THERE ARE MORE THAN 19,500,000 R E F U G E E S I N T H E W O R L D TO D AY. T I M E TO S TO P C O U N T I N G : T I M E T O AC T
THANK YOU This is the first time in Square Up Media’s 11-year history that we have produced a magazine without any display advertising: it is purely focused on the subject at hand. We would like to give our thanks to the NEON Foundation, as without its help, this issue would not have been possible.
1 THE SITUATION 10 . UNDERSTANDING THE CRISIS 20 . WHERE ARE PEOPLE TRAVELLING FROM?
2 EXPERIENCES 34 . THEIR STORIES 46 . ON THE GROUND 58 . HOW I GOT INVOLVED
3 SUPPORT 70 . COMMUNITY 71 . TECH/EDUCATION 72 . CULTURE 74 . MUSIC 76 . FOOD 78 . GLOBAL GATHERING 80 . NEED TO KNOW 82 . FINAL THOUGHTS 83 . GET INVOLVED
SPECIAL REPORT EDITOR
Hannah Summers SUB EDITOR
Victoria Smith CONTRIBUTORS
Lliana Bird, Heaven Crawley, Aby Dunsby, Mike Gibson, Dawn O’Porter, Ronan O’Shea, Peter Paphides, Evie Prichard, Jenny Phillimore, John Sweeney, Elena FiddianQasmiyeh, Lydia Winter
D E SIG N
Matthew Hasteley DEPUTY ART DIRECTOR
Abigail Robinson DESIGNER
Bianca Stewart DESIGN ASSISTANT
Nicola Poulos PRINTING
FRONT END DEVELOPER
Mike Berrett, Alex Watson Campbell Tibbits
Sophia Tremenheere, Emily Buck
Caroline Walker Steve Cole Tim Slee CHAIRMAN
Tom Kelly OBE
alternativeprint.co.uk © Square Up Media Limited 2015. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. All information contained in this magazine is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Square Up Media cannot accept responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information.
f you are a regular reader of escapism, then you may be slightly confused by the magazine you are holding. This is not a normal issue of escapism. In place of our usual travel content, we have dedicated this entire publication to the current refugee crisis that, to various degrees, is affecting almost every corner of the world. We have decided to use our voice to raise awareness on an important and emotive subject. As the UK’s largest-circulating travel magazine, we are all too aware of just how lucky we all are to be able to explore the majority of the world for pleasure. It’s an amazing privilege and one for which we are incredibly grateful. For us, and for our readers, ‘escapism’ is a way to break away from our normal lives, to relax on holiday with friends and family. But for refugees, the word takes on a much more literal meaning. It’s just that: an escape – from oppressive regimes, war and poverty. We are not experts on hard-hitting documentary reportage, nor do we now claim to be. However, in putting this issue together, we have tried to learn as much as possible through first-hand experiences. These experiences have definitely changed us. The world is smaller than you think. We are all more similar than you may imagine. We want to do everything we can to help those in need of escape. After reading this issue, we hope you do, too. Thank you, from the escapism team.
Tim Slee, CEO, Square Up Media
#ESCAPISM25 Photograph by ###
These pages are full of suggestions on how you can offer your support or get involved. To donate to our appeal, go to: escapismmagazine.com/appeal For more info, see the final page of this magazine. If you want to discuss this issue with us, the Twitter hashtag is #Escapism25 and we’re @EscapismMag.
A man helps to lift a young girl clear of the wire as Syrians fleeing the war try to pass through broken fences located near the Turkish Akcakale border in the southeastern Sanliurfa province.
T H E S I T U AT I O N
Photograph by BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images
WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME? 5
TRUST YOUR LIFE TO A BOAT?
Photograph by UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
T H E S I T U AT I O N
Photograph by ###
Burundian refugees travelling by boat and foot to Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania.
Syrian refugees cross the border between Greece and Macedonia, near Eidomeni. Many face violence from gangs when taking this route.
Photograph by UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
WALK FOR DAYS ON END?
T H E S I T U AT I O N
Photograph by ###
UNDERSTANDING THE CRISIS S As hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers make their way to Europe from dangerous, war-torn countries, Heaven Crawley examines the current refugee crisis, explains exactly what the situation is in the UK and beyond, and highlights why itâ€™s absolutely crucial that we act now to welcome and support refugees
ince January this year, nearly 880,000 men, women and children have made the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas looking for a new life in European countries. Images of families enjoying their summers in Italy and Greece have been replaced by photos of overcrowded dinghies arriving on the beaches of Sicily, Lesbos and Kos. As winter descends across Europe, these images look likely to be replaced by photos of cold refugees on a journey through the Balkans looking for protection and a place to rebuild their broken lives. Over the summer these scenes have divided Europe. While many people have rallied to provide humanitarian support, gathering clothing and raising funds for those in need, others have expressed deep concern about the scale of migration, about the impact on communities and about the threat to our security. Some political leaders have shown their support for those fleeing conflict, others have set about building fences to keep the refugees out. So what is the issue? Is this really the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the second world war or are people simply coming to Europe for economic reasons? Where are these people coming from and why are they
T H E S I T U AT I O N
KHAN YOUNIS 72,000
AMMAN NEW CAMP 51,500
DORO YIDA 51,659
LARGEST REFUGEE CAMPS A refugee camp is a temporary settlement built to receive refugees. The camps tend to develop in an impromptu fashion with the aim of meeting basic human needs for only a short time. However,
some refugee camps end up existing for decades, with major implications for human rights. Some camps grow into permanent settlements and even merge with nearby older communities.
DOLLO ADO 210,689
TANZANIA Sources: Population estimates, CIA World Factbook; refugee estimates UNHCR/UNRWA. Data extracted 20th Nov 2015. http://data.unhcr.org/ http://www.unrwa.org/where-we-work/gaza-strip/camp-profiles
2015 - MEDITERRANEAN REFUGEE CRISIS Increasing numbers of refugees are taking their chance aboard unseaworthy boats and dinghies in a desperate bid to reach Europe. There are a range of nationalities travelling: many of the families arriving via Greece are Syrian and Afghan, while Eritreans and other nationalities are taking an equally perilous journey via Libya to Italy.
60% SYRIAN 24% AFGHAN 8% IRAQI 3% PAKISTANI 1% SOMALIAN 5% OTHER
ARRIVALS IN SPAIN 3,592
NATIONALITIES ARRIVING IN GREECE
ROUTE TO EUROPE ONWARDS ROUTE
27% ERITREAN 14% NIGERIAN 8% SOMALIAN 6% SUDANESE 5% SYRIAN 5% GAMBIAN 4% MALIAN 4% SENEGALESE 4% BANGLADESHI 3% GHANAIAN 20% OTHER
NUMBER OF ARRIVALS
ARRIVALS IN ITALY 144,000
ARRIVALS IN GREECE 728,910
ARRIVALS IN MALTA 105
Sources: Population estimates, CIA World Factbook; refugee estimates UNHCR 30th Nov 2015 http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/regional.php
Image by NASA
876,707 ARRIVALS IN 2015 3,510 DEAD OR MISSING IN 2015
NATIONALITIES ARRIVING IN ITALY
T H E S I T U AT I O N
THIS IMAGE: Thousands of refugees are risking their lives travelling over seas in dangerously overcrowded boats.
arriving in such large numbers now? And why do they risk everything, including the lives of their children, by travelling across the sea rather than staying in countries such as Turkey that are relatively safe and prosperous?
The scale of the crisis
Photograph (above) by ©UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
While the current crisis should not be underestimated, it is not the first time that hundreds of thousands of people have been on the move looking for a better life for themselves and their children. Many of today’s scenes are reminiscent of the last major period of unrest in Europe when conflict ripped apart the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s leading not only to the creation of more than half a dozen new countries but also the displacement of huge numbers of people, including 1.2 million Bosnian refugees, some of whom were provided with protection in the UK and elsewhere. Fifty years earlier the second world war created an estimated 60 million refugees; that’s 60 times greater than the refugee flows seen in Europe today. This mass movement of people did not stop with the end of the war but continued as Europe reorganised itself to accommodate the new political structures established in its wake. One year on, an estimated one million people were still unable to return to their homes. The current crisis has historical precedents but should also be understood in a global context. According to UNHCR – the UN’s agency for refugees – wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people to flee their homes than any other time since records began. Figures released earlier this year estimated that the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 60 million compared to just over 50 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade earlier. Half of all of those forced from their homes are children. In the past five years, at least 15 conflicts have erupted or reignited, eight in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, northeastern Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and this year in Burundi),
three in the Middle East (Iraq, Yemen and Syria), one in Europe (Ukraine) and three in Asia (Kyrgyzstan and in several areas of Myanmar and Pakistan). Most of those who flee conflict do not have the economic or social resources to travel to Europe and instead seek protection in neighbouring countries and regions. Contrary to popular belief, this trend is increasing rather than decreasing: 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries compared with 70% a decade ago. In other words, it’s becoming harder, not easier, for refugees to reach Europe.
Travelling to Europe So why have we seen such a significant increase in the number of refugees arriving in Europe? The answer lies in large part with the conflict in Syria, which started in 2011 and has escalated over the past four years, drawing in countries within and outside the region and has been closely associated with the rise of Islamic State. During that time more than 12 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes. Even if they can avoid the bombs that are currently raining down on the country, those who remain in Syria are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions of children have been forced to quit school. The future looks bleak with no sign of a ceasefire. Those who have been
86% OF REFUGEES ARE HOSTED BY DEVELOPING COUNTRIES / COMPARED TO 70% TEN YEARS AGO / SOURCE: UNHCR KEY FACTS AND FIGURES 13
EU AND SCHENGEN AREA COUNTRIES NEW ASYLUM APPLICATIONS 2015 Relative to its population, so far Hungary has taken in the most refugees this year, with one refugee for every 56 citizens, followed by Sweden with one refugee for every 133 citizens. Germany has seen the largest total intake this year, the UK, meanwhile, is 21st with one refugee for every 3,333 citizens.
