Monday 20th June marks the start of International Refugee Week- and with it the ‘I am a Refugee’ campaign led by JCWI. I am delighted to be part of this important aim to humanise the migration debate in people’s minds as well as to celebrate the positive (and in some cases) world-changing contribution made by refugees right here in the UK. See http://www.iamarefugee.net
I’m honoured to be in the company of people like Judith Kerr (author), Michael Marks (co-founder of Marks & Spencer), and Rita Ora (singer) and who are just some of the remarkable refugees supporting the mission, with plaques being displayed at St Paul’s Cathedral all week (see pic below). My own personal plaque will also be displayed at my University, Oxford Brookes and will be unveiled on Monday 20th June.
As we mark the start of International Refugee Week, there is an alarming number of refugees with uncertain futures. The unfairness & disgust with which I hear immigrants & refugees being talked about, reminds me of dark times in history. The most vulnerable people in our world are being scapegoated and this is unjust.
As many of you know, my family and I fled from Iran during the Gulf war of the 80s when I was 2 years old. Fleeing by land with two small children, is not an easy task my parents embarked upon, but they wanted better lives for us here in Europe. Contrary to what many still believe, no one wants to flee their home, their relatives, their lives and everything they know and take such a big risk- especially with children. People do it when they feel they have no other choice. We helped create these circumstances (as a world), so we must also help bear the brunt of the result. Otherwise it’s like inviting someone for dinner and expecting them to pick up the bill.
I grew up in Sweden where I lived for 11 years before moving to the UK at the age of 13. Since the age of 13, I committed myself to helping and developing opportunities for young people in British communities- becoming co-founder of UK Youth Parliament (collecting the most petitions which were presented to 10 Downing Street) and together, managed to change policies to benefit those who most needed it. Fast forward, and 18 years later I’m still in the same sector, as a social entrepreneur and Founder of InspirEngage International, supporting people and businesses to do well by doing good. I am most proud of the victimised women we helped to become economically active, the young people who had lost hope that we helped into purposeful employment and the businesses we’ve supported to be more socially conscious.
I’m proud of being an ex-war refugee & immigrant in this country- having contributed what I have to British communities. And yet, time and time again, I hear people speaking of immigrants and refugees as if they are a faceless group- a group you can speak about, as you surely are never faced with one. A group we can blame, because they aren’t powerful enough to affect us. This campaign shows you profiles of those- the ones some feel are draining this country, who have made the UK what it is today.
As we approach the EU Referendum vote on Thursday 23 June, I catch glimpses of conversations on the news and wonder if it’s a film. Why have we gone back in time? Is it an EU Referendum or an immigration vote – it seems interchangeable. A ‘them and us’ attitude and politicise are never good for Britain and the world. In the long term, this will harm our communities. As a non-UK national, I will be locked out of the voting station on Thursday, but I urge you to use your vote.
In the meantime, let’s celebrate International Refugee Week and the people who have contributed to this country, but most importantly, continue fighting for the rights of protection of those whose futures remain uncertain.
(email: melody@inspirEngage.com. Tweet/ insta: @Melody_Hossaini)