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24Dash.com

Arhag Housing Association has hosted a 30th anniversary event to celebrate its achievements and recognise the valuable contribution refugees and migrants have made to community life.

Arhag was founded in 1979 as a campaign group to challenge the housing disadvantages experienced by African migrants and refugees. It developed as a housing association in the 1980s and now manages over 700 homes in 12 London boroughs, making it the largest HA in the UK that specifically sets out to address the needs or refugee and migrant communities.

Arhag provides homes for people from all countries and continents but the majority of its tenants are African, a significant proportion of which are from the Horn of Africa.

The award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community’ was presented to Alem Gebrehiwot by the Mayor of Camden, Councillor Omar Faruque Ansari.

Alem has been an Arhag tenant since 1998 and is the Executive Director of a community project called Embrace UK.

Embrace UK was established in 1994 and seeks to further the integration of refugees and those of a refugee background by providing information, advice and guidance on a range of issues including education, training, welfare benefits, immigration, housing, money and debt, business start-up, employment, parenting and health.

The two runners up were Petros Tesfaghorghis and Habbib Azim.

Petros has been a tenant since 1996 and was recognised for his work with the Eritrean Elders Group, based in Kensington & Chelsea.

He was also recognized for his study into the experiences of failed Eritrean asylum seekers which he felt helped to influence accommodation and subsistence being made available to failed asylum seekers e.g. prior to appeal and pending going home.

Habbib has been a tenant since 1996 and was recognized for his role in setting up a disability support group amongst parents/carers in Newham in 2002. Many of the parents and carers are themselves refugees and migrants and his group has helped to remove some of the isolation they experienced.