Refugee Week – a few thoughts.

Refugee Week 2019 was a great success!

There were many events and over 1,000 people attended the final Family Day in the Dome – 300 people more than last year.

Refugee Week is a massive undertaking, unfunded and completely volunteer run.  In the remainder of Europe the focus is on one day.  Brighton and Hove is very proud of our vibrant and diverse contribution to welcoming refugees.  As a City of Sanctuary we celebrate the significant contribution of refugees to society.

Our thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it so enjoyable.

Shahreen and Kate ran a SIS Stall at the Dome.  They also attended the Panel discussion in the Old Court House.  The speakers made a big impact and here they share some impressions.

It was good to attend the event on Sunday, and to meet and network with other organisations.  As it was a bit quiet early on, after we set up the stall we took the opportunity to go along to the debate that was chaired by Richard Williams (Chair of Sanctuary on Sea).

Dina (Iranian Refugee Writer & Journalist) spoke clearly about the power of the individual’s ‘story’ – how it is often all a refugee / asylum seekers have, and how agencies now tend not to be listening to hear the ‘truth’ of a story, but the inconsistencies in it that might expose ‘lies’ through which asylum claims can be rejected.  It was really fascinating to hear her talk about the cultural context that stories sit in, and how inadvertently asylum seekers might be perceived to be telling untruths because of the ‘way’ they tell their story.  It made me think much more about Community Interpreting as a model, and the value and power of interpreters being able to share cultural context with agencies.

Geraldine from the All African Women’s Group spoke about asylum seeking in a climate of fear and particularly fear of detention.  She shared her own story about suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the fear of hearing a knock on the door, never knowing if it might be someone coming to take you away.  She also talked about family separation, and how the Home Office are delaying assessing claims until young people turn 18, so that they are no longer able to do it as part of a ‘family’ claim.  Geraldine said that impact of giving people this `power of life and death` over people never leaves you!

She went on to share her harrowing experiences of women at Yarslwood Detention Centre who are bullied, locked up with no food and placed in solitary confinement if they report guards who have raped them.  The whole ethos of detention is to isolate and demoralise people.

A young Syrian journalist spoke about the hostile environment, and how the media highlight stories from one direction instead of giving whole coverage of all the issues.

A young Afghan Asylum Seeker (Sanctuary Seeker) spoke about the importance of needing friends and community,  and how he only got that after joining Brighton Table Tennis Club and starting to volunteer with charities. He spoke movingly about how, even after feeling he had a second home here, the impact of Home Office delays caused him to attempt suicide as he felt he didn’t have the energy to fight any more.  He asked us “do you think it’s fair to ask refugees to wait so long?”

People met to evaluate Refugee Week, share learning and commit to making 2020 celebrations even better!

You can see photos from Refugee Week here:

Arran – Director / Shahreen – Director / Kate – Coordination Team Manager