The Afghanistan and Central Asian Association: a bottom-up approach in integrating Afghan migrants into UK Society

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Source: Wikipedia

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the authors and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors.

Founded in 2001, the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (AACA) represents a relentless endeavour to aid Afghan refugees and migrants during their transition into the UK. Started by a former refugee, Dr. Nooralhaq Nasimi, the AACA represents a grassroots movement to overcome the barriers that impede Afghan refugees from gaining access to mainstream UK Services and assimilating into British society. 

Though, since 2011, the UK government has promised an annual spending on aid to Afghanistan worth over 178 million pounds annually, reports by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact has demonstrated that the spending is, not only at great risk for misuse through theft and corruption, but that its allocation has failed to achieve many of the goals that initiative set forth. 

This is where Charitable Incorporated Organisations like the ACAA come in. 

The ACAA’s launching of its newest Community Centre in Feltham represents the first organisation to be be based involvement in Hounslow – home to the largest population of the Afghan Diaspora in London. It currently runs a variety of sources, these include legal advice clinics, free ESOL (English for Other Speakers) classes, and Women’s Tea Corner sessions, where Afghan women can share their experiences and receive emotional support in a safe, understanding space. 

Having arrived in the UK as a refugee himself, Dr. Nasimi acknowledges, first-hand, the immense difficulties that one faces as a newly arrived migrant; this process is particularly difficult without a holistic understanding of the rights one is entitled to as a migrant. As he himself explains it, “The process was not easy, often we felt lost. It was overwhelming to start out a new life in a new place where didn’t know anyone or to speak the language”

Thus, preventing Afghan migrants’ legal rights from being overlooked is the primary goal of the ACAA’s legal advice clinics – and they have been incredibly successful at achieving it. Between 2013 and 2016 alone, the ACAA’s legal clinics provided over 2,000 individuals with legal advice, over half of them being women or unemployed. During the time, the project allowed over 3,000 people to gain legal ad rightful access to UK health and education services. 

Another of its major initiatives – the Tea Corner – addresses Afghan women’s struggles in particular, covering a range of issues, such as child protection, internet safety, and fighting radicalisation. Though the NGO has worked alongside the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and is a member of the Afghan Women’s Network, its activiites are largely unparalleled in that they are direct, personal and have bettered the lives of thousands of women since the start of the initiative. 

Aisha, for instance, is one of the many women that have benefited from this initiative. She never was able to prioritise learning English until, when her husband was at work, her 3-month old son had an asthma attack. Experiencing the frustration of being unable to properly communicate with the medical staff encouraged her to learn English and she now attends every ESOL class. As Aisha herself states, “I am more than happy to attend the classes for as long as the AACA runs them!” 

It is hence no surprise the the ACAA received the 2018 Queen’s Award for Excellence – ‘the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK’. 

To find more about the organisation, how you can support its honourable endeavours, or leave a donation, visit their website here. You can also show your support by following them on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. 

Nathalia Gonzalez

First year BSc Politics and International Relations students

MLA CITATIONS 

About the author Editor Posted In: Development | Featured | Gender, et al. “Afghanistan’s First Citizen’s Advice Centres: A Path to Foreign Aid Success?” South Asia @ LSE, 23 Nov. 2016, blogs.lse.ac.uk/southasia/2016/11/24/afghanistans-first-citizens-advice-centres-a-path-to-foreign-aid-success/.

Roopanarine, Les. “UK Aid Projects in Afghanistan Must Be Overseen More Closely, Warns Watchdog.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 Mar. 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2012/mar/22/uk-aid-afghanistan-overseen-more-effectively.

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