‘You either love us or hate us’ - Ilford refugee charity Ramfel that’s like ‘Marmite’ celebrates 21 years

Ramfel in Ilford has been going for 21 years

Ramfel in Ilford has been going for 21 years - Credit: Archant

A charity which helps asylum seekers has held a celebration for its 21st anniversary and National Refugee Week.

The Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London (Ramfel) has helped thousands of people, whether with immigration advice, food parcels or English classes.

Rita Chadha, chief executive of the forum in High Road, Ilford, said its biggest achievement was managing to survive.

“These are very difficult times for all voluntary organisations, but as a refugee organisation we had a lot more to contend with, including institutional prejudice, racism and ignorance,” she said.

Ms Chadha has been leading the forum for the past seven years. It was on the brink of folding when she stepped in.

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She said: “We are delighted to have become the Marmite of voluntary organisations – you either love us or hate us.

“We care for neither option, we are simply here to do a job, which is to support the most vulnerable in our community and challenge injustice wherever we see it.”

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Refugee Week aims to counter some of the more negative perceptions people have of refugees and asylum seekers.

Ms Chadha said: “It’s an opportunity for people to come together and understand the positive contribution that refugees and migrants have made to the UK.

“Even fish and chips was introduced by a refugee, it’s not a traditionally English dish.”

She said the media was partly to blame for the bad reputation of immigration in the UK.

“I think people don’t understand the reality of these people’s situations,” she said. “People believe what they are told in the newspapers about them getting housing and jobs when they come off the plane – which is just not the case.”

The charity offers help navigating the complicated immigration system, training for anyone wanting to learn more about refugees and migrants and English classes.

It also has a food bank.

People have to be frequently assessed in order for them to be able to access it.

Ramfel held a tea party to celebrate its birthday on Friday at the Cardinal Heenan Centre, High Road, Ilford.

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