Sunday, 15 June 2008

Refugee Week in the East Midlands

posted by Kathy

Refugees - or "asylum seekers" as they're now called - face a lot of prejudice. But refugees also give a lot to our society. Beeston Quakers know this well as we gained a great deal from the presence at Meeting of Konrad Elsdon, who came to Britain as a refugee in 1939. As the obituary published by the University of Leicester testifies, Konrad's contribution to this country was widely appreciated.

Many people who have arrived here recently as refugees have a great deal to offer - but they aren't always allowed to give anything. Instead, many are forced into destitution: homelessness and near-starvation.

Refugee Week organises events which do a number of things. Some show why people seek asylum. There are showcases for music and the arts, for sports and food.

There's more information about Refugee Week HERE.

You can find events all over the United Kingdom by clicking HERE.

There are links to events in the Notts, Derby and Leics area HERE.

Nottingham events are listed HERE.

Beeston Quakers has some informal contact with the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum, which does good work in helping refugees and campaiging on their behalf.

Not all those who need it get asylum. This video shows a performance of a piece simply called "Study for String Orchestra." It's by the Czech composer Pavel Haas. He composed it in Terezin concentration camp (also called Theresienstadt) in 1943. In the following year he was one of 18,000 prisoners, including children, transferred to Auschwitz. On arrival he was taken to the gas chambers and murdered. He was 45 years old.


Anonymous said...

This is a minimalist piece by Steve Reich whose family were holocaust survivors. The piece features the voices of holocaust survivors:

suggested by Gerrard

cath said...

I am a refugee worker. An asylum-seeker and a refugee are two different categories, according to the UN which sets up the initial rules on such matters.

An asylum seeker is someone who has been able to get to a country other than his/her own and declares in that second country that s/he will face death, torture, forced military service, etc. if s/he is sent home. Someone who comes straight from Darfur to another country and declares intention to file for asylum at the airport is an asylee.

A refugee is someone who has left his country of origin, has lived in a second country where he cannot apply for asylum, cannot go back to his/her country of origin for the same reasons as an asylee, and is hoping to be relocated to a third country. Someone who flees Darfur and lives in a refugee camp in Chad until given a refugee number and relocated to another country is a refugee.

Most refugees live in refugee camps for about 10 years before they are given refugee status by the UN and relocated. They don't have a choice about relocation unless a family member can be found in a third country to sponsor them. A refugee will never be resettled in a country unless that country has allowed the refugee to enter legally.

An asylee may be refused asylum, however. And many people who apply for asylum has not had to live in a refugee camp and have made a choice about the country where they want to live.

Since refugee status and aslyee status are two different legal categories according to the UN, they often have two different systems of aid once they arrive in the country where they wish to remain.

Hope this clears up some of the misconceptions about the two categories. "Immigrant" is another word that is sometimes used to mean refugee or asylee, but a person can be an immigrant without being in one of the other two categories.


cath said...

Sorry for the double post.

I want to thank you for mentioning refugees, especially since World Refugee Day (June 20) is just around the corner.

Labels can be confusing and sometimes don't allow people to understand the diverse obsctacles a person encounters when trying to escape oppression or worse. That's why I posted about the difference between and asylum-seeker and a refugee.

But the U.N., who is charged with defining these categories for the world, says it better.

A good article by the UN on the differences between refugees and asylum seekers can be found here:

In additioin, there is a discussion of various other issues tied to the legal definitions.


kathy said...

Thanks very much for that, cath. I hadn't come across that important distinction. I'm afraid I'd assumed that "asylum-seeker" was just a new jargon term (like "job-seeker"). And Refugee Week of course deals with both categories (at least, the event I attended yesterday did).

I'd welcome any more information on the subject and, if you're involved in the East Midlands, details of any specific projects where individuals or small groups can help.

cath said...

Alas, I'm across the pond! :) I did some googling and found which I'm sure you already know about.

If you are not already plugged into a group that is actively working with refugees, I would suggest that you might consider (I hope I'm not suggesting things you already know or are doing--and my approach is rather grassroots):

1) Ask your Meeting to take your concern for refugees under its care. My clearness committee regarding my concern for refugees as a ministry was one of the most profound spiritual events of my life. Even though Beeston Friends may be very active in this area, it helps to have one's personal concern affirmed.

2) And then, start talking to local councils, churches, social service agencies, etc. about what they are doing--just info gathering.

3) See if you can identify leaders in refugee or asylum communities--and figure out the best way to approach them. (For example, a cohort and I wanted to make a connect with a Somali community in our city, so we went to the halal store in town and chatted with the owner. Once he was comfortable with us (two women) we then were able to find out what that community needed that they weren't getting from others and could then go about finding ways to fill in the gap. (This is where the info you gathered will be helpful.)

4) Never underestimate the power of donations--not only money, but clothing, household items, etc. We started a donation drive for Burmese refugees and got permission from a school to hold the give-away in the school building. It was a wonderful event.

5) Women are often the most isolated. We came up with the idea of having "Womens' Day Out" luncheons for specific ethnic groups where women could get together (with their youngest children) and eat and talk. Many of them had been in contact already, but they did not socialize in an organized way, leaving them feeling depressed and homesick. We hope someday to have an inter-ethnic luncheon. The best schedule is one that allows the women to be home in time for the older children to arrive from school.

6) Everything takes longer than you think it will, even when you think it will take longer. :)

I hope I have provided some helpful suggestions.


kathy said...

Thanks - we have some connections with the Nottingham and Notts Refugee Forum but this is mainly a matter of the occasional small donation or food collection for the destitution fund (that's for destitute asylum seekers who have lost all right to support and are forbidden to work). And we do what we can in specific campaigns, as you'll see from this blog. We haven't initiated any campaigns around this issue although it is a question on which we lobby out Member of Parliament.

As we're a small meeting, I think it's best for us to join groups and campaigns that already exist because in that way we work with people who have expertise. But I shall take your suggestions to our next Meeting and see if they seem to fit with what we can do now.

Do take greetings from Beeston Quakers to your Meeting. It's good to have visitors to our blog and such helpful and constructive comments.

cath said...

I noticed that you mentioned that you were a small Meeting, and I can see the wisdom in combining efforts with other programs.

Good luck in your work.

btw, I like to read blogs from the UK because I have a sister in the Cambridge area.


Jonathan said...

You may have heard of the City of Sanctuary movement which aims to foster culture of welcome and hospitality for 'people seeking sanctuary' (see The movement uses this phrase because refugee and asylum seeker have sadly become such terms of abuse in our culture (as earlier blogs show).
The movement started in Sheffield and 23 cities were represented at the day workshop I attended earlier this month. Only Leicester has joined Sheffield so far in achieving this status.
The first meeting of a steering group to start Nottingham on the process will be held at the Friends Meeting House, 25 Clarendon St, this Friday, 27th, at 7.30. All welcome of course.

bookgeek:rhiannon said...

Thanks for that information, Jonathan. I'm not sure what I'll be doing tomorrow night but if I'm free I'll try and attend.