This year things feel different, in the run-up to Refugee Week. When I started blogging about refugees it felt like a neglected topic – even though organisations like Refugee Action and CARA and many others were working incredibly hard to support refugees and asylum seekers, and to raise awareness of the issues, they weren’t making headlines.
Since the photograph last September of that small boy, who came to stand for so many other children washed ashore as their flimsy, overcrowded boats sink in the Mediterranean, refugees have hardly been out of the headlines.
That’s a double edged sword, of course. Whilst many, many people have been stirred to do something, moved by looking into the eyes of grieving parents, frightened children and traumatised young men and recognising that they are like us, that they could be us, others have used the same images to stoke up hatred and suspicion.
The theme this year is ‘Welcome’. The heady days when refugees were greeted with smiling crowds and flowers faded pretty quickly but the people themselves are still with us, and more are coming, because they have no choice. Those who are here already can’t go home because home isn’t there any more for them, just as those others who are leaving now, grabbing what they can carry, handing their money over for a hazardous passage to an uncertain future, can’t just say, well, you know what, perhaps we’ll stay put after all.
We have to keep pressing our governments to make them welcome. We have to keep challenging the miserable, hateful lies that are told daily about them. We have to keep telling their stories so that more people make that leap into understanding and empathy.
Over the next week I’ll be trying to do some of that. As in previous years, I’ll post at least one piece each day. If you like what you read, feel free to reblog/share.
Tonight at the Migration Matters festival in Sheffield, Ice and Fire Theatre present their Asylum Monologues, based on ten years of gathering and disseminating testimonies of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. And they’ve a packed and varied programme throughout Refugee Week as well, including Ardi Mejzini’s one-man show based on his own experience as a refugee from Kosovo (Monday, 20.00). All events will take place at Theatre Delicatessen, 17 The Moor and are Pay What You Decide.