Integrating Pakistani Migrant Husbands to the UK
Spouses constitute one of the most significant sources of settlement migration to the UK. Most services for migrant spouses focus on women but 35-45% of migrant spouses from the Indian subcontinent, the largest group of spousal migrants, are men.
Katharine Charsley’s research points to the integration challenges Pakistani migrant husbands could face (eg. Charsley 2005), whilst comparative work documents similar issues elsewhere in Europe (eg. Liversage 2012, Charsley & Liversage 2012).
QED works to improve the social and economic position of disadvantaged communities in partnership with public, private and civil society organisations. For over 5 years they had run pre-departure language and integration programmes funded by the European Integration Fund (EIF) and the UK Home Office, supporting over 1,000 Pakistani women applying for spousal visas to enter the UK. Their pre-departure programme was one of two projects showcased by the Home Office at the concluding conference of the EIF (2015) as a model for other projects. The EIF prioritised vulnerable groups including migrant women but its successor, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), abolished this differentiation. This made it financially viable for QED to seek to offer such services for men for the first time.
QED had already worked with Charsley on her research project Marriage Migration and Integration - MMI. Together they bid successfully for Bristol’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) funding, to design and deliver a prototype pre-departure integration and language training service in Pakistan for men applying for spousal visas for the UK.
It was intended that this would form the basis of an application for long term EU/Home Office funding, taking advantage the new AMIF funding opportunity. QED had experience in the field and a strong track record but needed to demonstrate workability and value by developing and running a prototype of the programme.
Teaching materials were developed, and the two pilot courses completed. Post-course evaluation was achieved fully in Pakistan, but there were challenges to the post-migration evaluation. During the project, processing time for visas increased substantially, and some applications were refused. Overall only about half of the graduates had arrived in the UK by the end of the project. These challenges proved frustrating and time-consuming but provided useful lessons about timing (i.e. before or after migration) and other necessary conditions for this kind of intervention.
The key dissemination output was a Policy Bristol Briefing paper detailing key findings from the project.
As a result of this collaboration, QED used the project in discussions with potential funders and policy-makers, developed a new set of teaching materials on language and integration, and submitted two major funding applications. Combined academic and partner disseminations included talking to key policy makers such as contacts in the Home Office, Ministry for Housing, Community and Local Government and Bristol City Council, and a QED-led Seminar for Bristol staff and students.
QED described the experience as “immensely beneficial as a learning exercise for us. For almost 30 years we have been campaigning for integration of minority ethnic communities…This has been the first time we worked in partnership with an academic institution on action research project… We have always used the findings of this project in meetings with government departments and other people we come across and widely circulated the summary of findings. Indirect benefits included learning from university about action-based research methods and conducting focus group discussions in UK and Pakistan [which] our staff found very useful.”
Initially, it seemed that hopes from long-term funding resulting from the project had been dashed - during the project (and in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum) the AMIF funding stream was not announced when anticipated and when it reappeared, no longer available for pre-migration training as originally envisaged. However, lessons from the project on the pros and cons of the timing of integration interventions turned out to be valuable. In 2019, QED successfully applied for AMIF funding for integration support for migrants in the UK: the 3-year grant of over £800,000 will benefit over 900 migrants.