Refugee week is one of the most important weeks in the calendar for us every year in the United Kingdom. It is a week of fun, happiness and a chance to reflect. There is much to reflect on. Almost all the members of our organisation are and were at one point in one European Union (EU) State or another, a refugee. Some have even spent time in different refugee camps across the world but upon arrival to England they quickly educated themselves, integrated and are now role models for their community. This is not exclusive to Act For Somalia members only. Almost all refugees across the world aspire to or have already become an asset to their adopted nations.We as an organisation have been working tirelessly to confront the stereotypical but wholly false “lazy benefit seeking foreigners flooding our country” narrative in England alongside many other great Somali British organisations. We showcase the success of our community wherever we can in our literature, at our conferences and wherever else possible. We as former refugees understand what a lonely and cold journey the route to citizenship in the UK and most of Europe and the world can be.
This journey has got more frightening, lonelier and cruel every year as the economic and financial meltdown in the developed Western nations such as England and most of the EU and the subsequent austerity that followed has allowed for the widespread circulation of myths against asylum seekers and immigrants. This argument is getting louder and will continue to become more prevalent in the run up to the UK elections as all the mainstream political Party’s want to show how tough they all will be if elected on immigration. The rise of the anti immigration and anti-EU right wing political organisations such as the National Front in France, New Dawn in Greece and UKIP in the UK has only made the situation worse.
The simple fact is that immigrants and asylum seekers did not cause Europe’s austerity nor did they assist AlShabaab in attacking Kenyan cities this year. They are victims of war and are often traumatised having left behind their entire lives, their achievements and their family only to be given a cruel and cold welcome in the very places they’ve sought sanctuary. Refugees are the easiest targets for violence, corruption and mistreatment. They are victimised and traumatised multiple times by people and processes which are aimed at disproving their case for refugee status. This is absolutely wrong especially in developed nations and a great betrayal of the spirit and the written words of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Globalisation has ironically created a false sense of national competition between nations that ought to be working towards a unified world connected by free and fair trade. At least this is the mantra in international summits. Politicians must always listen to their electorate and respect their wishes but in the case of immigration, the anti refugee and immigrant feelings are mostly not driven by the public alone but by the biased news reports that isolate and blame all ills on new comers who are, on the whole, focused on survival and learning the means through which to integrate into their new societies.
Refugee week in the UK is special for many people who have lost everything and started again from scratch. The Somali people have had no functioning government for over two decades due to a devastating civil war. They became refugees in almost every corner of the world. Today the Somali Diaspora can be found on every continent of the globe. This is not necessarily something to be proud of as they became a Diaspora due to their nation becoming a failed State but their contribution to their adopted nations and home nation is undoubtedly huge. Somalia today is still not safe to return anyone to if they seek asylum and it is one of the reasons why so many young Somali people, often in the prime of their lives, risk everything in the rough seas to reach greener pastures in the west. However, the best way for the international governments such as those in the EU to appease their electorates at home with lower immigration levels is to continue to assist the developing world and post conflict and in conflict societies like Somalia to once again stand on its own feet. Britain, America, Turkey, Denmark and other EU states are actively engaged in supporting the rebuilding of Somalia and its institutions. This in time will allow them to limit the level of immigration from Somalia into their countries hence pleasing some of their electorate and provide the Somali people with the opportunities and strong government to facilitate progress so that they never ever need to risk their lives again on the cruel seas that has prematurely ended the hopes and dreams of those unlucky many before them.
Refugees are an asset to both their adopted and home nations. They support international development policies of the developed world by actually rebuilding their nations, families and fellow countrymen’s lives through remittance and their expertise when they return to work and invest. It is time we recognised their contribution and thanked them.
Act for Somalia
Act4Somalia is Somali British advisory & Awareness raising Organisation based in Bristol with a Global Reach to promote Peace, Human Rights and Civic Engagement