Sue Lukes: New Highbury councillor on why she is championing Islington’s migrants

Cllr Sue Lukes was elected in May. Picture: Em Fitzgerald/Islington Council

Cllr Sue Lukes was elected in May. Picture: Em Fitzgerald/Islington Council - Credit: Archant

In a first of its kind role in a UK town hall, Cllr Sue Lukes is now Islington’s ‘migrants champion’. She tells the Gazette what it means – and why it’s so important.

On Thursday last week, new Highbury East Cllr Sue Lukes was made Islington’s “migrants champion”.

Her job will be to enure Islington benefits from what migrants can bring to the borough. She’ll also work to help migrants access council services, and for them to be considered in town hall policy.

And speaking to the Gazette this week, Cllr Lukes reveals her entire existence is down to migration.

In 1939, her Czech dad was one of 669 children rescued by Sir Nicholas Winton. It was an operation later known as Kindertransport, in which Sir Nicholas found British homes for (mostly Jewish) children away from the horrors about to be inflicted by Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

“My dad was one of the lucky children,” Cllr Lukes says, “though he never saw his family again. I grew up with that knowledge of how terrible things could be, with one half of my family missing.”

Cllr Lukes became a Labour councillor in May’s local elections. She was born in Liverpool Road’s former Royal Free Hospital, and has lived in the Highbury Quadrant Estate since 1981.

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Outside the town hall, she directs a social enterprise advising local authorities across Europe on how to make migration work for all.

She intended to apply this to her council work, but couldn’t take anything for granted due to the popularity of Cllr Caroline Russell’s Green Party in Highbury East.

“I couldn’t plan too far ahead, as I was standing for election in the ward where there was an opposition councillor! But, it felt like a good idea for the council to have someone making sure migrant voices are heard.

“It’s a very tricky time for migrants. A lot of people were affected by the government’s ‘hostile environment’, as seen with the Windrush Generation. We have EU citizens in the borough, also doing important work and being part of our community, and their rights have been threatened.

“Migration has been a reality since the first human beings exisited. It’s pretty inevitable and the job of governments – local, national and international – is to do the best they can with it and make it work for everybody.”

Cllr Lukes welcomes suggestions in her work. Email