KEY CITIZENS PER REFUGEE (heatmap – red means the country is supporting more refugees per head) 50
Sources: Eurostat Jan-Oct 2015, extracted November 2015
100M 80M 60M 40M 20M 0
ASYLUM SEEKER INTAKE
100,000 200,000 300,000 400,000 LIECHTENSTEIN
T H E S I T U AT I O N
A REFUGEE IS SOMEONE WHO “OWING TO A WELL-FOUNDED FEAR OF BEING PERSECUTED FOR REASONS OF RACE, RELIGION, NATIONALITY, MEMBERSHIP OF A PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUP OR POLITICAL OPINION, IS OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY OF HIS NATIONALITY, AND IS UNABLE TO, OR OWING TO SUCH FEAR, IS UNWILLING TO AVAIL HIMSELF OF THE PROTECTION OF THAT COUNTRY” / ARTICLE 1, 1951 CONVENTION RELATING TO THE STATUS OF REFUGEES
stable. But following the removal from power of Colonal Gaddafi by NATO forces, Libya has experienced instability and political violence which has not only affected commerce and oil production but also increased violence, particularly towards black Africans. And it has opened up new opportunities for human smugglers and traffickers to exploit the vulnerability and desperation of refugees and migrants alike with promises of a better life elsewhere.
SYRIA - A REGIONAL REFUGEE CRISIS 4m SYRIAN REFUGEE INTAKE
displaced for years within the country and have been waiting for the conflict to end so they could return to their homes are starting to give up hope. They are looking for alternatives for themselves and their children. At least eight million people are internally displaced in Syria, while four million people have left and now live mainly in refugee camps located in the neighbouring countries. The numbers of refugees in these countries far exceeds those in the countries of Europe, particularly given the size and relative poverty of the existing population. Around one million refugees are currently living in Lebanon, a country which is half the size of Wales. And that’s just the official number. Estimates from those on the ground put the number at 1.3 million. At one point over the summer more than 20,000 Syrian refugees were arriving every 48 hours – the same number of Syrian refugees that the UK government has pledged to resettle over the next five years. But Syria is not the only country in which there is conflict and human rights abuse. Aside from Syrians, most of those who are arriving in Greece are refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq. In Italy the countries from which people travel are more diverse – Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Gambia, Mali and Senegal – but the conditions that they leave behind are equally difficult. Human Rights Watch has recently described the situation in Eritrea as ‘dismal’. In Nigeria the militant insurgent group Boko Haram has killed civilians, abducted women and girls, forcefully conscripted young men and boys, and destroyed homes and schools, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Those from the countries of East and West Africa will normally have travelled for weeks, months or even years before arriving in Europe. For a time many stayed in Libya where work was plentiful and conditions were relatively
TURKEY, LEBANON, JORDAN, IRAQ* AND EGYPT
3m *Iraq is also contending with 3,000,000 internally displaced people in the last 18 months
1m REST OF THE WORLD 0
Sources: UNHCR/Amnesty International
KEY TOTAL POPULATION
SYRIAN REFUGEE POPULATION
2,181,293 REFUGEES 79,414,269 POPULATION
Over four million refugees have fled the ongoing conflict in Syria, seeking safety outside of the country they once called home. Although the British public has been saturated with stories and images about the refugee crisis in Europe, the vast majority of refugees from Syria are still hosted by Syria’s neighbouring countries. By 30 November, there were 1,075,637 refugees from Syria in Lebanon, 633,644 in Jordan and 2,181,293 in Turkey. What is sadly also typical of displacement trends around the world
is that Syrian refugees are now in what is known as a protracted refugee situation, and the likelihood is that they will remain in displacement. While the refugee crisis from the Syrian conflict has been headline news this year, other protracted refugee situations linger on silently – these include 2.6 million refugees from Afghanistan and over one million from Somalia. There are also approximately 150,000 Sahrawi refugees who have been living in refugee camps
in southwest Algeria for almost 40 years near the small military town of Tindouf. The desert-based Sahrawi camps may be invisible to many, but they have in fact been Algeria’s ‘number one tourist destination’ throughout the late-1990s and 2000s due to the enormous number of people who visit the Sahrawi refugee camps to provide humanitarian assistance and support. Read more about Elena FiddianQasmiyeh’s work in refugee camps on theconversation.com
Sources: Population estimates, CIA World Factbook; refugee estimates UNHCR http:// data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=224 (November 2015). Image by NASA
REGIONAL REFUGEES FROM THE SYRIAN WAR
THERE ARE 59.5 MILLION FORCIBLY DISPLACED PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, COMPRISING 19.5 MILLION REFUGEES, 38.2 MILLION INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE AND 1.66 MILLION ASYLUM SEEKERS / SOURCE: UNHCR KEY FACTS & FIGURES A difficult and dangerous journey
Photograph (right) by © UNHCR/Giles Duley
Across the world, border controls have made it increasingly difficult for those in need of protection to legally enter another country. And until you have entered a country that is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees you cannot claim asylum. For most people this means that the only way to access protection is by engaging the services of a smuggler or trafficker. The risks are high and so are the costs. Most refugees will have to sell their homes and all their possessions to raise the funds to pay for the journey across the sea. And not everyone makes it. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), nearly 4,000 people have died travelling across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy or when making the short crossing across the Aegean from Turkey to the Greek islands. So why don’t refugees stay where there are, in countries such as Libya or Turkey? Surely if they were genuine refugees they would simply wait for the conflict to end rather than travelling on into Europe putting themselves and their children at risk. It is only possible to understand why people make the journey to Europe by talking to refugees themselves, by taking the time to find out about their lives in the countries from which they come, about the reasons why they left and what happened next.
T H E S I T U AT I O N
Firstly, very few people intend to come to Europe when they first set out on their journey. What they are looking for is somewhere to feel safe and make a living for themselves and their families. For many Syrians that place remains elusive. While many of those arriving in Europe have come directly from Damascus, Aleppo and Deraa – places where the situation has deteriorated over recent months – others have come from the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, where conditions have become so bad that many are considering returning to their war-ravaged homeland. But most have come from Turkey, where they have tried but failed to make a living for months or years. Although the Turkish government allows Syrians to live in the country as ‘guests’ it retains a geographical reservation on the 1951 Convention. Ironically this means that only those from within Europe, where there is no conflict, can claim asylum. For everyone else, including the Syrians, there is no right to work, no access to education or healthcare and no possibility of a house, a business or a future. For those who have lost everything, this loss of hope pushes them on to look for somewhere that can offer them a sense of belonging and the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Secondly, refugees know little or nothing about what awaits them in Europe. Many have previously worked as doctors, engineers, academics or have their own businesses. They are unaware of our benefits system and assume that they will need to work to support themselves and their families. In reality those seeking asylum are not allowed to work while they await a decision and are instead forced to claim benefits, losing the opportunity to build connections with people in the community, learn the language and regain their self-esteem. Most refugees believe that if they explain what has happened to them they will be allowed to stay. The violence in their countries is, after all, well documented. In reality almost all asylum seekers have to go through a complex and expensive legal process to prove that they are at risk of persecution and should be protected. The
THIS IMAGE: Children make up 26% of the crossings from Turkey to Greece.
THIS IMAGE: A young Syrian boy sitting on the roof of his family’s new home in Zaatari refugee camp in Northern Jordan.
REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS AND STATELESS PEOPLE IN THE UK UK (2014) ACTUAL
• REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS AND STATELESS PEOPLE IN THE UK • REST OF THE POPULATION
/ SOURCE: CARE INTERNATIONAL, SEPT 2015
(UK, 2015 ESTIMATE)
COMPARED TO JORDAN (WHICH HAS THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF REFUGEES IN THE WORLD) (UK, 2015 ESTIMATE) Sources: Refugee figures - UNHCR 2014 Global Trends Report & UNRWA / Population figures CIA World Factbook
There are ways to help The most pressing challenge is to address the root causes of migration to Europe. Since the early 1990s the EU has recognised the need for a comprehensive approach to migration addressing political, human rights and development issues in countries and regions of origin. This means reducing poverty, improving living conditions and job opportunities, preventing conflicts, consolidating democratic states and ensuring respect for human rights. In practice, however, the focus has been fixed firmly on efforts to prevent illegal migration rather than addressing
Photograph (this page) by © UNHCR/Christopher Herwig; (right) © UNHCR/Ed Ou
process is complicated and many cases are refused. And most refugees think that the people of Europe will be sympathetic to their plight, that they will understand the reasons why they have abandoned their lives, their jobs and their education in order to find safety elsewhere. Unfortunately this is not the case. Despite being one of the richest regions of the world, public attitudes against refugees have hardened in recent years, driven by concerns about economic impacts and security and fueled by misinformation about the reasons why people are coming in the first place.
