On Monday 30 April, Migrant Help held a joint event with Canterbury Christ Church University that brought together academics and practitioners to discuss migrant wellbeing in Kent and beyond. The event was well attended by delegates from local frontline charitable organisations, public services, council authorities and academics from Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and the University of Kent.

The event began with presentations by two CCCU PhD students whose doctorates were partly funded by Migrant Help. Rachael Coker’s research into ‘Migration and local governance’ brought up interesting points about the various ways in which individual local authorities approach migration and support of vulnerable residents. Roohi Hussain analysed the terminology surrounding immigration and how it affects public perceptions of asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants. She suggested that the use of different terms and descriptions by media outlets helps to create a concept of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ migrants, something that many of the delegates agreed with.

Andrew Billany, Chief Executive of Migrant Help, brought a practitioner’s perspective and looked at how the uncertainty of immigration status affects health and wellbeing of migrants. He raised an interesting point of ‘silos’ within the immigration sector, where groups such as asylum seekers, refugees, victims of slavery are viewed and assisted separately by different agencies and charities, even though there are many overlaps in their identities and support needs.

In the last presentation of the day, Helen Carr and Professor Eleni Hatzidimitriadou launched the ‘Evaluation study of the Sleep Project for unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Kent’ report. This was a fascinating insight into the importance of sleep for vulnerable young people. It was encouraging to hear that the work will continue following the pilot and support children in other parts of the country.

The day ended with a lively panel discussion which focused on ways in which services can be linked together, how learnings about a specific client group can be applied to wider population and how we can ensure that migrants’ voices and needs are truly reflected in service provision.

Andrew Billany said: “This event provided a valuable opportunity for sharing of knowledge from the academic and practitioner point of views. It was great to bring so many people together in one room who are working towards the same goal of improving the lives of vulnerable migrants in Kent and across the UK.”