HCRI researchers work with women asylum seekers to improve research

Lecturers from the Humanitarian Conflict and Response Institute (HCRI) at The University of Manchester are working with a group of female asylum seekers as part of research into issues of gendered migration in Manchester.

WAST logo.

Dr Jenna Murray de Lopez and Dr Rubina Jasani of HCRI worked with Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) between June and August 2017 to observe the support provided to women who are individually and collectively trying to obtain legal status in the UK.

Jenna and Rubina facilitated the presence of the WAST Choir at the Migration Lab conference and organised to invite them to conduct workshops with Manchester students on War, Migration and Health and Gender Ageing and Society, which are course units that are offered on HCRI's degrees.

Research workshop

More recently, a Social Responsibility and Cultural Engagement Funding Award from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures enabled Jenna and Rubina to run a workshop with WAST members, Manchester PhD students and an external facilitator.

It has really helped me a lot. It leads me to get up to my feet, to be who I am, to be who I truly was.

WAST member

This workshop aimed to develop innovative methodologies on studying forced migration to help Jenna and Rubina publish a methodological piece on developing research with activist organisations in the city.

The event was also designed to help produce a research proposal for a larger social impact project, with this work eventually being integrated with the Migration Lab, a joint initiative between HCRI and the Global Development Institute (GDI) at the University.

Jenna and Rubina decided to introduce an independent research facilitator to the workshop to avoid the possibility of bias and agenda and for more equitable research, especially as the WAST women said their collaborations in the past may have been unequal.

How WAST helps women asylum seekers

WAST supports women through their asylum applications. Some women fear deportation or imprisonment within application centres, and that is when they contact WAST's administrative and management team. 

WAST is important to me, as I have a family… WAST is my family. I have nobody else here, but WAST is all for me. They give me everything - if I need transport they give me… they help me for everything.

WAST member

The main issue with the process is the lack of available solicitors for the women, which makes them feel vulnerable. WAST's solicitors provide the women with advice and support, especially when faced with complications within their case.

WAST also helps Section 4 applicants; who are women who have been refused asylum and, under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, are able to apply to receive support.

Most Section 4 applicants do not have sufficient funds to support their family during the application process. WAST combats this by providing fresh and varied food to these families every Friday, from its centre in Manchester. 

Before, back in Africa, we are taught to not be vocal, not to talk, which is not the right thing, as when you don't talk, we are dying in silence. Our voice must be heard, you know.

WAST member

Jenna and Rubina will continue their project as part of the Migration Lab, which opened in January 2017.

The collaboration between HCRI and the Migration Lab should produce more research associated with migration within Manchester communities and beyond.

Find out more about the partnership between HCRI and WAST.