‘You come here, because you need help, you hurt because of what you have seen, but you find life harder than back home. My heart is broken, my spirit destroyed, I do not understand and I am alone’
- The words of one of the first asylum seekers to settle into Redbridge
In 1992, Redbridge Refugee Forum was established in partnership with two parent bodies, the local CVS and the Race Equality Council.
In 1997, Redbridge Refugee Forum went independent, moving to Cranbrook Road. Greta describes the new office below
In March 2006, Rita Chadha joined Redbridge Refugee Forum on a six month contract to have a look at the organisation.
Redbridge Refugree Forum changed it's name in 2007. Changing the name to 'Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London'. This helped to represent the organisation better as it began to support individuals beyond Redbridge and was also supporting migrants as well as refugees.
In 2008, Redbridge Refugee Forum moved to the Cardinal Heenan Centre in Ilford, after losing support from the local council to stay on their premises on
2009 brought the financial crisis, meaning charities like the Refugee and Migrant forum of East London were hit hard, losing a significant amount of funding.
In 2012, RAMFEL lost further funding and the charity registration, during this difficult time, they recieved consultancy help from Trust For London.
Despite the organisations financial struggles, RAMFEL continued to operate on a day to day basis providing a wide range of services. They also continued to identify gaps of support and in 2011, Redbridge Rainbow was officially formed.
Summer 2013, saw the Government trial Operation Valken, also known as 'The Go Home Vans'. The vans toured East London, calling for migrants to 'go home or face arrest'. Rita talks about the Go Home Vans and RAMFEL's involvement in challenging this initative.
The Hidden World of Britain's Immigrants, a BBC documentary on RAMFEL, aired in January 2014.
In 1995, a study entitled Marginal Inclusion? was undertaken by Kiri Narendaren and Dr Roger Green. The study aimed to get picture of number of Refugees in Redbridge, alongside acknowledging their needs.
In 1993, Greta Edwards began volunteering for Redbridge Refugee Forum, and still continues to assist today. Here she speak about why she volunteers.
"On the corner of Cranbrook road and err there were… it was open plan and there were glass planes before each interviewing room so … there were three interviewing rooms so those would be full."
"We knew there was a gap because nobody was talking about LGBT issues... we decided to see if we could we do any work around LGBT communities and whether there was a need to set up a specialist organisation. Erm so Redbridge Rainbow was born around 2010 and officially constituted in 2011...and its been going since."
The Asylum and Immigraiton Act 1999, made it a legal requirement for all those who gave immigration advice to be registered with the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner. Greta talks about obtaining this qualification below.
Redbridge Refugee Forum continued to struggle, but the organisation developed into a more professional service.
The Somali Consortium was born in 2000, it aimed to target services towards the growing Somali refugee population in Redbridge. The Consortium was supported by Redbridge Refugee Forum.
The organisation continued to support individuals across Redbridge with the help from the local community who donated food, clothing etc. allowing RRF to reach the most vulnerable residents in the area.
RAMFEL's influence grew and in June 2013, 'Operation Sleeping Bag' was challenged by RAMFEL, influencing local policy on dealing with issues surrounding rough sleepers.
The organisation struggled further, losing company registration and faced closure.
RAMFEL's commitment to fight and campaign for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants has meant 25 years of defying the odds.
RAMFEL's continued to keep their clients welfare at the forefront of their mission, despite facing financial hardship, cuts to services and media and press attention. Below, Greta recalls a memorable client who named his child after her and Sayid talks challenges in casework support.
Professor Michael Keith, Director of the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at Oxford University, talks about his involvement and thoughts on RAMFEL.
By the end of 2016, RAMFEL had secured enough funding for it's core services for the next four to six years. The organisation continues to run through the incredible determination from staff and volunteers.
You can find out more about RAMFEL on their website www.ramfel.org.uk