...AND IF WE TOOK IN EVERY CURRENT SYRIAN REFUGEE
IN SYRIA, 40 PER CENT OF CHILDREN NO LONGER ATTEND SCHOOL
root causes and providing safe and legal access to asylum for those in need of protection. But this is a big ask if the public believes that refugees are not genuine or that they are actually economic migrants trying to get around immigration controls. This is why information about the facts and realities of the current crisis is so important. Migration, more than any other area of contemporary political life, can best be described as a ‘touchstone’ issue, which is to say that it represents a wide range of concerns about the modern world, a world of turbulence, insecurity and change. If ever there was an issue that represents this turbulence it is the arrival of nearly one million desperate people for whom the normalities of everyday life – school, work, family – have been torn apart. In this context we need to make sure that we do not allow fears about what the refugee crisis represents to override our concern for our fellow human beings who are bearing the brunt of complex geo-political struggles. We can educate ourselves about what is going on rather than believing everything we read, hear or see in a lot of mainstream media. We can join a local refugee support group to befriend and mentor those refugees who make it to the UK. We can lobby our local authority and politicians to resettle more refugees from Syria and elsewhere so they don’t end up making the difficult and dangerous journey into, and then through, Europe. What we see and hear can feel overwhelming. It can feel like we can’t make a difference. But as every refugee will tell you, the comfort of strangers can be a powerful antidote to the pain of being forced to leave your home, your family and everything that is familiar. e Heaven Crawley is Professor of International Migration at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace & Social Relations
T H E S I T U AT I O N
INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT At the end of 2014 there were an estimated 38.2 million internally displaced people. IDPs are among the world’s most vulnerable people. Unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained inside their home countries. Even if they have fled for similar reasons as refugees (armed conflict, generalised violence, human rights violations), IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government – even though that government might be the cause of their flight.
20 LARGEST INTERNAL DISPLACEMENTS SYRIA COLOMBIA IRAQ D.R. CONGO SUDAN SOUTH SUDAN PAKISTAN NIGERIA SOMALIA UKRAINE AFGHANISTAN AZERBAIJAN C. AFRICAN R. MYANMAR LIBYA YEMEN GEORGIA SERBIA/KOSOVO PHILIPPINES MALI 0
THIS IMAGE: An internally displaced family from Saladin at the new Ashti refugee camp in Iraq.
Source: UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database, Data extracted: 20th Nov 2015
WHERE ARE PEOPLE TRAVELLING FROM? According to figures from the UN Refugee Agency, 75% of refugees are fleeing from countries in the midst of armed conflict and humanitarian crises. The Syrian refugee crisis is the most publicised in the press today, but alongside that, people from countries including Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan are trying to escape conflict, repression and a life lived in fear. There are 19,500,000 refugees in the world today; here are just some of the countries they are travelling G E T I N V O LV E D from, and the reasons why SEE PAGE 83 FOR DETAILS they are forced to leave #ESCAPISM25
T H E S I T U AT I O N
Photographed in Lesbos, Greece Afghan refugee Sayed holds his son on dry land after crossing from Turkey to Greece in an inflatable boat.
Photograph by UNHCR/Ivor Prickett
Disputed presidential elections in Afghanistan in 2015 have led to a new period of uncertainty in the country. Human rights abuses, violence against women and torture of detainees remain serious problems, while attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent forces have led to an increase in civilian deaths. According to the UNHCR, 948,000 are internally displaced in the country, while some are attempting to travel to Europe.
T H E S I T U AT I O N
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO Photographed in Dungu, Congo Neema, who is 18 years old, sits on her bed with her baby in Dungu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Photograph by ÂŠ UNHCR/K. Holt
Government authorities in the country have sought to silence political leaders, students and others who have spoken out against proposed changes to Congoâ€™s constitution along with other proposals that would allow President Joseph Kabila to stay in power for longer than the two consecutive terms permitted. Armed groups in eastern Congo have been responsible for numerous war crimes, while Congolese army soldiers have also been responsible for abuses against the civilian population they are supposed to be protecting.
Photographed in Sicily, Italy Eritreans, and other nationalities, land in Sicily after being rescued from a boat departed from Libya.
Photograph by © UNHCR/Fabio Bucciarelli
The human rights situation in Eritrea, combined with an indefinite military conscription and a highly repressive regime run by President Isaias Afwerki, has forced thousands of Eritreans to flee their home and embark on a perilous journey through Sudan and Libya. Every month an estimated 5,000 people leave the small Horn of Africa country – which has had no independent press or functioning legislature since 2001. In 2014, Afwerki said: “If there is anyone who thinks there will be democracy or [a] multiparty system in this country… then that person can think of such things in another world.”
T H E S I T U AT I O N
IRAN Photographed in Idomeni, Greece Iranian familes gather at the border between Greece and Macedonia.
Photograph by ÂŠ UNHCR/Yorgos Kyvernitis
In 2014 Iran had the second highest number of executions in the world after China, while the country also remains one of the biggest jailers of journalists, bloggers and social media activists. Although the country elected a moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, to be president in 2013, there are still serious human rights issues that are forcing many to leave.
Photographed in Baghdad, Iraq Bombings in her home country of Iraq have meant that Rasmiyya, 65, has not been able to reach the doctor for urgent treatment.
Photograph by ÂŠ UNHCR/Ed Ou
The Islamic State (ISIS) has committed numerous atrocities in Iraq, from suicide attacks to executions. Iraqi security forces and militias also continue to carry out kidnappings, massacres and executions, along with enforced disappearances and torture. The number of Iraqis seeking refuge elsewhere is therefore rising considerably â€“ they represent approximately 7% of the refugees travelling to Europe, while thousands are also internally displaced.
T H E S I T U AT I O N
Photographed in Baga Sola, Chad Kaltouma, 22, and her young family bring the goods they saved from their village in Nigeria to their new shelter in a refugee camp near Baga Sola, Chad.
Photograph by ÂŠ UNHCR/Olivier Photograph Laban-Mattei by ###
In April this year, opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari defeated incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in the national presidential elections. The violence and corruption facing the country tempered optimism. The militant insurgent group Boko Haram killed civilians in the northeast, abducted girls, forcefully conscripted young men and boys and destroyed homes and schools. Deadly clashes continue to erupt elsewhere in the country.
Photographed in Tadamon, Syria
In the near seven decades since the Arab-Israeli war, the worldâ€™s most intractable conflict has continued to provoke opinion, as well as a sustained level of violence that has resulted in some five million registered Palestinian refugees currently under the direct protection of UNRWA. Nearly one third of the registered Palestinian
Photograph by Youssef Karwashan/Afp/Getty Images
Palestinian refugees rest in a makeshift shelter in Syria.
refugees, more than 1.5 million individuals, live in 58 recognised Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The remaining two thirds live in and around the cities and towns of the host countries, and in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often in the environs of official camps. With no sign of a lasting resolution, the IsraeliPalestine conflict remains the largest single contributor to the global refugee crisis.
T H E S I T U AT I O N
Photographed in the Sheder Refugee Camp, Ethiopia Arley Usman Mohammed,15 years old, comes from Mogadishu. She lost her two legs at 14 when a mortar shell hit her house, killing her mother. She now lives in Sheder refugee camp in Ethiopia. Long-running armed conflict in Somalia is leaving civilians in the country dead, wounded and displaced in large numbers. The Islamist armed group Al-Shabaab targets civilians in attacks in government-controlled areas, while restrictions on access to aid organisations have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis even further. Attacks, sexual violence and detention are extremely common.
Photograph by ÂŠ UNHCR/Frederic Photograph byCourbet ###
Photographed in Bamina, Chad These people left their villages in Sudan following aerial bombings and attacks from the Janjaweed.
Photograph by © UNHCR/HÈlËne Caux
Thousands of civilians in Sudan have been forced to flee their homes due to armed conflicts in several Sudanese states. These conflicts have caused civilian deaths, while sexual violence against women and girls is not uncommon. Authorities also censor the media and often detail political activists. Latest UNHCR estimates suggest that by the end of 2015, there could be up to 460,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the country, with 6.9 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The Sudanese represent around 4% of the refugees currently travelling to Europe.
T H E S I T U AT I O N
Photographed in Lesbos, Greece Syrian families wait to be registered with Greek authorities before continuing on their journey towards central Europe. The most publicised humanitarian crisis is taking place in Syria, where armed conflict has led to millions of internally displaced people, with many also seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Cluster munitions and barrel bombs have been used by the government and pro-government militias to attack heavily-populated areas, killing thousands of civilians. Government forces have arrested and tortured many people who have later died in detention. Alongside this, non-state armed groups opposing the government have also carried out kidnappings and attacks. Extremist groups such as ISIS, and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaedaâ€™s affiliate in Syria, have carried out systematic and widespread abuses, leaving many with little option but to flee.
Photograph by ÂŠ UNHCR/Achilleas Photograph byZavallis ###
Yarmouk refugee camp, Syria
MEET THE PEOPLE DIRECTLY INVOLVED From those seeking asylum to the people offering help and friendship along the way, and the teams of volunteers poised and ready to offer support when they arrive, we’ve spoken to an array of individuals who are at the heart of the refugee crisis. Many of the groups and initiatives created off the back of the situation are truly inspirational – just like the thousands they exist to support.
