The Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK, formed by nine voluntary sector organisations, was founded in November 2012 with the aim of raising awareness and disseminating information concerning matters that are of importance to the Latin American community.
The results of the study “No Longer Invisible”, carried out by Queen Mary University and sponsored by the Trust for London and the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), identified the state of inequality facing the Latin American community in the United Kingdom.
The non-recognition of Latin Americans as an ethnic minority has rendered the community invisible. They comprise of around 113,500 individuals in London and have had a presence for more than four decades within the city’s workforce and cultural sphere.
The publication of this report has also resulted in Latin American organisations coming together to work jointly and establish themselves collectively within the British legal framework.
Currently the coalition is composed of nine organisations: The Latin American School of Artistic and Cultural Education (ESFORAL), the Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO), Latin American House, Latin American Women’s Aid (LAWA), Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), Teléfono de la Esperanza, the Latin American Support Group, Naz Latina, and two observer members.
The Prisma spoke to Lucila Granada, co-ordinator of the campaign and lobbyist for CLAUK.
How did CLAUK come about?
Following the publication of “No Longer Invisible”, LAWRS called on those organisations that wanted to work on the recommendations of the investigation, so that it did not remain a mere paper exercise. Then in July 2011 a group of organisations started to meet periodically, and in November 2012 this group, financed by the Trust for London, formally consolidated itself as a coalition. CLAUK was therefore founded with the common objective of these organisations to put the recommendations of the report into practice by involving the authorities.
After reviewing the recommendations, the main priorities were considered to be to work for improved access to employment rights, for better access to healthcare and to establish the recognition of Latin Americans as an ethnic minority.
I suppose that the door is also open to other organisations
Of course. CLAUK is a coalition that is open to the incorporation of Latin American voluntary sector organisations and campaigns that share these objectives.
What is the implication of being recognised as an ethnic minority?
It would be an enormous step forward in the process of integration of our community. It would mean that the authorities would be committed to assuring that our community has access to healthcare, education and other services.
Thanks to the work of different sectors and associations, the community has obtained recognition within Southwark Council. We are now taking this petition to other areas where there is a concentration of Latin Americans such as Lambeth, Islington, Haringey, Hackney, Newham and possibly Lewisham.
You have stated that another line of action will be to focus on employment rights.
Exactly. In certain sectors of the labour market, such is the case in service industries, where the largest proportion of the Latin American population works, there is a lot of exploitation and discrimination. There are people who only have contracts for up to two hours. Many people are contracted on a ‘casual’ basis, which means that the person is employed but does not have any statutory benefits, and many earn less than the minimum national wage. This lack of employment regulation means that many people do not have holidays or cannot request maternity or sickness leave. At the moment, we are strengthening links with institutions that work for the rights of employees.
And why is there a concern in relation to health?
The lack of access to healthcare is worrying. According to the investigation, one in every five Latin Americans is not registered with a GP. Through the coalition we are going to fight to improve the access to health services for Latin Americans. As a first step, we are planning to provide information in the form of an access to healthcare guide, written in Spanish and Portuguese, with basic information about the different services of the NHS.
The panorama has changed in recent years. Is “No Longer Invisible” out-dated?
“No Longer Invisible” is the most exhaustive study carried out to date about our community. It is of great value for us because it reveals the situation facing our community and provides a numerical estimate of the Latin American population in London and the UK based, on statistical data from official sources. Nevertheless, it is important to continue carrying out studies on our community. The demand for our organisations’ services has increased considerably, which leads us to believe that the number of Latin Americans has grown substantially in recent years, largely due to the economic crisis within Europe.
(Translated by Martin Relph – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay