MA Refugee Studies / MA Conflict, Displacement and Human Security Induction

Greetings to our new postgraduate students on their first induction night tonight for our postgraduate MAs in Refugee Studies / Conflict Displacement and Human Security here at the University of East London.  We would like to take this opportunity to welcome all of our new students and to share some details of the Archival collections on offer as part of the Refugee Council Archive.  We hope you find the following useful and do contact us if you would like further information.

Refugee Council Archive at UEL

Contact details:

Paul V. Dudman, Archivist, UEL Docklands Campus, Ground Floor, Docklands Library.
Tel: 020 8223 7676 / email:
@PaulDudman (Twitter)

Key Resources and Social Media

Living Refugee Archive:

UEL Archives Web Page:

Refugee Archives on Twitter:


History of the Refugee Council

The Refugee Council Archive initially arrived at the University of East London in the Autumn of 2002, in order to help support the research and teaching being undertaken as part of the postgraduate MA course in Refugee Studies.  An official opening of the Refugee Council Archive subsequently took place on Wednesday 21st May 2003. This provided an excellent opportunity to promote the Archive and to encourage students, researchers, community groups and refugees themselves to use an Archive, which is of both national and international importance. Jeff Crisp, head of the Evaluation and Policy Unit of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attended the opening ceremony and said of the Archive: `this is a fabulous resource, and it contains some extremely are items unavailable anywhere else in the world. In the field of refugee studies, we are all very focused on all that is happening in the world today, but for full understanding we need to know about our history and learn lessons from the past.’ Fazil Kawani, Communication Director at the Refugee Council observed, `this archive dates back to 1951 and we are delighted that it is now being hosted by UEL. East London has a diverse population including many communities founded by refugees. It is also important as a record of people’s lives; people who have crossed borders and been forced to leave homes, livelihoods and families.’

Details of the launch event were documented in the Guardian newspaper with their article, UEL unveils refugee archive, published on Tuesday 23 May, 2003.

History of the Refugee Council

The history of the Refugee Council Archive can be traced back to 1951 when it was initially conceived by the forerunners of the Refugee Council. The Archive was extensively developed over a period of three decades from the 1960s to the late 1990s. This resulted in the Council establishing an Archive of international importance covering refugee issues from all over the world, but with a particularly strong emphasis on British materials. The Archive is an important resource for the study of resettlement, displacement, flight and exile, refugee experiences and community life, and legal, political and social issues.

Refugee Council Archive

The Refugee Council Archive at the University of East London represents one of the largest collections of materials relating to the study of forced migration and the refugee. It is a source of information and analysis on displacement, flight and exile; on legal, political and social issues; and on refugee community life.

The Archive contains materials on refugees in all parts of the world, with special emphasis on Britain. It was originally housed at the Refugee Council, the lead organization in Britain on refugee issues. For over 50 years the Refugee Council collected official and unofficial reports, books and journals, newsletters, conference proceedings, research documents, field reports, informal data, and working papers. It also developed an extensive library of press cuttings.  In addition to this Special Collection, the Archive also contains archival material recording the history of the Refugee Council as an organisation.

The Routledge Guide to British Political Archives published in 2006 describes the Refugee Council Archive as follows:

“The Refugee Council was established in 1981 by the merger of the British Council for Aid to Refugees (BCAR) and the Standing Conference on Refugees (SCOR). The Council exists to `campaign for refugees’ rights in Great Britain and abroad, and to advise individuals of their legal position as refugees.  The archives of the BCAR and SCOR have been retained by the Council.  The papers of the Refugee Council itself may be classified as comprising the minutes of the Executive Council; official correspondence with government and the United Nations officials, and individual refugee case files.  Further details may be obtained from the Head of Information, but it should be understood that owing to the Council’s limited resources access to the papers are likely to be restricted.” (Reference: Chris Cook, The Routledge Guide to British Political Archives: Sources since 1945.  Abingdon: Routledge, 2006: page 370. Available in the Refugee Council Archive reading room at QU9.2 COO).

The Refugee Council Archive uses a classification scheme initially created by the Refugee Council. This was established solely for the cataloguing of refugee-related materials and the scheme covers most geographical regions and countries. Archival materials are indexed using terms taken from the International Thesaurus of Refugee Terminology produced by the UNHCR and now available online at Major sections of the Archive are organised under topics including:

`country of origin conditions; causes of flight; migration; asylum; assistance; adaptation; special groups and organizations. Materials are organised according to state of origin of refugees in question; the main regions include Central Asia, East Asia, South-East Asia, West Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, North Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, Europe, America, Caribbean , Latin America and Oceania.’

Whilst the Refugee Council Archive at UEL is one of the foremost archival collections relating to the study of migration and refugee issues, it also continues to retain an inter-disciplinary flavour.

`Materials held are relevant to research in refugee studies, demography and migration studies, policies history, geography, law, legal studies, international relations, sociology, social welfare, ethnic and diasporic studies, psycho-social studies, community studies and social studies.’ There are rare documents unique to this collection, published books and journals, a large quantity of published and unpublished articles and reports; conference papers and grey literature; newsletters, research documents; field reports and working papers.

One of our key objectives is to actively collect new items for the Collection and to increase both the national and international coverage of what we hold. We are also continuing the extensive press cuttings service which was established by the Refugee Council and contain a large number of cuttings pertaining to refugee and migration issues. There is now a significant amount of pre 1998 cuttings plus a comprehensive coverage of regional, national and UNHCR cuttings from 1998 through to the present day.

Whilst we are keen to develop the archival collection, we are equally determined to promote and facilitate access to the Refugee Council Archive at UEL for those wishing to use it. Our goal is to not only promote access amongst traditional researchers, academic students, policy makers and NGOs, but to also make a concerted effort to make the Archive accessible to refugee groups and individual refugees themselves. Access to dedicated resources on refugee studies and forced migration can often be difficult for refugees to access so we are hoping to raise awareness of the Archive amongst refugee groups and communities.

Additional refugee and migration archival collections at UEL include the Council for Assisting At-Risk Academics; Northern Refugee Centre; UNHCR London Office; Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees (ICAR); Charter 87; and the Cambridge Refugee Support Group.

Additional non-refugee specific collections available include the British Olympic Association Archive and Library; the Hackney Empire Theatre archive; the Eastside Community Heritage `East London People’s Archive’ which includes over a thousand oral history recordings documenting a number of projects in East London, several of which focus on refugee and migration issues and a growing East London Studies archive.

UEL Archives and Civic Engagement


In January 2015 UEL launched its new civic engagement agenda and as part of the announcement launched the UEL Civic Engagement Fund.  Professor John Joughin, the UEL Vice-Chancellor, said, “This is directly aligned to one of the key objectives in our Corporate Plan, to explore and exploit new opportunities to build partnerships that benefit our students and communities, facilitated by our staff.”  The aim of the fund, and for the projects it supported, was to give students the opportunity to learn off campus on real-life projects for the benefit of our communities.  Details on the background to this can be found on the UEL website at:


Archive Civic Engagement and London Scholars Projects

Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion? Civic Engagement through the Preservation and Access to Refugee Archives.

This project sought to use existing Archives held within the UEL Library as a basis to forge new partnerships between students, academics, archivists and a community groups.

One of the major outcomes of the project was the creation of the Living Refugee Archive website and this can be found online here:

In conjunction with our co-researcher, Dr. Rumana Hashem, we have undertaken consultation meetings with communities, academics, students, archivists and practitioners within the field of refugee and migration studies. Rumana, as CMRB post-doctoral associate member, has also collected oral history narratives of refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in London, which will be preserved and made accessible through a new website, called the Living Refugee Archive, which Paul has created. The research was seen as a collaborative outreach project between the UEL Archives and CMRB, and the fund was to be finished by the end of July. Within this time, we have collected five oral histories of refugees and undocumented migrants, conducted significant consultations with communities and experts in the field, held a workshop with academics, archivists students, and third sector activists working – both nationally and internationally- in the field, and created a

Living Refugee Archive:

Twitter Handle:  @LivingRefArch

OLIve Course for Refugees

With support from Erasmas+ funding, the University of East London is offering a 10-week course for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. The aim of the course is to introduce refugees and asylum seekers to Higher Education. The course offers an opportunity for students to find out what skills and knowledge are needed in order to apply for and succeed in HE in the UK and provides information about pathways and opportunities. The course offers modules and workshops in English language and academic writing, research skills, academic tutoring and introduction to academic discussions.

We have undertaken four OLIve courses to day and our next course OLIve 5, begins on Saturday, 29th September 2018 and runs until Saturday, 1st December 2018, a total of ten weeks. Previous MA students gave helped volunteer to volunteer on this programme and if you are interested or would like further information, please contact either Aura Lounasamma, OLIve director, on (OLIve Director) or Paul Dudman, on (Archivist).

OLIve Online:
Facebook Group:
Twitter Handle:  @Olive_UEL

Refugee Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal

We have also been a partner in civic engagement/London Scholars projects run in conjunction with academic colleagues in the School of Psychology.  The aim of the project was to establish an online mental health portal which can be made accessible to both mental health practitioners and also to refugees and asylum seekers themselves and to facilitate access to a range of resources that would otherwise be very difficult to access.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal for Refugees & Asylum Seekers has been created to be utilised as a first stop resource to enable mental health and social care professionals, community organisations, statutory, international and national third sector organisations and refugees and asylum seekers themselves, to easily access the wealth of information and resources, and practical tools many of which are not accessible in one place.  These resources have been produced and developed by health care practitioners, international and national organisations and academic and research bodies with experience and expert knowledge of working with refugees and asylum seekers, both in the UK and internationally.

The online portal embodies the ethos of civic engagement at university of East London through the creation of an interdisciplinary approach aimed at bringing together staff and students from a number of UEL schools and services as well as facilitating interaction with professional bodies, NGO’s, charities and community organisations in East London and at national and international levels.

Link to the Online Portal:
Facebook Group:
Twitter Handle:  @BuildingUel

Tate Lives: Salvaging the Oral History of the Tate Institute

A recently undertaken civic engagement project focusing on the community history of the now derelict Tate Institute, the former sports and social club built for the workers of the Tate and Lyle sugar refinery in Silvertown, East London.  The project was established in collaboration with community partners from the inception of the project.

North Woolwich and Silvertown are located south of the Royal Albert Docks and London City Airport and the Tate and Lyle Sugar Refinery is clearly visible from our UEL Docklands Campus.  This area of East London has experienced a mixed cultural history over the past century.  Issues of decline, regeneration and immigration combined with the policies and interventions of local government in the region have subsequently contributed to growing community isolation and a loss of community spirit, contributing to a decline of sense of community and neighbourhood in these areas. This paper will argue that our participatory approach of the Tate Lives project, developed by incorporating a bottom up oral history methodology, has enabled positive community engagement and interaction to help facilitate a community (re-) connection with their collective memory of both the Tate Institute and more broadly a shared sense of history and community within the local area. Through our work we created a space for the local community who felt a sense of ownership and engagement with the project as the project was intended to give a voice back to the community and to genuinely document their own narratives, testimonies and memories to which they felt have been overlooked for a long time.

One of the positive aspects of this project has been the degree of community involvement.  From the start, we wanted the project to be community focused and to be led and developed by the local community as far as possible.  We were committed to a bottom-up methodology to help ensure community stakeholder engagement throughout the lifecycle of the project. Our success in engaging with the communities within North Woolwich and Silvertown relied heavily on the involvement of community practitioners from local community organisations including the Royal Docks Community Voice; the Craftory Workshop.

The success of our Tate Lives project in terms of engagement with community partners and the positive way in which the final exhibition was received when on display and the ongoing engagement with the Tate Lives Facebook site indicates that there is definite potential for this project to impact upon the local community in a positive and engaging way.

One of the core outputs of this project was the creation of community-focused exhibition which would initially be showcased over 1-2 community event days to be held in Silvertown and North Woolwich during the summer of 2017.  Our aim was to bring the local communities of these two areas together and to both learn about and share the history of the Institute as well as .  Prior to these events, there will be opportunities to work on developing an exhibition documenting the History of the Tate Institute to be showcased at the summer events.  We envisage these events to be held outside in the community, with the floorplan of the Institute being recreated in order to encourage storytelling and community recollections of people’s time in the Institute.

Facebook Group:
Twitter handle:  @TateLiveProject
Youtube Channel – North Woolwich and Silvertown, Royal Docks E16:


Living Community Archives: Participatory Community Heritage in North Woolwich and Silvertown”

Secured UEL civic engagement funding for a new project for the 2017-18 academic year to do a follow-up project to Tate Lives.  Tate Two will be inter-disciplinary collaborative community-based project enabling the cross-pollination of ideas across departments and communities facilitating and enabling innovate new approaches to engaging with local communities and respecting their memories and heritage.

It will further engage with local communities and organisations through the implementation of school visits and community workshops and the development of a community-focused website and the mapping of resources via the Layers of London website.


This project will be inter-disciplinary enabling the cross-pollination of ideas across departments and communities facilitating and enabling innovate new approaches to engaging with local communities and respecting their memories and heritage.  It will further engage with local communities and organisations through the implementation of school visits and community workshops and the development of a community-focused website and the mapping of resources via the Layers of London website.

We have recently launched the Tate Lives Trails website online with our first walking trail documenting the lost pubs of Silvertown and North Woolwich.  For details, see:

Performing the Archive: Living Narratives and the Politics of Performance

In January 2016, a second round of Civic Engagement Funding was announced and this year we have been successful in receiving funding for two projects.  The first is entitled “Performing the Archive: Living narratives and the politics of performance.”  This project involves working with second year performing arts students who are working on a module entitled “Performing the Archive.”  The aim of the module is for the students to create a piece of performance theatre based around narratives they are able to discover from the various UEL Archive collections that we hold.  The project will further enhance this work has it has enabled us to hire a performance director to help guide the students in the creation of their final performance and will also enable these performances to be open to a public audience.  It will also allow a small budget for the purchase of props as needed.  The project ran in conjunction with academic colleagues within the Theatre Studies department.

Youtube Link to Fill Performance of “Performing the Archive” –

External Collaborations

IASFM* Working Group for Archiving and Documentation of the History of Forced Migration and Refugees.

(*International Association for the Study of Forced Migration).

The Working Group seeks to document and preserve original history of forced migration at both national and international levels. We would like to generate new partnerships and networking opportunities for developing forced migration archives and for helping with the creation of knowledge on, and the collection, documentation and preservation of forced migration history. We recognise that there is a need to work on how knowledge in the field of forced migration is created / produced and maintained. Our aim for this Working Group, therefore, will be to bring together researcher, academics, librarians, archivists, activists, advocates (i.e.NGOs) who are either interested in the history of forced migration and related fields, or are interested in the care and preservation of the archival and library collections that help to preserve the often hidden voices of the migration journey. With a focus on networking on history of forced migration, we will also address the growing critique of the divide between experts and forced migrants themselves. We would like to take steps to ensure that the documentation of testimonies associated with the migration journey are actively preserved.

Dr. Rumana Hashem ( and Paul Dudman ( are the Co-convenors and we very much hope you will be interested in joining and supporting our work.

WG Link:
Facebook Group:
Twitter:  @ADHFM_WG


Emerging Scholars and Practitioners on Migration Issues (ESPMI) Network.

The ESPMI Network encourages engagement and interaction between emerging scholars, practitioners, policymakers, journalists, artists, migrants, and all those involved in forced migration and refugee studies. Our aim is to encourage and develop meaningful work and professional connections, as well as to produce new research and new interest in these important issues.

ESPMI also publishes a regular journal called Refugee Review.  The Refugee Review, a publication of the ESPMI Network, is an open-access, peer-reviewed e-journal that features a range of submission styles as contributed by scholars, practitioners, activists, and those working and studying within the field of forced migration. The Refugee Review platform, based at no particular institution and tied to no particular location, offers a unique publishing opportunity for those in the early stages of their work and careers, as well as for established scholars that support this mission.

ESPMI Twitter:  @ESPMINetwork
Refugee Review Twitter:  @RefugeeReview


Oral History Society Migration SIG

MSIG seeks to bring together Oral History Society members who are working within the fields of refugee and migration studies, or who are interested in the issues and practice involved, to gather and share knowledge, to explore these and related questions, and to formulate an Oral History Society response that can be useful for the wider oral history community.

Paul Dudman ( is the Lead Convenor.

Twitter Handle: @OHSMigrationSIG