Photograph by ###
34 . THEIR VOICES / 46 . ON THE GROUND / 58 . HOW I GOT INVOLVED 33
KHALID’S STORY PositiveNegatives combines literature, journalism and education to tell refugees’ stories through carefully illustrated comic strips. The resulting narratives enable audiences of all ages and levels of literacy to learn more about subjects including conflict and forced migration. Here’s Khalid’s story
halid did not become emotional when he spoke of his ordeal, including the torture,” says Benjamin Dix. “But he did become emotional when he spoke of his future.” Dix is the director of PositiveNegatives, an organisation that uses literary comics to shed light on contemporary social and human rights issues, while Khalid is a “bright, engaging and enthusiastic” 24 year old currently residing in a remote municipality in Norway. He expects to be there for the next four years, before he can move freely throughout the country. “It’s a very tough environment with currently about five hours of sunlight a day. Not great for a survivor of torture,” Dix adds. Originally from Damascus in Syria, Khalid fled after being tortured by Syrian President Assad’s security forces, but now he faces a different challenge altogether in Norway – that of adapting to life in the isolated mountains of the country’s north. “For a Syrian family, such a place would be manageable,” explains Dix, “but for a single, young male it’s very difficult. He’s haunted by his experiences and alone in remote, quiet spaces.” Dix interviewed Khalid at the Fredrikstad asylum centre in Norway, and the pair shared tea and food in Khalid’s room before Dix then departed for Oslo. What Khalid told him formed part of a comic that has been illustrated by London-based illustrator Lindsay Pollock, and is one of three stories each tackling a different theme: fleeing Syria (Khalid’s story); crossing the Mediterranean in a smuggler’s boat (Hasko’s story); and the potentially
KHALID FLED SYRIA AFTER BEING CAPTURED AND TORTURED; HE NOW FACES A DIFFERENT CHALLENGE ALTOGETHER 34
G E T I N V O LV E D SEE PAGE 83 FOR DETAILS devastating effects of the Dublin #ESCAPISM25 Regulation (Mohammad’s story), which determines the EU country responsible for processing each asylum request. The story highlights not just Khalid’s horrific treatment in a Syrian prison and his frantic departure from the country – pursued by masked men and unable to say goodbye to his family – but also his reaction to his strange new environment, surrounded by unfamiliar faces and with little to see but trees. “Khalid is an intelligent and ambitious young man who wants to work and succeed in life,” says Dix. “He’ll be an asset to Europe.” e
FIND OUT MORE For more information on PositiveNegatives, and for the full portfolio, visit positivenegatives.org; @PosNegOrg; facebook.com/positivenegativesorg
Photograph by ###
Photograph by ###
IN THEIR WORDS
From a 15-year-old boy to a pregnant mother: five first-hand accounts that tell just how harrowing and traumatic the quest for asylum can be, and the relief that can come from finally reaching safety
“HE WENT ON HUNGER STRIKE” Alida Bahrai tells her husband Kiarash’s story. He has travelled from Iran to England I first met my husband Kiarash while he was sleeping in a tent outside the Amnesty International offices in Islington. We couldn’t really talk to each other much at first, partly because he could only say ‘hello’ in English (and I couldn’t even say that much in Farsi). But also because he had his mouth sewn shut with fishing wire. He had walked over mountains, been imprisoned in Turkey, spent six days on a terrifying boat journey to Italy, was held by police in France, and slept cold and hungry in Calais, trying every night to jump a lorry coming to England. He tells me he didn’t feel fear, just kept pushing forward because he knew he would be killed if he didn’t make it or was sent back to his country. He was initially refused asylum in the UK. In a courageous move I now know as characteristic of Kiarash, as soon as the refusal letter arrived, he immediately came to London and went on hunger strike in protest of the decision. For 37 days. We met on day 15. Strange circumstances indeed but we were immediately mesmerised by each other. Neither of us said anything as it was obviously an unusual situation
Photograph (left) by:Joyce Nicholls, joycenicholls.com
HE KEPT PUSHING FORWARD BECAUSE HE KNEW HE’D BE KILLED IF HE WAS SENT BACK TO HIS COUNTRY
to meet in, but soon after the hunger strike was over we declared our feelings for each other. And then a year later, after he was granted leave to remain in the UK, he proposed and I said yes. There ensued another long story of trying to bring his parents over for the wedding – flying to Istanbul to visit the British embassy, having the initial application refused and having to appeal. But in spring 2013 his parents arrived, seeing their children again for the first time in five years, and we were married in August. That was nearly four years ago and we are now expecting a baby boy next spring. He will – by chance of being born in the UK to a British citizen – have a British passport. But I can’t help thinking what if his soulmate is a young girl in Syria who is forced to make the treacherous journey to safety, only to be refused at the door? Every day I am thankful that Kiarash was able to find his way to safety – and to me. And every day I hope that our son, and his generation around the world, will be able to walk the earth freely and safely, to find love in unusual places wherever in the world it may be waiting for them.
“I LEFT MY BELOVED FAMILY”
“I LIKE TO KNIT, NOT FIGHT”
Habtom, from Eritrea, now lives in Holland
Ahmed*, from Syria, now lives in Germany
My name is Habtom and I am 30 years old. I am from Eritrea, but I left my home country with my wife and children in 2014. For eight years I had been working as a laboratory technician in one of the referral hospitals; during this time I was also doing national service for my country, but in 2014 a new government policy came along that meant I would have to carry a gun. I could not take it any more, so I decided to leave my home country. I travelled through Ethiopia and Sudan, where my family still are. I had to leave my beloved father, mother, brother and sister behind, and that was very hard for me. The worst thing is that my mother died when I was in Sudan. My journey was very hard, but most people were kind. Now I am living in Holland – I’m still in a camp and I am not allowed to work until I have learned to speak Dutch. Comparing my life now with my life in my country, I thank God for keeping me alive. I hope to continue my studies, because I have a BSc in clinical laboratory science. Story told to Hannah Summers
My name is Ahmed*, and I am 24 years old. Two of my favourite things are writing poetry and arts and crafts – I like to knit, not fight. Before the war in Syria, I was a civil engineer in a small town just outside of Damascus, and I also volunteered with the Red Crescent, helping others. I am quite shy so I spent a lot of time with my family, whom I miss very much. My best friend was forcibly conscripted to fight for government forces earlier this year – he did not want to go as the army kills many thousands of innocent people, but he was sent somewhere very dangerous and killed in battle. I think about him every day. After his death, my mother and father made the decision to send me to Europe. My family did not come with me as my parents are too old to make such a hard journey. When I left Syria, I didn’t know what to expect. I speak fluent English and good German so I knew I would be able to communicate, but I wasn’t sure what would happen to me. The Turkish people smugglers were very aggressive and they had lots of guns, but one of the worst parts of my journey was getting the boat to Greece. I had heard many stories of boats capsizing and people drowning so I was very frightened I would die. When we arrived on the shores of Lesvos, people were very kind to us, especially at the transit area. I gave the volunteers bracelets as a gift of friendship, but before we could travel further into Europe we had to go to register and get our papers, and it was horrible – I had to stay awake and stand in line for 36 hours. I was so tired and scared of the police, but when I finally left I was very happy. I travelled through Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria and then Germany, and the journey was hard and cold, but I liked watching the landscapes change – every country in Europe is so different. One day I would like to go back to these places as a tourist and have tea with the friends I made along the way. I also really want to visit Stratford-upon-Avon to see the place where Shakespeare wrote his wonders. I am now in Germany, and I like it because it’s peaceful and everything is so punctual and accurate. My dream is to improve my German, to be safe and to fall in love. *Name has been changed. Story told to Peggy Whitfield from Starfish
I HOPE TO CONTINUE MY STUDIES, BECAUSE I HAVE A BSC IN CLINICAL LABORATORY SCIENCE
“OUR BOAT FELL APART” This family from Iraq now live in Germany My name is Thawab* and I am from Baghdad in Iraq. My husband and I are both electrical engineers and we have two sons, aged three and eight. Life in Iraq has been difficult for a long time – first there was the war and now there are lots of dangerous militias on the streets. My husband was kidnapped and tortured, but he was lucky and he managed to escape. He was bedridden for several months before going back to work at a hospital in Iraq. One day, one of the militias contacted him to demand free electricity and also money that was used for the hospital, but my husband is a good and honest man and so he refused. The militia then smashed up his car and threatened to hurt our children and me if he didn’t give in. That was when we decided to leave. I was 35 weeks pregnant when we left for Europe. We paid $3,000 each to a people smuggler for a place in what he described as a large and extremely safe boat, but when we saw the boat it was very old and wooden. There were around 300 of us who had paid to travel on it – some people were scared to leave on such a ship, but they were forced to get on. Shortly after we left Turkish shores, a little boat came up alongside us and hit us; a few minutes later, there was a loud creaking sound and the boat fell apart. When we were in the water, I found a life ring and I managed to keep our family together. Others, however, were not so lucky – I saw many people drown, including three disabled children, and I could feel bodies in the water brushing against my skin. After several hours, we
“I WALKED 20 HOURS A DAY” Murtaza, a 15-year-old boy from Afghanistan, now lives in Sweden My name is Murtaza Nazari and I am 15 years old. Two months ago I left Afghanistan because every day there are killings. There are beheadings, there are bombs and there are kidnappings. We were not living in peace. I had to leave my family behind. We all wanted to escape but we didn’t have the money to go together, so I left and they escaped after me. I think my mother is in Pakistan but I have lost my father – he was supposed to come to Iran, but I last spoke to him six weeks ago. My father is lost and I don’t know what to do. I travelled from Afghanistan to Pakistan, then to Iran in a container. For one month I walked 20 hours a day, sometimes over mountains, then for four days with two
