Lancaster and Morecambe mark Refugee Week with arts and heritage events

Events are being held across the district to celebrate Refugee Week.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 12:30 pm
Global Link supporters taking part in a walk as part of the national campaign to end indefinite detention of asylum seekers during Refugee Week two years ago.
Global Link supporters taking part in a walk as part of the national campaign to end indefinite detention of asylum seekers during Refugee Week two years ago.

Organisations across Lancashire are celebrating the occasion, with Lancaster s Global Link sharing digital stories of people who have sought sanctuary in the city, but might not have been able to under new Government rules.

There will also be a creative arts performance at More Music on Friday June 18, as well as a Centre for Heritage event on June 19 exploring the history of migration in the north west since the early 20th century.

Meanwhile, Global Link has supported asylum seekers and refugees to create their own digital stories which will be screened this week and will then be available online.

One of the stories tells parts of Bayan’s journey from Iraq to the UK with her family.

Bayan said: "I want to share my story so that people know about the Government’s proposals to make it almost impossible for refugees like me to claim asylum if we enter the country ‘illegally’ – when, really, there are very few safe and legal ways for refugees like me to enter the UK."

Bayan, her husband and their three children were given refugee status just over a year ago, following rigorous Home Office checks to establish they had a genuine case for asylum.

Despite Bayan’s poor health, she and her husband opened their own takeaway business in the summer, and Bayan volunteers as an interpreter.

Her three sons are doing well at school, with the oldest aspiring to be a lawyer when he grows up. The family help everyone who needs help, whether it’s supporting other refugees, or feeding a homeless man who passes their takeaway. The family are well-liked, and they have made many close friends, including with Lancastrians.

Under Priti Patel’s New Plan for Immigration, when they arrived in the back of a lorry, they would have been detained immediately, held in a reception centre like the notorious Napier Barracks, and then returned to France (if France would accept them), from where they would have been deported to Iraq.

In grave fear for their lives from people who threatened to kill Bayan’s husband for his charitable work helping Yazidi refugees, and abused women, there was simply no way they could have gone back to Iraq.

Executive director of Global Link, Gisela Renolds, said: "Like many refugees, Bayan’s family has enriched this city. Two in every three women and children that the UK would accept, like Bayan, as refugees now, would be turned away in future under proposed new government rules simply because of the method of arrival.

"Abandoning people fleeing war and persecution, including women and children, is not who we are in the UK. The majority of British people believe in protecting refugees.

"That’s why the national Together with Refugees coalition, of whom we are a part, are calling for a more effective, fair and humane approach to supporting refugees.

"We urge the government to rethink its proposals and stand up for people’s ability to seek safety in the UK, including those who had the determination, grit and resilience to enter the UK in the only way available to them."

The new analysis of official figures also found that in recent years the top five countries people flee from and are accepted as refugees in the UK are: Iran for fear of torture, violence and persecution including against women and girls, LGBT people and religious minorities; Sudan, due to conflict, particularly in Darfur; Syria where war has torn the country apart for a decade; Eritrea, to escape enforced conscription into the military or civil service indefinitely and sometimes for life; and Afghanistan to flee conflict and threats from the Taliban including because of their links with western forces including the British Army.

Almost nine out of 10 (85 per cent) of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries and seven out of 10 (73 per cent) live in neighbouring countries to their country of origin.

In Europe, many countries receive more applications for asylum than the UK. In 2020 Germany, France and Spain each received approximately three times the applications of the UK.

Together With Refugees is a growing coalition of more than 200 national and local organisations who believe in showing compassion to refugees fleeing war and persecution.

To find out more visit here.