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What the Wonder Policy Conference taught me about social integration

Grace Labeodan

When I was 9 years old, my parents emigrated to the UK, so I know first-hand what it is like to start life somewhere new; to have to get used to a different society and to learn how best to function within a new culture while at the same time trying to hold on to elements of your own tradition and culture so that you don’t lose who you are to who you are becoming.

Here are a few lessons I learnt from the policy conference, which Wonder Foundation hosted in a bid to explore how policy can be used to create a more welcoming society for migrants:

  • Social integration is a two-way street. It can be as traumatic and difficult for those who have come from a different country, as it is for locals to understand that their community is becoming diverse.
  • Misinformation is real! The lived experience of a migrant is difficult and sometimes they aren’t given the right information or are misinformed about what life will truly be like in the UK.
  • There can be guilt that comes with migration, be that willingly, or unwillingly. Many migrants are here to work hard and provide for themselves and for their families back in their home country and they should not be stigmatised for that.
  • While policy is useful and the government can and should be doing more to support individuals who are trying to settle into British culture, social integration is not just a political responsibility but a societal one. We all have a part to play in ensuring that migrants feel welcomed in our country. 

The topic of migration is one that divides many people across the country, and with the prospective withdrawal of the UK from the EU, many are unsure as to what this will mean for immigration policies. 

The policy conference was inspiring, and it was great to hear feedback from respected researchers, policymakers, and community workers and leaders. Not only that, the number of young people in attendance was equally impressive. There was ample opportunity to hear from a variety of people who have different perspectives on migration narratives and were willing to share ideas, opinions and potential policy improvements that can be made to ensure that migrants in our communities can be made to feel part of the community.