Project launched to break down ‘barriers’ between Ilford’s Asian and Roma communities

Barriers will be brought down as part of a bid to establish “understanding” between two key communities in Ilford, while at the same time tackling antisocial behaviour head-on.

The project, which launched on Monday, is aiming to build bridges between young members of the Roma and eastern European community and the Asian community in Loxford and Clementswood wards.

The League of British Muslims has secured �53,000 of funding from the Home Office’s innovation fund for the project, which will see youth worker Sylvester Huczkl, 28, take to the streets and engage with members of the Roma and eastern European communities in their own language.

He says it may take time, but project leaders hope it will set the wheels in motion to integrate many of them into the wider community.

Paul Murray, a co-opted board member of the League, said: “We’re trying to promote understanding and tolerance which is simply not there at the moment.

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“The aim is to reduce antisocial behaviour, but it is so much more than that. It’s about bringing down barriers with the more established Asian community in the two wards and bringing them together with the Roma and eastern European community.”

One way that will be achieved will be through a video project, where members of the two communities will interview each other about their culture and lifestyle.

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Leaders of the “Streets Ahead” Roma Youth Project also want to engage Roma and eastern Europeans to get them “back into the mainstream”, be it work or education.

League chairman Bashir Chaudhry said: “This is a starting point.

“They’ve come from a different culture, from a completely different way of life, like we did in the 1950s/1960s.

“In 12 months we can’t sort it but hopefully we can take it further and get more funding.

Mr Huczkl said many of the difficulties with integration were specific to Romanian and Bulgarian Romas.

In a letter supporting the project Ch Insp Bill Brame said antisocial behaviour in the two wards had been “increasing steadily over the past few years” and was “negatively affecting the lives of residents”.

He added the community-led approach with police and the community safety partnership would likely help reduce such antisocial behaviour.

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