About the advisory group
The advisory group is crucial to the running of the policy unit. Members are critical friends guiding us to make sure that the work we do is impactful and meaningful. They bring their knowledge and skills to discuss and influence what we work on and how we work on it.
The advisory group bring a lot of expertise to the table. Some are in the migrants’ rights sector, in organisations that support and further the rights of migrant communities, others are legal specialists, and a number work in academia, conducting vital research into the inequalities faced by migrant groups. Many of the group have lived experience of migration and of interacting with the UK’s asylum and immigration system.
The diverse backgrounds of those making up the advisory group brings a unique perspective to the work of the Migration Policy Unit. They ensure we’re working on the most pressing issues and help us to look at complex challenges from new angles.
In terms of what the advisory group does: we’re meeting every other month to discuss what projects we work on and how, sharing early drafts of reports with members for their feedback, and seeking their advice on the best ways to influence change. A future blog will go into more detail about what we’ve been up to and our learning so far.
Below you can find out a bit more about those that make up the advisory group.
Meet the advisory group
Dr Alex Bulat is the Co-Director of Migrant Democracy Project, an organisation advocating for immigration policy reform through involving migrants in the democratic processes - from voter registration to campaigning for residence-based voting rights. Alex has also worked in migration research for almost a decade, completing a PhD at UCL in Political Sociology and Migration Studies. In 2021, Alex became the first Romanian-British Labour Councillor, representing Abbey on Cambridgeshire County Council and is currently the Migrant Champion of the council.
Anita Hurrell is Head of the Migrant Children’s Programme at the children’s charity Coram. She co-chairs the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium, a coalition of 80+ organisations coordinating on policy work to promote the rights of children and young people affected by UK immigration control. Anita has previously worked at the Greater London Authority, the think tank Policy Network and the Refugee Legal Centre.
Annie Karuimbo is a passionate Kenyan advocate for people seeking sanctuary, with personal experience of the asylum process. Based in Wales, Annie is a British Red Cross Voices Ambassador, Sanctuary in Politics Course graduate and Sanctuary Ambassador with City of Sanctuary UK. Annie has used her lived experience to agitate for change in policy to enable a more dignified asylum system. She also plays an active role in the "Lift the Ban" campaign, working to allow employment for asylum seekers which has recently gained significant traction amongst cross-party MPs. A mum to an amazing daughter, Annie is committed to building a happy life for them both in the UK and working to make the UK a more welcoming place for the next families that seek to live in safety in the UK.
Beth Gardiner-Smith is the founding CEO of Safe Passage International a charity that operates across Europe assisting unaccompanied children and refugees to access safe routes and the right to asylum. Prior to this she worked as a Political Advisor in both the House of Lords and Commons and oversaw the development of Party policy on refugee and asylum issues at the height of the ‘refugee crisis’ in 2016. Beth trained as a community organiser and has a background in policy and political campaigning both in the UK and US.
Christopher Lawrence Desira
Christopher Desira is the director of Seraphus, an immigration, policy, and advocacy law firm. His is a solicitor, trustee of Settled, and an adviser to the EU Delegation to the EU on EU citizens’ rights. He and his law firm support a wide range of charities including New Europeans, St Mungo’s, Kanlungan, among others, and has worked at other charities including Bail for Immigration Detainees, Freedom from Torture, JCWI. He has lived experience and has worked within the immigration sector for over 20 years.
Clare is the director of the HKC Refugee Rights Hub and a senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. Clare has worked in the forced migration field for over twenty years in Scotland and England as a legal representative, policy advisor and trainer. She has been instrumental in the development of large and successful services for refugees, most recently establishing the Hub within the University’s law department where students work alongside regulated case workers on live family reunion cases while studying. Clare’s academic interests include family reunion; children’s rights; ethical and safeguarding considerations within trafficking and asylum related casework.
Iman Rajeh Saad Al-Harithi
Iman works as advice drop-in manager at St. Augustine’s Centre in Halifax helping people seeking sanctuary. Iman has done lots of work in the UK related to asylum and refugees and has a background in Human Rights having worked as an advisor for a sustainable development organisation in Yemen. She received her master’s degree in public management from Potsdam University, Germany in 2010 and another master’s in international business management, UK in 2018. Iman is passionate about her work in immigration and human rights as she wants to make change to the current system to be more welcoming.
With a background in human rights research, Jack is a peer researcher with Migration Yorkshire. He has been involved in two research projects on migrants’ integration in the Yorkshire and Humber region with the IPPR. With lived experience of the asylum process in the UK, he has been engaged in different community activities and volunteering roles to support asylum seekers and refugees. Prior to joining Migration Yorkshire, he volunteered with the British Red Cross.
Mariña Fernández-Reino, PhD, is a Senior Researcher at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society and the Migration Observatory (University of Oxford). Throughout her academic career, she has investigated a variety of topics related to migration and ethnic inequalities, including the discrimination of ethnic and religious minorities, public opinion towards migration, inequalities in education, relationships in migrant families, and the labour market integration of migrants. She is currently the PI of a research project investigating migrants’ lived experiences of the UK immigration system and is a researcher in the project “Cumulative discrimination and prejudice against marginalised groups in Europe”, funded by the Horizon Europe Framework Programme.
Tesfalem Yemane is a refugee from Eritrea. He is currently working at the University of Liverpool as a Post-doctoral Research Associate on the Channel Crossings research project. Tesfalem is also a part-time PhD student at the University of Leeds. In his PhD research, Tesfalem tries to understand the factors that influence the destination preferences of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, and their post-arrival experiences.
Zarlasht Halaimzai is the Founder of Amna – an organisation committed to supporting the mental well-being of refugees and other displaced communities. A former refugee from Afghanistan, Zarlasht’s experiences have informed her work and, prior to founding Amna, she advised NGOs on refugee education and wellbeing. Her work has been profiled in The Lancet, one of the oldest medical journals in the world, and in 2021, she was included in the BBC’s annual list of 100 inspiring and inspirational women. Prior to that, in 2018, Zarlasht was selected as a Fellow of the Inaugural class of Obama Fellows, a group of 20 global leaders in civic innovation. Zarlasht has a Diploma in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapeutic Counselling from the University of Cambridge and is pursuing a master’s degree in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy from the University of Oxford. She is a frequent media commentator in the UK and US on issues related to refugees, trauma, and displacement.