Posts Tagged Refugee

Refugee Blues – #RefugeesContribute

One of the glorious by-products of the movements of peoples around the world, however grim the reasons, is the music.  Music can cross any barriers, transcend any divisions, no translation required. People driven from their homes make take very little with them, but the songs they grew up with, the music they danced to or played, those weigh nothing.  And they enrich the communities in which those people find new homes – music that moves our hearts, our hips, our feet, that comes from places we’ve never seen, with lyrics in languages we don’t speak.  Music is vital.

That’s one of the reasons why watching Abderrahmane Sissako’s latest film, Timbuktu, is so intense and so harrowing.  The ISIL/Taliban group who have taken over Timbuktu spend their evenings listening out for any sounds of music and silencing it.   You could say that there are worse things – this regime does those too, stoning to death a couple accused of adultery.  But killing music is a way of killing the soul.

Timbuktu_poster timbuktu. timbuktu2

The young musicians who make up Songhoy Blues fled their homes in the north of Mali and since then have been taking their desert blues around the world.  They’re doing Glasto next week, but last July at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival I saw them play live and they made me dance, made me smile like an idiot, made me cry a little, when Aliou Toure spoke about his country, his continent, and what the music stood for – peace, love, unity.

songhoy blues songhoy blues 2

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The Refugee World Cup – Wednesday 18 June

Playing today: Australia, Netherlands, Spain, Chile, Cameroon, Croatia


In December 2010, a flimsy boat was wrecked by a storm on the cliffs of Christmas Island.  50 of the 89 men, women and children aboard, all asylum seekers, predominantly from Iran and Iraq, died.


In the mid-16th century, many Protestant Walloons and Flemings came to England to escape warfare and religious persecution, arriving in England through the Channel ports, many initially settling in Sandwich, until the numbers became too great.   Subsequently, the Walloons were permitted to move to Canterbury, and were welcomed by the city.  ‘The strangers (as they were called), were allowed to gather for worship at the church of St Alphege, opposite the Archbishop’s Palace, and later in the western crypt of the Cathedral.  Most of the refugees were engaged in the weaving trade, and provided local employment, and a flourishing trade in finished cloth for sale in London or abroad.


In 1937, during the Spanish civil war, a group of almost 4,000 children was evacuated from Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain. They embarked from Santurce, Bilbao, on the ‘Habana’ on Friday 21st May and dropped anchor at Fawley, at the entrance to Southampton Water, on Saturday evening. The following morning, Sunday 23rd, they docked at Southampton.  Initially accommodated in a large camp at North Stoneham, Eastleigh, they were eventually dispersed to many ‘colonies’ throughout the country.

Chile – Julio Parrado tells the story of his arrest and torture after the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile, and how he found sanctuary in Sweden.


A few weeks ago photographer Frederic Noy went to Cameroon with UNHRC to photograph the arrival of Central African refugees fleeing the violence in their country.


The UN Refugee Agency is recommending that the process of ceasing refugee status of refugees displaced from Croatia in the 1990s begins. Almost 20 years after the conflict in the former Yugoslavia ended, the circumstances that triggered displacement have fundamentally changed. Regional cooperation has intensified, voluntary returns have taken place, different ethnic groups have proven able to peacefully co-exist and economic and political progress is increasingly visible.  Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia continue their efforts to find sustainable housing solutions for some 74,000 vulnerable refugees, returnees and IDPs from the 1991-1995 conflicts.


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Refugee Week 2013

As Refugee Week draws to a close, my thanks go to the bloggers whose posts I’ve republished here –  Manchester Archives, Futile Democracy, Cities@Manchester, Bristol Somali Media Group, and to Pauline Levis for sharing her father’s story of the Kindertransport.

I’ve also flagged up campaigns from the UNHCR and Amnesty, and celebrated particularly the work of CARA on their eightieth anniversary.

Thanks too to all of those who have retweeted and shared my posts with their own contacts and reached a wider audience.

Finally, a plug for one of the organisations that work to provide safety in a hostile world, Refugee Action:

and for one particular project close to my heart:




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When you don’t exist

When you don’t exist

Amnesty International ‘s current campaign for protection and fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.



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To flee Syria: From hell to hell.


A powerful post from blogger Futile Democracy on Syrian women refugees.

Originally posted on Futile Democracy:

The Syrian crisis poses an intense amount of questions for lawmakers across the Globe, with each question just as important and as crucial to the process of peace than every other. Do we arm the rebels? If not, then what next? If we are to provide arms to the rebel groups, which rebel groups to provide arms to? How to know and ensure those arms won’t fall into Islamist hands? How to ensure a peaceful and stable democracy upon the fall of Assad? What balance to strike with regard diplomacy with the Russians? How to deal with unwanted intrusions of Iran? These are all grand scale, legitimate questions that rightly require thoughtful and decisive action from the international community. There is however, one major and shocking crisis that we seem to hear very little about, and that is the refugee crisis. And within that crises, is the crisis of the…

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Sans papiers

A Nansen passport. Issued by the League of Nat...

A Nansen passport. Issued by the League of Nations. The legal successor to the League of Nations is the United Nations and official material published by the League of Nations is considered to be Public Domain. See also (bottom). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A passport can be synonymous with freedom.  It can open doors – to pass through the ‘porte’ of the city wall.   A safe conduct pass, For a refugee seeking asylum it can mean the end to months or years of uncertainty, of near-destitution, of fearing the knock on the door which could mean deportation.  Indefinite leave to remain – the right to work, to settle, to pursue your education, to have a family life.   And the right to leave as well, on holiday or to see family, without fearing that the door will close firmly behind you.

To be ‘sans papiers’ is to be a non-person, invisible to employers, health care services, landlords, police – but at the same time often to be a target, a scapegoat, the ‘usual suspect’.  ‘To not have a passport is to be less than fully human, a non-entity, since in a global world one must be under the aegis of a sovereign state’ (Colin Dickey, 2007).

But as Dickey goes on to say, ‘to have a passport, paradoxically, does not suddenly liberate you, it simply re-inscribes you into a control society of surveillance and  micro-power’.  At worst, having those necessary and dangerous ‘papers’, that secure your identity in relation to the state that you inhabit, can be a sentence of death…

Colin Dickey, ‘On Passports:  W G Sebald and the Menace of Travel’, Image & Narrative, 19 (November 2007)



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A refugee week poem: The journey


This article and poem, from Bristol Somali Media Group, were added as comments on my blog, but deserve a higher profile.

Originally posted on Bristol Somali Media Group:

  Refugees are a fact of everyday life today. They come from all over the globe and mainly live in developing countries. Their story is one of hardship, misery and courage in the face of adversity. One cannot help, but be humbled by the stories of courage and immense patience as refugees flee their homes and spaces they love to start anew elsewhere far from their heart, culture and those they love. Many would have us believe that these people are only after exploiting the developed nations’ benefit systems and hide under the banner of refugee while seeking economic advantages. This is a misguided and false accusation that is intolerable. Refugees deserve better treatment and welcome especially in those nations that claim to champion Human Rights.

RefugeesRefugee week in the UK which is between 17th– 23rd June this year and UNHCRWorld Refugee Day which falls on…

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