Refugee Week 2022: Why we started the Rethinking Refugee Campaign
Refugee Week is an annual festival celebrating the contributions of refugees, and the theme for 2022 is ‘Healing’.
This Refugee Week, our CEO Fuad Mahamed has written a blog about what this week means for him, and why ACH started their #RethinkingRefugee campaign.
Keep reading to find out more...
An assumption I would like to challenge...
Refugee Week is a special week for reflection, celebration, and collective thinking at ACH (Formerly Ashley Community Housing). Indeed, with offices in Bristol, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Coventry and over 14 years’ experience of working directly with refugees, we understand the enormous benefit they have and continue to bring to their adopted countries and communities. ACH's Rethinking Refugee Campaign advocates refugees should be seen as people with talent, skills and aspirations which can contribute to our society if we give them the right opportunities. Refugee Week is a great platform to share experiences, successful contributions and to discuss ways to improve their healing and reintegration to their host communities.
What beliefs have been changed and why?
Where once refugee matters were discussed in the periphery in most countries, including the UK, today it is at the centre of international political thinking. The ongoing war in Ukraine and the global scramble to find solutions to turn the tide of desperate refugees escaping this violence is only further evidence of the prevalence of this matter going forward for some time to come.
At ACH, we have always stood with refugees and we continue to advocate, promote and practice partnership working to ensure refugees in the UK are welcomed, settled, supported and integrated into society so that they can re-establish themselves after what for many of us would be an impossible and traumatising struggle to escape from the very homes we know and love.
Despite the negative anti-refugee campaigning in the mainstream press and in some sectors of society in Europe, we have never met a refugee that ever wanted to leave their home willingly to risk everything for a foreign land. Warsan Shire put it so eloquently in her poem ‘Home’:
..you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land..
Recent Government policies including the deportation plan for asylum seekers to Rwanda and the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 are both very negative and likely not to yield the desired outcomes. The deportation policy is likely not to stop migrants crossing the channel. The government assumes this policy will act as deterrent whereas for example Australia which have implemented similar policies share it is very costly and there is no evidence yet working as deterrent strategy. We agree something must be done. We suggest improving the processing of asylum claims. Putting more resources into case work and speeding up the process of reaching a decision on asylum claims would be worthwhile. Secondly setting up large scale resettlement plans like the current successful Ukraine and Hong Kong resettlement plans will offer safe route into UK. The numbers of refugees arriving into UK is less than 0.3% of the displaced population in the world and it is just not true the significance given to the numbers arriving here in UK.
What do people miss? Rethinking Refugee
At ACH, we fully understand and have witnessed that refugees are an asset to their new societies. Most of them are young, hardworking and in many cases, have come equipped with skills, including languages. However, once they arrive in their new countries, they need holistic and culturally sensitive support aimed at rebuilding their confidence, helping them to come to terms with their difficult experiences as refugees and navigating an often-unfriendly maze of public services which are vital for their welfare. As one former refugee tenant, now proudly in full time employment in Bristol said, “All the doors are open and all the doors are closed at the same time.”
The job of ACH and its partners is to ensure that the refugees can open these doors by themselves and confidently so that they can do the same for others as integrated and productive citizens of their new communities. It is also important to think refugees could offer solution to the million workers missing in our employment market.
ACH’s package of supported housing, skills training and language support either in house or with partner educational establishments, is a successful model that is built on the concept of holistic support with an aim of achieving meaningful and sustainable social inclusion for refugees. Neither housing nor jobs alone, as important as they are, can achieve inclusion. Patience, support, guidance and skills acquisition are vital elements which must combine for refugees to lead an independent and meaningful lives in their new homes.
In this difficult political period for refugees internationally, ACH has enhanced its refugee advocacy and awareness programs to include digital campaigning. In 2016, We proudly launched #RethinkingRefugee campaign which aims to educate the wider public about the realities associated with been a refugee and the positive contribution they make to our country, communities and individual lives. In fact, through our partnership with refugees as an organisation, we are a witness to this truth and we will continue to enjoy this privilege as we aim to work even more closely across refugee reintegration and support policy forums regionally, nationally and locally to inform and improve best practice to empower refugees to become integrated and successful citizens.
-Fuad Mahamed, CEO of ACH