of mainly western European artists. The highlights include Flemish Baroque artist Antony Van Dyck, painter to King Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria; 18th century Swiss artist Angelica Kaufmann; and 20th century German artists Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach.

Marcus Gheeraert’ss Portrait of Mary Rogers, Lady Harington.

One of the stand out inclusions is a painting Between the Two My Heart is Balanced, 1991, from African artist Lubaina Himid, who was one of the pioneers of the Black Art movement in the 1980s which put black identity on the artistic agenda.

The exhibition ends with a selection of short films such as Measures of Distance (1988) by the Lebanon director Mona Hatoum, which is a poetic reverie on the pain of separation. There is also a film shot in Mauritania by Algerian born artist Zineb Sedira, that shows the African coastline dotted with ruined buildings and the remains of ships. It represents the hopes of immigrants leaving Africa for a better life in Europe.

A visit to the exhibition is worthwhile, but the link between migrant artists and their influence on British art is not as strong as I had hoped.  The omission of important artists such as British-Nigerian Yinka Shonibare, who is best known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism and the Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor, who designed the Orbit in the Olympic Park, was disappointing.

Migration: Journeys into British Art is at the Tate Britain until 12 August