Ilford refugees charity boss Rita standing down after more than a decade
- Credit: Archant
A charity boss who took the government to court and won is stepping down after 11 years.
Rita Chadha will leave the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (Ramfel) at the end of this month after initially thinking she would be with the charity – which provides free immigration advice – for just six months.
“It feels quite emotional, but the organisation has developed to a new stage and needs new blood,” Rita said.
“It’s been an eventful 11 years and I’ve met the challenges head-on.”
Operating across east London, Ramfel, High Road, Ilford was started in 1992 to support asylum seekers.
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In 2013 it successfully led a challenge to stop the government’s bus billboards threatening illegal immigrants with arrest. “We had few resources, but we didn’t think twice about what we were doing. We did it within a week because we were so angry,” Rita said.
But perhaps the biggest challenge has been securing funding for a charity with an immigration focus – with staff going without pay at times to keep the charity afloat.
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“We’ve been close to closure so many times,” Rita said. “We’ve had a lot of pressure on us, but always remained steadfast.”
“When you work for a charity that goes from being very popular or very unpopular you never know where you are. Sometimes you are shunned because no one wants to talk about immigration.”
Although it can be a concern for communities, for Rita it’s important to engage with those who oppose immigration. “We’ve got to understand it from their point of view as well.”
During her leadership, Rita has seen demand for the charity’s services increase from 50 people to between 120 and 200 a week. Its food bank, which once received eight regular visitors, now distributes food to between 40 and 60 families.
Rita, who lives in Stratford, won’t stop fighting against injustice, with work to be done on homelessness and immigration. Passionate about improving people’s lives, she is adamant the best way to achieve it is “one-on-one”.