New fund to help undocumented migrants is set to start in Hackney

Members of MEWso with their campaign hashtag Pic: Halaleh Taheri

A three-month long project aiming to support undocumented migrants in Hackney with no access to public funds is set to start on Monday.

The Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation has started the project with support from the No Recourse to Public Fund grant, a national network that safeguards “The welfare of destitute families, adults and care leavers who are unable to access benefits due to their immigration status”.

Migrants fitting the criteria can apply from January 24 to March 31 to receive money that they are otherwise ineligible for, including Universal Credit, Job Seekers Allowance and other public funds.

Halaleh Taheri, founder of MEWso, told Eastlondonlines that the charity isvery lucky to be one of the organisations supported by the grant to help Hackney undocumented migrant women and their families. They hope to cover at least 60 women who are in urgent need of the money.

Halaleh Taheri, founder of MEWso Pic: Halaleh Taheri

The women-run charity serves women from ethnic minority backgrounds, mainly Middle Eastern, North African and Asian backgrounds.

They run projects and campaigns that reach a wide range of people, such as LGBTQ+ Matters, a campaign that supports LGBTQ+ people by creating a safe space for them and giving one-to-one advice.

Another is Polygamy Matters and it is for women who may feel trapped in polygamous marriages and need help to become more independent.

“During Covid-19 our connection with Hackney increased… due to a rise in domestic violence and a rise in issues with migrant women,” she said.

Taheri founded the charity in 2010 with offices based in Islington and Westminster. They don’t currently have an office in Hackney, but they work with local organisations and clients in the borough.

“We provide advice in domestic violence and welfare and we also help women with divorce, separation, child custody issues and family issues. We are able to support migrant women emotionally and… support them with workers who speak in their language”

During Covid-19, there was an increase in online classes catered to migrant women specifically.

“The number of our staff and volunteers increased because it was a huge number of people searching for help.”

Now, almost every day there are one or two zoom sessions to help these women learn English, art therapy, mindfulness and meditation.  

 “It provides a holistic space for those women that doesn’t feel isolated or that they feel forgotten because of Covid-19.”

They also provide financial help like paying for phone sim card data for especially vulnerable women to stay in touch with them. But there is still much to be done.

She said: “We are trying to network with more organisations, especially in Hackney because we believe that in such a crisis situation, we stay stronger and bigger together to help more women.”

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