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New €4m project to create new opportunities for communities across the West Midlands

Published Thursday, 31 May 2018

An innovative partnership project is to be launched that will enable refugees, migrants and other citizens to create new work opportunities and support communities across the region.

Representatives from a range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations from Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton will come together to celebrate the launch of the MiFriendly Cities project on 5th June 2018 in Coventry’s iconic cathedral.

The West Midlands Combined Authority-backed project has been awarded more than €4m from the EU’s Urban Innovative Actions fund. The 11 project partners include three city councils, a multinational company, a university, a law centre, a consultancy and three migrant-run charities Together, they will help the region's communities achieve the maximum benefit from migration and improve migrants’ and refugees’ sense of belonging.

The West Midlands is the most diverse region in the UK outside Greater London – and the second most diverse in the European Union – with over 100 languages spoken daily within its borders. The three-year initiative will collect the best ideas from across the EU and will look to develop innovative, community-led and sustainable approaches to facilitate the contribution of refugees and migrants to our wider communities. 

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said:

“The West Midlands has always been a welcoming place for newcomers and it is wonderful that this new funding will be able to build on that. It will help unlock the talent and skills of our refugee and migrant citizens and will benefit the whole region.”

Hosted by Coventry City Council, the lead authority, the June event will give local businesses, community organisations, educational institutions and, most importantly, local citizens the opportunity to learn more about the project, which will focus on jobs, skills, citizenship and social enterprise.

Cllr Abdul Khan, Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Policing and Equalities, said:

“I’m delighted to see the launch of the MiFriendly Cities project in Coventry, a city with a proud history of recognising and celebrating cultural diversity. The unique partnership created by this initiative is a testament to the West Midlands’ commitment to working together to lead in cultural innovation. I am excited that this funding will enhance opportunities to strengthen the economic and social fabric of the entire region.’’

Cllr Ed Ruane, Cabinet Member for Housing & Communities, said:

‘’I am thrilled that Coventry is leading on such an innovative project, recognising and embracing the wealth of diversity in the West Midlands to make migration work for everyone. This is a unique opportunity for the 3 largest local authorities in the West Midlands to come together and work in direct partnership with our communities, and I look forward to seeing this initiative work to actively challenge division and help to build a united and prosperous region.’’

Attendees will hear about plans, such as:

  • a £70,000 fund to support new social enterprises which will create jobs for the whole community;
  • an £80,000 fund for grassroots projects in areas, such as health care, employment and housing;
  • a new hub in Coventry where newcomers can get involved in community and social enterprise projects;
  • training for 300 refugees and migrants in digital manufacturing, a key skills need for local industry, in Coventry’s “Fab Lab”;
  • a pop up furniture factory in Coventry and Wolverhampton to train people to upcycle 500 pieces of furniture to go into 100 home makeovers for people in need;
  • employment information drop-in sessions in the most deprived areas of each city and mentoring of refugees and migrants by employees of Interserve and other businesses;
  • work placements for refugees and migrants with employers across the region and opportunities for further training aiming at full time employment;
  • ·new business roundtables and forums with representatives from employers and refugee/migrant communities to develop and promote these initiatives;
  • 60 health champions in migrant communities to be trained to point fellow migrants and refugees to health services they often struggle to reach;
  • work to educate people about their rights and legal ‘health checks’ for migrants and refugees, with a focus on paths to citizenship for children and young people;
  • more than 100 refugees and migrants to be trained as ‘citizen journalists’ to engage with the media and share their stories, and “citizen social scientists” to help evaluate the MiFriendly Cities initiative

 Refugee and migrant volunteers will help to run the evening and catering will be provided by a local refugee social enterprise café, Arabian Bites.

The event will also see the launch of a Syrian cook book, with recipes from 22 refugee women in partnership with Coventry City Council and the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre.

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