were rescued and brought to shore in Lesvos where we discovered that some people had lost their entire families. We stayed the night at a volunteer’s house and I was incredibly worried about my unborn baby; when I finally felt him kick, I was so happy. Volunteers and the UNHCR then arranged for us to be fast-tracked through the registration process in Lesvos so we left really quickly. We travelled for a further five days and everyone helped us because my sons are so young and I was so pregnant. I had a horrible experience in Slovenia, though: the police there were very violent towards the refugees and didn’t care if people were sick or old or tired. They split me up from my husband and one of my sons and I had to wait for them on the Austrian side of the border for seven hours. I was so scared I wouldn’t find them again but we were eventually reunited. I am now in Germany and I have just had a baby boy. I am very happy to welcome him to the world. I just want to be safe with my family and for my children to have a peaceful future. *Name has been changed. Story told to Peggy Whitfield from Starfish
I WAS 35 WEEKS PREGNANT WHEN WE DECIDED TO LEAVE IRAQ FOR EUROPE hours of sleep. I went through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, and there were many refugees with me, but I travelled alone. When I reached Sweden I spent 13 days in a camp in Stockholm, and that’s when I felt safe. I applied for asylum and the government has put me with a Swedish family. I want my family to come here legally so I’m going to school and I’m learning Swedish. In Afghanistan I went to school and I loved maths – my dream was to become a professor, but it was hopeless. Our lives were in danger, and we could never live happily. I could never become a professor there, but I now hope I can be a maths teacher one day. Story told to Hannah Summers e
Singer/songwriter Yasmin Kadi has overcome enormous challenges to flee deadly civil war in Sierra Leone and start a new life – and musical career – in the UK
’m originally from Freetown in Sierra Leone, West Africa. During the 1991 civil war (commonly referred to as the Blood Diamond War), my family and I were attacked at 4am in our home by four truckloads of soldiers. We were dragged outside the house and my dad was nearly beaten to death with the base of countless guns. He was then taken away for two weeks. My dad suffered from severe epilepsy, and having been snatched away without his medication, we presumed him dead. The day after the attack, I clearly remember scrubbing his blood off the floor. I was 11 years old. My parents were always kind and giving to the locals, so somehow we managed to get help from people who liaised with the rebels for us, and my dad was eventually released after two weeks of being beaten, humiliated and God knows what else. Eventually we managed to escape Sierra Leone and fled to the UK where we ended up homeless and stayed in a hostel in Sydenham in south London. Some time later we were placed in a council estate in nearby Forest Hill. This was followed by many, many years of hardship. Migrating to a foreign country brings with it many challenges: cultural differences as well as racial, verbal and psychological abuse. But still, we considered ourselves to be very lucky because the people who didn’t manage to escape were getting their arms and legs chopped off, and pregnant women were getting their bellies sliced open because the ‘soldiers’/rebels were curious and wanted to know which way the unborn child was lying in its mother’s stomach. I’ve always wanted to sing and perform ever since I can remember. In Sierra Leone that is not something one
I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO SING. IN SIERRA LEONE THAT IS NOT SOMETHING ONE ASPIRES TO DO
aspires to do. Fast forward to a few years later in the UK, and I received a scholarship to the same stage school as Julie Andrews. Before graduating I got the lead part in the musical Fame, playing Carmen – her character is known as Coco in the movie (played by Irene Cara). I toured around in musicals for years but always wanted to make my own music and I had a lot to say, so I stopped a fairly secure job in musical theatre (secure in comparison to making your own music, that is) and decided to punish myself further and become a full-time musician. My debut EP went to number one on iTunes in Ireland in 2014, and was chosen by BBC Introducing as some of London’s best new music. Roots Manuva invited me on tour with him, I’m currently in an advert for Virgin Media and playing one of the leads in the new Guitar Hero game, as well as performing alongside Paloma Faith and working on my second EP. It has undoubtedly been a huge struggle and continues to be so, but I consider myself to be very, very, very lucky to be alive, have food and shelter – and to have all of my body parts. e G E T I N V O LV E D SEE PAGE 83 FOR DETAILS Read more about Yasmin at yasminkadi.com
THE PEOPLE ARE DROWNING BY BASEL ZARAA
Palestinian refugee Basel Zaraa made the journey from Syria to the UK five years ago. He’s now using art and music as a way to convey his experiences to the outside world and share his – and his fellow refugees’ – struggles in the quest to finally find a conflict-free way of life
am a Palestinian refugee, born and brought up in Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Syria. Yarmouk camp was founded in 1956, which is when my grandparents moved there from another part of Syria. Over the years it has become a small town for Palestinians, and before the conflict in Syria it was the biggest Palestinian refugee camp outside Palestine. At this time, around 200,000 Palestinian refugees lived in Yarmouk, along with many Iraqi refugees and Syrian citizens. Since the conflict began and Yarmouk was put under siege there are now only around 20,000 people left living there. My grandparents left Palestine in 1948 after their village was taken by the Israeli army, and we’ve never been given citizenship elsewhere. As I was born a refugee, the feeling of not being at home is part of me. I came to the UK from Syria at the end of 2010 to be with my wife, Emily. I met her at a party at my friend’s house in Yarmouk, while she was studying Arabic in Syria. We got married in Yarmouk in 2009 and she moved back to the UK, but I didn’t join her for another 14 months as my UK visa application was refused twice. My mother and father are in Damascus (displaced from our home in Yarmouk), and this month three of my sisters made it to Sweden after travelling by boat from Turkey to Greece, and then overland through Europe. My fourth G E T I N V O LV E D SEE PAGE 83 FOR DETAILS #ESCAPISM25
WHICH WAY IS IT? THE PEOPLE ARE DROWNING / THE PEOPLE OF THE DIASPORA GOT WORN OUT AND DIED / WHICH WAY IS IT? THERE IS NO WAY / EXCEPT TO BE STEADFAST WHATEVER YOU FACE
sister has lived in Sweden for two years and before she got there she was in Lebanon and Egypt, trying to find a way to escape. I now work as a freelance artist, doing graffiti and stencil art for bars in London (including Hiba Express in Holborn, Mini Hiba in Wood Street, Jerusalem Gate in Shepherd’s Bush and Marlo on Tottenham Court Road). I am also a musician and spoken word artist and currently play with (Im)Possibilities, a youth ensemble run by Guildhall School. Through my art and music [lyrics from Zaraa’s latest track can be seen left, and below], I hope to tell my story and the story of my people and their struggle to find a normal and peaceful life. e
ABOVE: Basel Zaraa collaborated with friend Jazzar to produce this striking piece; LEFT: He has lived here since 2014
HE SCREAMS: “IS MY SON DEAD OR IN PRISON? / HE IS STILL AS YOUNG AS A FLOWER, I TOLD HIM TO FLEE BUT HE REFUSED / THEY PLUCKED HIM FROM THE HEIGHT OF HIS YOUTH, SONS OF THIS COUNTRY”
Photograph by ###
RIGHT: Charles (not his real name) his mother faced a huge number of obstacles to make it from their dangerous home in Burundi to the safer surrounds of Rwanda
HOW I BECAME A REFUGEE FROM BURUNDI A 12-year-old boy from Burundi tells of the menacing violence that made his family flee â€“ and how they managed to survive a perilous journey to reach safety in Rwanda 44
welve-year-old Charles* crossed the border on 23 April 2015, one of 25,000 people who had fled to Rwanda to escape worsening violence ahead of the following month’s elections in Burundi. Céline Schmitt met him several days later at the Bugesera reception centre, where he was staying with his mother, two siblings and two other families from Bujumbura. A calm and serious boy, he gave a long and detailed account of their fearful escape. These are his words: * * *
Photograph by Kate Holt
I was at home one evening and I went to a shop to buy something. On my way, I met with men who were wearing long, black coats and they had knives. I hid because my father had told me to hide if I ever saw any people like that. My house is a bit far from the shop. These two men found an old man who was sleeping on the street. When he screamed, people came and stopped the men from killing him. The next day I went to school. There was someone who had been killed and was in a mat. My school is near a bush. He was probably dead for a week. I was very scared and my mom told us that we were going to Rwanda. I saw that the tree next to our house door had been painted in red. I don’t know what it means. [Charles’s mother and other refugees say that agitators have been marking certain homes with red paint, threatening to rape or kill those who do not support the ruling party.] When I got back from school on Wednesday, my mum told me that we would leave to go to Rwanda. On Thursday, I was going to do the national exam. I miss school because I had a friend with whom I used to play. In school, they would not let us talk about these issues. Our teacher told us that when we are on the street, we should not talk about politics. We were only talking in secret. We would talk about why people would kill others. We saw Imbonerakure [the youth wing of the ruling party] killing people and we were wondering why it was like that, and why they would do that. When we were on our way, I was thinking about my dad and my siblings, because we left them at home. We were in the bus and it was very cold. I covered myself and I went to sleep. I dreamt that there was a war, that people were killing each other and that there were lots of gunshots. When we reached Kirundo we stayed there for an hour. We boarded a minibus, but we were stopped by the police. They asked for our IDs. My mum gave them hers, and so did the other women. They also asked for money. It was quite a lot, and we gave it to them. There was a young man who saved us – if it was not for him, we would have
THERE WAS A YOUNG MAN WHO SAVED US. IF IT WAS NOT FOR HIM, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN KILLED been killed. He talked to the police and they let us go. He was a man from Kirundo. That young man talked to the police for a long time and gave them more money. He talked to someone on the phone and that person said that we should not go to the border because they would catch us. He then took us to his home for an hour. We asked the man to bring us bicycles. We rode the bicycles, but on the way we were stopped again. We gave them money but they refused the money. They told my mother to get off her bike; otherwise they would cut us. My mum got off the bike and she ran. The road was covered with stones and she cut herself. I was very scared that she would not arrive. A man acted as if he was sick. They let us go and we continued the journey. I met my mother on the other side of the border. I was very scared because my mum said that if we don’t meet at the destination, she might have gone back to Burundi.” e *The boy’s name has been changed for protection reasons. This article was originally written by Céline Schmitt for the UNHCR.
