Over the next week or so, there a number of events being held in Gloucestershire that might be of interest to followers of this blog.
1) You may recall that I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina last autumn where I visited some of the places that were involved in the atrocities of the conflict in the war there. Amongst the people we met was a woman who was involved in helping women from Srebinica rebuild their lives and community. She will be visiting the University of Gloucestershire next week and you may be interested in hearing of the work she has been involved in. This link will connect to the booking page.
2) Meanwhile all week in Cheltenham, the Everyman theatre is showing a stage version of the Kite Runner by the talented Khaled Hosseini, retelling the story of 2 Afghan boys and their lives caught up as their homeland descends into war.
3) Over Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th of November, a play called The Bundle will be performed in Stroud and at GARAS, Gloucester. “Based closely on the story of a real woman and her three young children, who escape from domestic persecution and denial of human rights in Chechnya, to find a home in the UK. Here they encounter the
Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ to asylum seekers and refugees.The Bundle has been commissioned by QARN (Quaker Asylum Seeker and Refugee Network).”
The Stroud event will be on the 6th November at the Trinity Rooms, Trinity Road Stroud and will start at 7.30. If you miss that evening you can come to GARAS, 111 Barton St, Gloucester, the following evening for a 7pm start.
Refugees at Home
Are you interested in hosting a refugee in your home on a short term basis? If so, please contact ‘REFUGEES AT HOME’ – http://www.refugeesathome.org/ . We are working with them to sort out accommodation for refugees who face a period of homelessness between being granted their Refugee Status papers and finding settled accommodation to move into. More information is available on their website. They come recommended. The more hosts in the Gloucestershire area (especially Gloucester itself), the better! Please forward this on to any friends or contacts who you think may be interested. Thank you.
It seems we never learn. Once again we watch in helplessness as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are forced to flee their homeland due to the severe and outrageous persecution they are facing. Persecution they have had to face for generations as stateless within their own land. Now intensified as ethnic cleansing becomes ever more violent. Out of such gaze, similar events continue to the Darfurian peoples in Sudan. And elsewhere violence is perpetrated against people because of their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender or age amongst other reasons. It doesn’t have to be violent, it can be the denial of rights as a human being to education and health and justice.
If you heard the German politician yesterday morning talking about forcing people to leave Germany because they should not be there due to their faith you may have felt, like me, a shudder of “and this is how it ramps up!”
And yet, and yet…. so many good people choose the other route. Acts of love and generosity are poured out. There are Bangladeshis welcoming their new arrivals and ensuring they have food and help. So often, whenever there are attempts to march in the name of hate, their voices are silenced by anti-racists.
I experienced that side again, as I have so often, by the warmth of the welcome of World Cafe here in Gloucester . On Saturday evening a group of people enjoyed each others company, ate very good food produced by some of our Syrian friends and raised money through purchasing works of art donated by generous artists. In one evening £1000 was raised towards the work to support women supported by GARAS.
This kind of generosity has been experienced by GARAS from individuals and groups across the County. People raise money and volunteer their time in so many different ways. The power of love is stronger than hate. It can be difficult to speak out and contradict unpleasant voices. But when we remember that actually we are not alone then it is easier to speak a word of compassion, to put a hand out to the stranger, to argue against prejudice and do it all while staying calm and focused.
Yes, I know I am posting this on day three, but it was a very late night last night!
The day, for GARAS, started with preparing for an Audit. This was requested by OISC, the Office of Immigration Services Commission, the body that allows us to practice at Level One in Asylum and in Immigration Law. It was 15 years since we had last been visited by them, so, despite regular inspections by other bodies, we weren’t really sure what the process would be. I am delighted to say it went very well.
During his visit I went over to see the lovely people at St James Church, Tredworth. This is sort of our parish church and have been firm and reliable supporters since we began. On World Refugee Day, it was a delight to talk together and to answer their questions.
The day ended at Gloucester Guildhall, at the Black Men on the Couch event. This event, supported by UKCP, which has been promoting talking therapy for a number of years now, took a different twist last night as both of the "clients" in the the chair were refugees. Their stories were so very different. The one story of the long and challenging existence of someone managing to thrive despite years and years in Dadaab Refugee Camp and the other, the short, shocking story of being accidentally caught up in the terrible violence as civil war broke out in Libya.
On World Refugee Day it was vital to hear again such experiences and remember how these have long, long impacts, even when life may return to "normality", the truth is it is never the same again.
I had a lovely start to the week visiting a primary school in the heart of Gloucestershire. We had a great morning thinking about the challenges of having to leave suddenly and what would you take. The children were remarkable, I had great answers to my questions. Although I am not quite sure we have anyone coming as asylum seekers from Mars quite yet! The answer to why would you need your passport, from a five year old? "So they know who you are!" So cool.
Back in the office and it’s the reality our clients face every time they go to sign. It is a requirement to sign with Immigration as stated on your IS96, for some it’s every fortnight, others once a month and for some lucky people, less frequently. But every time there is the fear that today maybe the day they pick you up. Then, what happens next? Where will you be taken to? How can you get a solicitor? Who will help?
Tomorrow includes talks and an Audit, so let’s see how that goes.
As Refugee Week approaches rapidly we are delighted that this year we will be involved in great event to be hosted at the Guildhall in Gloucester.
Black Men on the Couch is an event that raises awareness of the challenges of talking through issues, particularly for men. Men have, for so long, been expected to be strong and keep up the right image. This evening helps to show that men can talk!
IN the psychotherapists chair will be Rotimi Akinsete and the guests will be Alex Owumi, a professional basketball player and best selling author of Qaddafi’s Point Guard. and Mouli Hujale, a Somalian humanitarian journalist and advocate for refugees.
This promises to be a really interesting evening and all are welcome. It is a free (although donations to the work of GARAS will be very welcome!)
If you are interested tickets can be booked through: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/black-men-on-the-couch-gloucester-tickets-34879337036
I hope to see some of you there.
A second Immigration concern is, we would also ask politicians to include a commitment to vulnerable young people across Europe and beyond, acknowledging that whether they are supported by local social services or are on Dublin iii agreements or Dubs Amendment the support be in place to ensure they are well looked after.
Just as Lord Dubs entered the UK on the Kindertransport scheme, ask your candidates to remember that every child matters, and to remember and offer hope and security to the most vulnerable who have lost so much, by ensuring safe passage for them to family and opportunities in the UK.