Fizza Qureshi, CEO of the Migrants' Rights Network, explains why her charity did not want to apply for funding from the Mayor of London to tackle hate crime and extremism
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Charities and organisations working on social justice issues, especially immigration, will be aware of the difficult funding climate we navigate. Having to be reactive to constant policy and legislative changes means there is always a focus on the here and now, rather than the longer-term changes we want to see.
So, when a new funding calls come out, like the one by the London Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to tackle hate and extremism, it can become a small beacon of hope for the work we want to deliver but lacking the resources to do so.
In an increasingly polarised society, the MOPAC funding call feels like a timely and important initiative to properly resource organisations and help communities deal with hate crime.
Every year since 2012, the Home Office has recorded an increase in hate crime with a 26% increase in reported hate crimes last year (155,841), compared to 2021 (124,104 crimes recorded). This includes spikes in hate crime following the 2016 EU Referendum and during Black Lives Matter events. Of the crimes recorded in 2022, 70% (109,843) of these were for race hate crimes. However, each year has seen a rise in offences recorded for religious, sexual orientation, transgender and disability hate crimes.
We know that dehumanising language has led to a fuelling of racism targeted at minority communities, including migrants and refugees. At the Migrants' Rights Network, we have been focused on the rapid descent into negative and dehumanising narratives from the Government, sections of our media and influencers.
To this end, our 'Words Matter' campaign, which aims to defy the demonising narratives around migration, felt like a brilliant fit for the MOPAC funding call.
Disappointingly, what has stopped us from applying is the inclusion of the Prevent programme as part of the application process. Prevent is the Government’s counter-extremism programme which is outsourced to the public sector to report signs of radicalisation and/or violent extremist behaviour in individuals. It disproportionately targets and stigmatises Muslim communities, and reduces trust-building and engagement with Muslim people.
The MOPAC application form advises “that you engage with the local authorities' Prevent team/leads as part of the planning for your project prior to submitting an application, in order to gain their support for your proposal”.
It goes on to state: “If you have not engaged with the local authorities’ Prevent team/leads before submitting an application, or you have not been able to do so, please explain why, and/or what steps you have taken to try to do so.”
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There is a growing issue with knowing where funding comes from and the conditions attached to these calls. Funding to focus on issues like hate crime are now being filtered through the Government’s counter-extremism strategy. Whereas, in the past, it used to have two forms – one addressing “community cohesion” and the other the security aspects of Prevent.
Government reports have spoken of the need to keep the two aspects separate, but in the last year the Home Office programme on social cohesion, 'Building a Stronger Britain Together', has been closed and the recent Shawcross review of Prevent recommended that a security focus should dominate.
This ultimately means that everything gets tainted with the Prevent programme lens, leaving organisations like ours disinclined to apply for funding. Applying would go against our values as an intersectional and equity-led organisation that also champions other social justice sector campaigns. We oppose Prevent and the counter-extremism programmes which make certain communities more vulnerable.
There is an irony when the funding call is encouraging projects that “work across the multiple harms driven by extremist ideology including but again not limited to antisemitism, anti-Muslim hate, anti-minority hate” place engagement with the Prevent programme as an integral part of the application process – when the Prevent strategy itself has been condemned for fuelling anti-Muslim hate.
Why should the local Prevent lead have any influence or approval on a project proposal? What happens when they clearly disapprove or refuse to endorse? Perhaps putting us off from applying was the point?
Fundraising for smaller grassroots organisations that are at the coal-face of their communities is already tough – and it's only getting worse in this economic and political climate.
Fizza Qureshi is the CEO of the Migrants' Rights Network. She is the Co-Chair of the3million, on the board of Migrants at Work, and on the honorary advisory committee for the Black Europeans
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