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The JCWI family celebrates 50 years of working for migrant rights

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Posted on September 20th 2017

“JCWI has since day one been on the streets, in the courtroom, in the newsroom and in the briefing room at every single significant moment”, Satbir Singh, the new chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said last night.

The charity was celebrating its 50th anniversary at the British Academy near London’s St James’s Park. Politicians, campaigners, trustees, lawyers, funders and staff were in attendance.

During the event a short film was shown, illustrating how over the past half century JCWI has been at the centre of providing legal advocacy for migrants at the same time as campaigning for changes in the law.

Mr Singh officially took over from Saira Grant as chief executive of the charity on Monday 18 September, having worked for a number of years as an international human rights advocate before returning to the UK earlier this year.

International human rights

He said at the event: “Saira leaves behind an organisation that is more secure, better resourced, and better placed to face head-on the challenges that we all as a sector face in the coming years.

“[JCWI is] an organisation that has, through its impeccable record of casework, provided much needed support to thousands of vulnerable individuals and families in their hour of need. [It] draws on this insight and experience to seek new opportunities to make lasting and impactful policy change.”

He added: “I inherit a world in which I am able to say with pride that I am an immigrant…I am mindful of the world that my children will inherit. So, let us ask ourselves – what will people say of us in 50 years’ time? What will be our legacy?”

Saira Grant, his predecessor as JCWI chief executive, said: “It is with great pride that this year we celebrate JCWI’s 50th anniversary. I also hope that this year heralds the start of another 50 years for JCWI.

Harsh realities

“The fight for justice and equality is continuous whatever the flavour of politics, and those who share our vision for a better society and country will always have a role to play.

“Today, JCWI stands strong with an outstanding reputation and decades of experience and expertise in immigration law and policy. This is the first opportunity since the 1971 Immigration Act for meaningful legal reform and JCWI is poised to play a vital role.”

Minoo Jalali, the chair of trustees of JCWI, said: “Throughout fifty years of legal, advocacy and campaigning activity, JCWI has never stopped exposing the harsh realities arising from unjust immigration laws and policies.

“Today the confusion and lack of clarity arising from the UK’s decision to quit Europe has rendered the future shape of UK immigration law more uncertain than ever.

A clear vision

“This means that we have a lot of work to do to understand and analyse the long-term impact of Brexit for immigrant communities, and to obtain a clear vision of how to influence the shape of future legislation.”

The 50th anniversary was also celebrated by supporters of the charity. Sadiq Khan, the major of London, said in a message published in the JCWI annual review: “JCWI has had a key role in promoting justice, fairness and equality for the past 50 years.”

JCWI was founded at a crowded meeting of more than 240 people from different immigrant communities and anti-racism groups which took place at the Dominion Cinema in Southall, on 23 September 1967.

During the last 50 years JCWI’s achievements include delaying the government withdrawal of legal aid for migrants for more than a decade, defeating the Secretary of State so asylum seekers could not be convicted and imprisoned for carrying false papers and launching the now global I Am Immigrant campaign.