ON THE GROUND
MORE THAN JUST NUMBERS Reporting from the island of Lesbos – which has seen as many as 6,000 refugees arriving a day – Hannah Summers meets some of those who have managed to survive the high-risk journey to Europe, and the vital teams of independent, dedicated volunteers waiting to help them when they arrive
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALEX MAJOLI/MAGNUM PHOTOS
THIS IMAGE: Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq arrive on the northern shores of Lesbos, Greece, after their journey from the Turkish coast
ABOVE: When refugees arrive in Lesbos, they are greeted by teams of volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure they receive what they need, from food to clothing and medical attention
nisa* was 11 years old. Leaving her war-torn country with hopes of a better life in Europe, she travelled by foot and lorry from Afghanistan to the shores of Turkey, before cramming onto a Greece-bound boat with 300 other refugees. She made it. Her parents and four siblings drowned at sea. That was three weeks ago. Tonight the conditions on Lesbos island are even worse: steel-grey water whipped by a vicious wind. Just 6km away across the Aegean Sea, thousands of refugees are packed onto the beaches around Izmir, Turkey, anxiously waiting to travel across the water in boats and dinghies. They’re assured by people-traffickers that they’ll travel safely. The reality? Inflatable ‘death boats’ – maximum capacity, 15 – are packed with up to 70 people, a malfunctioning engine and no captain. Each £1,500 ‘seat’ comes with three guarantees: no refunds, no returning, no second chances. Those who suggest the boat’s too full or unseaworthy are beaten, raped or shot (one woman arrived from Turkey with several family members, three bullet holes and no heartbeat). Some boats manage the crossing. Many don’t. For months we’ve seen and read reports of refugees arriving in Greece and of the hellish journeys they’ve endured. But as the winter approaches, the situation at the bridgehead of Europe is getting worse. As our governments talk and argue – reluctant to provide
humanitarian aid for a crisis in the non-developing world – it’s the volunteers that are having to pull together to coordinate the refugee rescue effort. They’re dealing with statistics that are impossible to digest. Already this year the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has declared 3,510 refugees dead or missing in the Mediterranean. I hear all the numbers, yet it’s only when I’m confronted with the brutal evidence that it starts to sink in. Driving along the island’s pitch-black northern coastal road, I see the silhouettes of countless capsized boats littering the shoreline, while punctured dinghies roll lifelessly in the water. Heaps of abandoned orange life jackets and children’s arm bands – the kind you’d teach your toddler to swim in – scatter the side of the roads in huge, sorry piles. “Oh they’re fucking everywhere, mate,” says Kenny, a thirtysomething tattooed volunteer from Scotland, responding to my shock. “Fucking everywhere.” He floors the accelerator of the volunteer van and necks a Red Bull in preparation for a night shift. Sleep doesn’t come often, or easily, for many on this island. While some parts of Lesbos remain largely unaffected by the refugee crisis, it’s the northern towns around Molyvos Harbour that bear the brunt of the 728,910 arrivals in Greece this year. Refugees have been attempting this particular route to safety for decades, but it’s one particular boat in November 2014 that Melinda
Photographs by Alex Majoli / Magnum Photos
McRostie, long-term resident and owner of the Captain’s Table restaurant, remembers. “I gave them some dry clothes, sugary tea and food,” she tells me. “That was the start of it. I’d help one boat a week for a few months. Then there were two boats. Now, on our busiest day, we’ve had 6,000 refugees arrive in 24 hours.” The situation has – by her own admission – fallen into her lap. Firstly, there’s the location of her restaurant, right on the pretty harbour. Then there’s her character: kind but fiercely passionate; she’s a relentless hard-worker. Starfish, her volunteer-run organisation that’s just been granted NGO status, helped 60% of the estimated 210,000 refugees who arrived on Lesbos in October. She answers my questions with a jaded smile; there’s a severe emotional strain and huge amounts of responsibility grinding Melinda down. As well as coordinating around 80 volunteers, the nature of her role means she’s often confronted with harrowing situations. Seeing a child fleeing from a warzone only to die on your doortstep is not a sight you can easily forget. “We’re in the process of trying to find a psychologist to man a hotline for volunteers who’ve witnessed particularly traumatic scenes here,” Peggy Whitfield, one of the lead long-term volunteers at Starfish, tells me after describing horrific accounts of boats that didn’t make it. I’d been warned before my arrival to prepare for the inevitable – some volunteers undergo months of counselling when they arrive back home. But my timing has spared me. For the first time in weeks, strong winds mean that any boats attempting the crossing are blown straight back into the Turkish coast, and are therefore unable to start the journey over. On the one hand, it’s giving volunteers time to set up logistical strategies for the harsh winter months, while on the other it’s making them tense. Selling refugees tickets to Greece is a lucrative black-market business for Turkish smugglers, and greed overtakes logic. The boats – making a profit of up to £300,000 per journey – will soon be sent over in perilous conditions. Thousands more people will die. It’s a huge worry for Henrik Kjellmo Larsen, chief coordinator of Drop in the Ocean, who works closely with Starfish to help arriving refugees. At 23 years old he may be one of the younger volunteers here, but the Norwegianborn Durham University graduate has some serious clout. Driving along the 15km of coast between Eftalou and Skala, he dishes out punchy, efficient instructions to his team of ‘spotters’ with an endearing Norwegian-Geordie twang. At each of the four clifftop lookout zones, pairs of binocular-clad Scandinavians gaze out to sea. They’ll be swapped every few hours, while there are also lookouts at night – people-trafficking is a 24-hour operation. Systems here aren’t sophisticated (“We’ve got a fucking
radar on top of a Hertz hire car,” Kenny tells me the night before), but they are effective. Communicating via WhatsApp, Henrik’s team can keep in touch with other volunteer groups, lifeguards and the coastguard to try to ensure there’s always someone there to meet incoming refugees. “We can’t stop the war,” he states, “but we can make a difference for individuals.” For successful crossings, that can be something as simple as a selfie with a boat full of young teenagers – the ubiquitous ‘happy gloat’ that’s uploaded online when the refugees reach Wi-Fi. For those who’ve had particularly difficult journeys, or been rescued after hours in the water, that difference comes in the form of consolation, dry clothes and simple conversation: “They want to speak to you when they arrive, it’s cathartic for them to tell their stories,” Peggy says, while showing me pictures of new Facebook friends who have travelled on to Germany via Athens and the Balkans.
THE BOATS – MAKING A PROFIT OF £300,000 PER JOURNEY – WILL SOON BE SENT OVER IN PERILOUS CONDITIONS. THOUSANDS WILL DIE 49
THE ECONOMIC IMPACT While Greece’s third-biggest island works to handle the volume of refugees taking this route to Europe, there’s another issue at stake here. Many locals are sympathetic, but confused and scared by the impact this is having on their tourist-dependent businesses. Already a number of flight routes to the island have been cancelled for summer 2016, and hotel bookings are virtually non-existent. “I’ve lost a lot of friends because of what I’m doing to help here,” Melinda McRostie, founder of Starfish, told me. Along with volunteers, the island needs holidaymakers. Those who visit will experience a kind, spirited and hard-working community.
PALESTINIAN DOCTOR SAFWAT FELT COMPELLED TO VOLUNTEER BECAUSE HE KNOWS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LIVE IN CONFLICT 50
The coast looks so close. In the Greek sunshine, and surrounded by friendly volunteers, I’m struggling to visualise the island in rescue mode. But it’s back on the beach that I’m reminded again of the severity of the situation: the sea is littered with the weather-beaten shells of three sunken boats and yet more deflated dinghies, while nearby an archetypal Greek grandma dozes underneath an orange tree. On this island, both represent a dream for photographers: “With each new boat arrival we have a douchebag test,” Henrik says, explaining the volunteers’ constant battle. “Are you going to help this 80-year-old lady out of this boat, or are you going to take a picture of this 80-year-old lady falling into the water?” People of all ages are forced to make this journey. Over the last few months, entire families from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and more have attempted the perilous crossing, often with week-old babies and toddlers in tow – the latest UN stats show that approximately 26% of arrivals into Greece are children, and many are forced to travel unaccompanied. “I’ve seen so many empty-eyed kids. There’s nothing there,” Henrik tells me, shaking his head. “We’re looking at a whole generation suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.” Alongside a boat overflowing with armbands and colourful rubber rings, a sodden teddy lies washed-up on the beach. A lot of new arrivals land traumatised by their crossing – many of these people have never seen open water, let alone know how to swim – but coming into the winter months, volunteers are also worried about hypothermia and cholera. I meet Safwat, a softly-spoken twentysomething doctor from Palestine who has come to provide medical assistance and arrange logistics for a group of doctors who will join the volunteers in January. He tells me he felt compelled to come because he knows what it’s like to live in conflict, describing his situation in Palestine as “comfortably numb”. His command of Arabic, and his medic network, makes him an invaluable volunteer, although Lesbos is not in a position to be picky. “That’s the one time I’ve felt helpless here,” Henrik tells me, recalling a night he was summoned to the harbour to translate the instructions of a Norwegian defibrillator that was being used on a child who had drowned. “At that point I wish I had trained as a doctor, so I could perform CPR instead of trying to translate the instructions.” Even with volunteers like Henrik and Peggy working 20-hour shifts, clearly assistance is needed. We continue to tour the north of the island, skirting along the coastal road and stopping every few minutes to chat with volunteers and check for updates. Along with an intensely hard-working attitude, there’s a powerful community spirit here. The island priest – a young Californian guy with a ponytail, who wouldn’t look out
ABOVE: Refugees wait for their turn to board one of the ships that will take them to mainland Greece, before travelling on through Europe
Photographs by Alex Majoli / Magnum Photos
of place in a surfwear ad – travels by moped, handling administrative logistics, while the coastguard – who probably dealt more with yachts and holidaymakers a few years back – now patrols the water every day. Elderly fisherman often rescue boats in distress. Elsewhere on the island in the car park of Oxy – a clifftop building that was a nightclub-with-a-view in a former life – volunteers are in clean-up mode. This is Starfish’s transit area – the place where refugees are given blankets, shoes and shelter in UNHCR-supplied, Ilea-designed tents. Some have created a charging station for people’s mobiles (letting family know they’ve made it is priority on arrival), while others issue bus tickets and clean toilets. Then the crowds are lined up (Syrians in one queue, other nationalities in another) to be transported by bus to the overnight camps in the south of the island. But the worst is far from over. In the military-run Moira camp (set up for refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq; Syrians are transported elsewhere) the remnants of last night’s campers scatter the floor – blankets dispersed with baby food, rubbish and mud. Makeshift tents have been strung up on the flood-prone slopes of an olive grove, while barbed wire lines the perimeter of the old prison, where refugees queue for hours to register in Greece, before continuing on their seemingly neverending journey.
