Diversity Voice: Bringing Communities Together

Diversity Voice AGM at the Victoria Centre, Bridgwater

Since the Brexit vote a year ago it’s been a difficult time for the many new workers that came to the UK looking for work and a future. Stories of a rise in hate crime since the Referendum along with instances of ‘What are you still doing here?’ being the greeting in many workplaces the day after, are widespread and well documented. What a state we’ve got ourselves into! All the more reason to support organisations such as Diversity Voice based at the Victoria Park Community Centre in Bridgwater which held it’s AGM this week and had as it’s guest speaker, former MP Roger Casale, now a founder of the New Europeans Movement and a fervent campaigner for the rights of Europeans.

A clip from the Diversity Voice film

Diversity Voice is a Charity and has been in existence for many years working in partnership with Councils, the Police, Schools, Trades Unions and both the migrant and host communities. Today however the dominant issue is Brexit and the insecurity that now abounds amongst the 3 Million extra European citizens that live and work in the UK. It’s founder and Chief Executive is Rafal Skarbek from Poland. The most important aspect of Diversity Voice’s work is with young children. At the AGM Rafal showed a film which featured children born in Poland, Rumania and Spain. It would be hard to tell they weren’t all Somerset kids. But of course…they are. Take a look at the film here.

New Europeans

Roger Casale, Chair of the New Europeans movement

Roger Casale started by praising the work of Diversity Voice  and said he was committed to defending the rights of EU citizens, which we all still had. EU citizens don’t need to justify why they are here because they have a right to be anywhere in Europe. These rights need to be guaranteed as part of the Brexit process to end the uncertainty. The situation is causing anxiety and depression and affects not just the 3 million EU workers in the UK but the 3 million Brits working in Europe. He would continue talking about Brexit, the future of Europe and the impact of the referendum and continue to fight for Freedom of Movement as  a basic right. Of course the best way to protect the rights of the European Citizen is for us not to leave the EU, but if we do then that mustn’t be at the expense of our citizens.

To find out more about the New Europeans click here.

Rafal Skarbek supported Mr Casale’s case with local examples. He confirmed that hate crime had doubled since the referendum in Somerset showing statistics which indicated 100-200 reported cases a year before and 400+ after. He said there was a marked  rise in tension amongst communities and a clear drift of skilled people leaving Somerset. He said that a common response from migrant workers was that since the referendum they now feel that when they’re out and about 51% of the people they’re mixing with in the same communities don;t want them there whereas previously they felt welcome.

There is a web site where people can report hate crime and find out more about migrant rights. Click here.

Town Council Leader urges Unity

Rafal Skarbek with Town Council Leader Brian Smedley

Speaking on behalf of Bridgwater Town Council, Cllr Brian Smedley, its leader, said “Bridgwater is a friendly and welcoming town and our Council is strongly Internationalist. These issues can and must be addressed at a local level. We have to come together as a community which we are all part of. I urge that Diversity Voice takes the lead and encourages members of the migrant communities to come to our Forum meetings as other representatives from organisations all across the town do and have their say on the things that matter to everybody – transport, culture, policing, housing, work and to show that we all care about our community and have the same right to and naturally want to make an equal contribution.

Bridgwater Together

On Saturday October 28th the Town Council will be supporting the ‘Bridgwater Together’ event for the third year running, which is a day long celebration of diversity in the town and will be held at the Engine Room,. Cllr Smedley urged everyone, whether  from the host community  or the migrant community to attend the event.