Most of yesterday’s arrivals have already left for the ferry to Athens, determined to keep moving before temperatures fall to freezing. But there, among the olive trees, a lone 60-year-old man paces. His English is broken, and my Farsi’s non-existent, but I manage to work out what he’s asking for. He rubs his face and smiles, but he looks defeated and apologetic: his dishevelled appearance is clearly bothering him. He wants to borrow a razor. “You don’t lose a reality by taking a journey that labels you a refugee,” Henrik had told me earlier. “They are just like us. In fact,” he adds, “I prefer to use the word ‘people’ instead of refugees. These are people running from war and terror, after all.” I’m constantly struck by the volunteers’ kindness and dedication. They tell me that it feels right being here; that it feels so much more worthwhile than any job they could do back home. “The reaction of any normal human being is to help,” Peggy says again. But more help is needed. “Life is like a supermarket,” one refugee told Kenny after he lost his entire family while crossing the water from Turkey to Greece. “You come in, pick up your basket, make your choices and check out. And that’s when you pay for your choices.” e *The girl’s name has been changed for protection. Hannah joined Starfish NGO during her time in Lesbos. The team is in need of donations and volunteers. asterias-starfish.org
ON THE GROUND
THE ROAD FROM HELL After spending time with asylum seekers making the journey from Syria to the Austrian border with Hungary, BBC journalist and Panorama reporter John Sweeney highlights the plight of the determined individuals who are fleeing terror, and the importance of not grouping them with the radical few who may have travelled among them
up on roundabouts. My three-year-old daughter saw the heads hung up with her own eyes. They would publicly execute in front of everyone. We were out and passed by Al-Na’em roundabout when we saw around 55 heads spiked onto metal poles.” British Prime Minister David Cameron has called IS ‘a death cult’ – and that description seems on the money. The family were also bombed in Raqqa by Bashar al-Assad’s forces – the Syrian ruler whose family have held sway over the country for 45 years. Mohammed told us: “My wife would cover the baby’s ears, while I covered our daughter’s ears, and we would hold them tight so they wouldn’t hear the sounds. One day, a missile landed on
Photograph by Ala Muhammed/Anadolu
efugees don’t make wars. It’s the other way around. The war in Syria has cost 250,000 lives to date. People run from killing. The single best snapshot of how hideous the war is in Syria came from a man called Mohammed who had squeezed into a jerry-built rubber boat to cross the four miles separating Turkey from the Greek island of Kos with his wife, three-year-old daughter and baby boy. Mohammed told me for our Panorama documentary, The Long Road, available on BBC iPlayer, that he had fled from Raqqa, now the citadel of the so-called Islamic State, IS – also known as ISIS or ISIL or, by its initials in Arabic, Daesh. “Raqqa is all blood and decapitated heads hung
LEFT: Syrians run through smoke and rubble on a street after the war crafts belonging to the Syrian army bombed oppositioncontrolled district of Ayn Tarma in Damascus, Syria
the ground close to us. Since then, whenever my daughter hears bombing she goes mad.” The war started after a popular rebellion against Assad’s rule in 2011 – part of the Arab Spring – was put down by force. This triggered a military reaction by the regime’s enemies. The difficulty for the Assad regime is that the president and the ruling clan are Alawites, a minority sect within the smaller of the two great branches of Islam, Shia and Sunni. In Syria, the Sunni population is the majority, the Alawites very much the minority. Critics of the US and British invasion of neighbouring Iraq in 2003 say that action destabilized the whole of the Middle East and the Arab Spring pushed Syria – as a repressed
but essentially stable society – off the cliff. The Assad regime is accused of killing civilians without compunction, especially by barrel bombs, crude terror weapons thrown out of helicopters, and using chemical weapons – again, against civilians. The regime is also accused by its detractors of freeing Islamist or jihadist fighters who joined IS. The regime denies all of the above and says that it is fighting terrorism. On the long road from Damascus, you meet people: some of whom are fleeing IS, some fleeing the Assad regime, and some fleeing the other groups of Islamist gunmen thrown up by the war. Many of the people fled the war in Syria early on, but found life in refugee camps in
Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan increasingly difficult: it’s hard to earn money. Many refugees complained about the Turkish authorities’ decision not to teach their children. But in August this year, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced that Germany would accept refugees if they got to its land borders: perhaps 800,000, perhaps a million. This was a pull factor. The result was – is – perhaps the greatest movement of people in Europe since the second world war.
ROAD WEARY Along the road, it’s the ordinary, extraordinary people you meet who stick in the mind. Somewhere where Macedonia stops and Serbia starts, an old man with a stick trudged along a railway line. In a beautiful 1940s English accent, he greeted me with a “Good evening” and asked the way. I didn’t have much of a clue where we were but it was his civility, his forbearance that struck me. No question, there were other people on the road, too: economic migrants. I met one Syrian ‘refugee’, an aircraft engineer, who told me that he’d left his country for Dubai in 2002. He didn’t strike me as much of a refugee. My own observation was that the authorities and the border police, by and large, in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia didn’t really want the refugees but weren’t
I DON’T AGREE THAT WE SHOULD TAR EVERYBODY WITH THE SAME BRUSH. THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE DESPERATE FOR OUR HELP STILL NEED OUR HELP. THE PEOPLE WHO ATTACKED US, THEY’RE THE PEOPLE WHO THESE REFUGEES ARE FLEEING 54
going to prevent them from getting to Germany and beyond. In Hungary, it felt different, the refugees treated as criminals, held behind barbed wire in metal cages. We met a family from Kobane, a Syrian Kurd town that became a battlefield between Kurdish freedom fighters and IS. Mustapha and his family had been given wristbands with barcodes by the Hungarian authorities. The barcode didn’t look as though it could tell the difference between an IS warrior and a normal human, but it made all humans look like cereal packets. With Mustapha was his auntie, Fakria, who cried while she tried to explain her misery. She’d been detained in hospital in Hungary and her son had to continue on – and as a result she spent two grim days at Budapest railway station on her own, going up to complete strangers with her only word of English: “family, family”. Eventually she bumped into Mustapha, a distant cousin but one from the same town. In the September heat, the Hungarian authorities made everyone walk the last couple of miles to Austria. Mustapha had a club foot. He made it, but Fakria collapsed at the Hungarian border post. I thought she was dying in front of my eyes – and then the Hungarian Red Cross people wiped some dextrose on her lips and she came round. She was a diabetic. One of the most moving moments of my life was watching Fakria struggle across the Austrian border – and into an ambulance. I put up a post on a BBC Facebook page, showing Fakria’s call to be reunited with her son, and it got almost 400,000 hits. A clip of Fakria reunited with her son at Vienna station got almost a million views. Another story of a family split up concerned Azam, a six-year-old from Damascus. We met him first in Serbia. He had a broken jaw and was last seen by us getting into an ambulance with a man who told us he was his father, but we suspected was his uncle. But the man and Azam vanished from hospital. Social media created a hashtag #FindAzam and, for BBC Newsnight, we did just that – with the help of BBC Arabic. Azam ended up in Hamburg and his parents have now reached Germany, too. Azam’s story was one point of light in an otherwise bleak autumn.
SURVIVAL INSTINCT Michael O’Connor from South Shields and Sara Badel from Lyons are two lovers who played dead amidst the dead at the Bataclan music venue in Paris in November. I interviewed them for our BBC Panorama film on the massacre. Michael is bearded, a hipster, thoughtful and reflective; Sara is funny, passionate, uncommonly beautiful. She wanted to go to the band that night, she was the fan who wanted to stand right by the stage; for him, it was his first ever night in Paris. Together, what started out as a great night out ended up a hell on earth.
ABOVE: A woman cries at the memorial for the victims of the Paris terror attacks outside the Casa Nostra restaurant
Photograph by Lionel Bonaventure/Afp/Getty Images
After the gunmen opened up, everyone ran for the exits. In the crush, the dead bodies piled up and amidst them, they hid. After the initial rapid fire, the gunmen hunted the living, anyone who moved, who showed signs of life. The trick to survival was to lie still, to make no sound. Michael told me: “The really eerie thing was that the amp from the gig was still on in the background, this fuzzy sound, the lights were really dim and there was a chorus of mobile phones, 50, 60 people’s mobile phones, all ringing, ringing all the time and it made it feel so unreal. It must have been people ringing over, over and over again to try and get in touch with their loved ones.” When Sara’s phone rang, she ignored it and stayed frozen. Her survival technique was to concentrate fiercely on the idea that they both would survive. She was lying in a horribly awkward position, her neck cricked, her hair and back covered in someone else’s blood: “I knew I would make it alive, I knew it, I can’t explain it and it’s completely irrational now that I’m looking at the figures, I could have been injured, I could have been anything but Michael was saying lovely things to me.” “I was saying my goodbyes to be honest,” interjected Michael. They made it. After two-and-a-half hours of playing statues, the French police took back the Bataclan and they stood up. They hoped that many others playing dead would stand up too – but they were really dead. At the music venue, in all, 89 people were killed. In our long interview I mentioned that I had met a refugee from Syria, Sobhe, who told me on the Greek island of Kos in early September that he was afraid
THE WAR IN SYRIA HAS COST 250,000 LIVES. REFUGEES ARE RUNNING FROM THE KILLING of the so-called Islamic State or IS hiding amongst the refugees: “I’m afraid these ISIS men, these terrorists, they will destroy the image of other people, of hundreds of thousands of people.” Michael saw Panorama: The Long Road on BBC World News. “I don’t agree that we should tar everybody with the same brush. These people who are desperate for our help still need our help. The people who attacked us, they’re the people who these refugees are fleeing.” Sara agreed: “They’re the people that can understand the most what we’ve been through.” How and where we fight IS and what we do with the people who seek sanctuary from the war in Syria are big decisions. But Michael and Sara’s humanity, their consideration for others even while still suffering from shock, was something I shall never forget. Our open society must be properly defended and kept secure. Against the power of love, killers have no chance. e Watch John Sweeney in Panorama’s ‘The Long Road’ on BBC iPlayer.
ON THE GROUND
ON THE LONG ROAD TO SAFETY Somewhere Out There is a documentary following refugees as they make their way through Europe. Director James Alexander has followed their journey to safety
THE PEOPLE WE MET HAD BEEN ON THE ON THE ROAD FOR MONTHS, YET THEY STILL SMILED AND SHARED THEIR FOOD AND WATER they still smiled, they still shared their food and their water, no matter how hungry or thirsty. They shared their stories with passion because they wanted the world to hear them. We want the world to hear them, too. e The #SomewhereOutThere team includes James Alexander – Director/Cinematographer, Daniel Ciufo – Cinematographer/Photographer, Luke Goodrich – producer, Viche’t Vong – Technical Advisor , Nathaniel Sobhee – sound and Mohammed Elhaj – translator. The documentary will be released in 2016. Follow @swotdoc for updates.
Photographs by Dan Ciufo and James Alexander
was sitting with a few friends in an east London pub at the end of the summer, with some drinks on the table and everyday life in the city going on as usual. Conversation soon led to a discussion about the current refugee crisis; how the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais was just 22 miles from the British coast, but a different world in terms of how people were living, just to escape their former lives. That was when we decided we had to play a part in raising awareness; to show what was happening through a fly-on-the-wall documentary. As our wider friendship group includes professional filmmakers and photographers, we gathered a crew together and travelled to Calais in a minivan we called ‘Vinnie Vito’. Our documentary started to expand, and we ended up travelling to mainland Greece, Lesbos, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Germany to film. As difficult and as demanding as the whole process of documenting this was, we always knew what was waiting for us at home. But they had left their homes behind; miles and miles behind them and now… now what? These people had been on the road for months, and they had come up across so many different obstacles. Yet
THE JOURNEY After visiting the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais, the Somewhere Out There team felt compelled to tell more people the stories of the refugees seeking safety on the road to Europe; to give these people the chance to have their voices heard. The documentary will feature interviews with refugees travelling from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. Footage documents the typical life of some of the men, women and children on the road today – from families arriving in inflatable dinghies having travelled from Turkey to the island of Lesbos, Greece, to children hoping to cross country borders.
Photograph by ###
HOW I GOT INVOLVED
HELP IS COMING When music journalist Pete Paphides saw images of Syrian refugees struggling to safety, he was inspired to act. A certain song sprung to mind, and shortly afterwards, Help is Coming was released as a charity single with some serious support...
didn’t have the idea for ‘Help is Coming’. The idea had me. I had just returned from a gig and, turning on the TV to catch the last half of Newsnight, I was greeted by images of Syrian families alighting overcrowded boats in Kos, without any clear idea of what would be happening to them next. I don’t think I was any more moved than you might have been if you had watched the same footage. Nothing about my reaction was unusual, save for the fact that – at some point – a song faded up in my head which uncannily evoked the howling uncertainty that these hundreds of thousands of families continue to go through in Hungarian holding pens, in Calais shanty towns and throughout immigration detention centres. ‘Help is Coming’ is a Crowded House song that first appeared on a 1999 album comprised of rare and unreleased tracks. It’s a song about people placing their faith in people and institutions they have yet to encounter. The following morning as ever more harrowing headlines appeared in the papers, the song was still playing in my head. I contacted Crowded House’s Neil Finn to ask him: hypothetically, would he be up for waiving his royalties if I could secure a limited vinyl release for the song? I then called The Vinyl Factory, a label in London that has its own pressing plant, and asked them if they would press
IF THERE IS A COLLECTIVE WILL TO ACT QUICKLY, IT IS AMAZING HOW MANY OBSTACLES WILL FALL AWAY 58
up 1,000 copies for free, with Save the Children the money going to delivers life-saving aid Save the Children. Both in Syria and surrounding countries, as well as immediately said yes. In the along the route refugees next few days, everything take to Europe. The just exploded. Director Mat charity has received all proceeds from the Help Whitecross offered to work over is Coming single. the weekend in order to make the astonishing, heartbreaking accompanying film. Two days later, on a Monday morning, I went to see Universal Records with a view to having them waive their cut from sales of the song. Within minutes of showing them Mat’s film they threw all their departments into effecting a Friday release. With their unbelievable commitment, we were then able to coax iTunes into releasing the song at, what was for them, an unprecedented turnaround time. Somewhere along the way, thanks to an email from my wife, Times writer and author Caitlin Moran, Benedict Cumberbatch got involved and filmed a beautiful intro to Mat’s film – an extract from Home by the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. In some ways I feel I was naive to think I could march into the offices of record companies, enlist the services of respected filmmakers and cajole iTunes into releasing a song in a fraction of the lead-up time they usually demand. Thinking that the record might leap into the UK top five was also, in retrospect, naive. But naivety is also your greatest asset at times like that. If there is a collective will to act quickly, it’s amazing how many obstacles fall away. Within seven days, ‘Help is Coming’ went from being an abstract notion to something that received a worldwide release and, on the day it came out, made it onto every national news bulletin across Britain. And even if the single didn’t chart, the dedicated text number went on to raise an estimated £200,000. The day after the record’s release, Arsenal FC showed Mat’s film at half time G E T I N V O LV E D SEE PAGE 83 FOR DETAILS and donated £1 for every ticket #ESCAPISM25 sold – a total of over £60,000.
HOW I GOT INVOLVED
Benedict went on to read Warsan Shire’s poem at every performance of Hamlet until the run ended – and by doing so, raised approximately £100,000. Other West End theatres followed suit and used their leading actors to make similar appeals. It’s been incredible to see that, even now, the #helpiscoming hashtag continues to be used every few minutes. I’m proud of what the record achieved, but also frustrated that more isn’t being done. There is ultimately only so much an old song by a modestly known pop group can achieve. In the days leading up to the release of ‘Help is Coming’, I was convinced that I would wake up to the news that a proper A-list international pop star – perhaps a Taylor Swift or an Ed Sheeran – was involved in a song or a concert that would properly draw attention to what remains the single biggest humanitarian crisis facing Europe since the Second World War. Popular culture can’t solve these problems but – just as Live Aid did with the Ethiopian famine – it can create an awareness that keeps them on the news agenda and pressurises governments into shouldering their humanitarian obligations. A lot more help needs to come before we reach that point. e Pete Paphides is a music writer for the Guardian, Q and Mojo. Download ‘Help is Coming’ from BELOW: Benedict itunes.com. Find out more Cumberbatch is one of about Save the Childre: Help is Coming’s highsavethechildren.org.uk profile supporters, and raised funds on stage
BEAUTIFUL GAME United Glasgow FC is a football team for refugees and asylum seekers that aims to bring people and cultures together via the sport. Chairperson Alan White tells us how and why he set it up
United Glasgow FC came about in 2011 because many of the young, male asylum seekers that came into the Unity Centre (a refugee support centre) were feeling isolated without access to employment, education and without families in Glasgow. We felt that we could provide access to sport as a means of helping to improve their physical and mental health. We soon realised that some of the barriers to sport, particularly around finances, hit young working-class people in Glasgow too and we decided that a team like ours could be a place for people to access sport without the prohibitive cost and also meet people who they might not otherwise have met. We want to let people play football (refugees, asylum seekers) regardless of their financial situation, but also bring people together through football. It’s an expensive task but we know it’s definitely worthwhile. At a time like this, it is especially important that people can see each other as fellow footballers and human beings. We don’t ask where our players come from: they’re footballers, that’s all that matters. Of course, we find out eventually and we know we have had players from over 50 countries and from all over Glasgow and Scotland. With the nature of the team, people drift in and out but we think we have about 120 players across our various teams at the moment. Football is a clear benefit to people, it helps both physical and mental health. The isolation and stress faced by asylum seekers and refugees can seem never-ending, so it’s important to find something to help people to forget that. It’s a great space to not be an ‘asylum seeker’ or ‘refugee’ but to be a footballer, even just for 90 minutes. For more information visit unitedglasgowfc.eu
“WHAT WE NEED ARE SMART DONATIONS: NOT HIGH HEELS,DRESSES AND SUITS, BUT SLEEPING BAGS, CARAVANS, FOUR-MAN TENTS, SIZE 30 JEANS, MEN’S SHOES AND WARM CLOTHES.”
/ TOBY CHILDREN’S ENTERTAINER, NOW DISTRIBUTION CO-ORDINATOR G E T I N V O LV E D SEE PAGE 83 FOR DETAILS #ESCAPISM25
HOW I GOT INVOLVED
MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK Dawn O’Porter and Lliana Bird’s charity Help Refugees is providing as much support to asylum seekers in Calais as possible. But what they really need is you 60
FROM ABOVE: Katharine Hamnett, creator of the iconic 1980s ‘Choose Life’ T-shirt, has donated her slogan to the cause. Buy a ‘Choose Love’ T-shirt at helprefugees. co.uk; Scenes from the Calais camp, including donations, and a pop-up theatre for children
Photographs by Daniel Lucchesi / Tanya Freedman / Hannah Summers / Tim Slee
y trip to Calais started positively. I got there and saw wooden shelters going up, volunteers getting food and clothes for the refugees, and the general buzz of productive activity. But it ended with me in floods of tears. As light rain set in, the reality of the coming winter hit me. Children’s faces peeking out of tents, mud creeping up to the entrance level where they sat shivering. Overwhelmed volunteers and more refugees arriving by the hour after experiencing such horrors from where they fled, and even more on their journey to get there. I left feeling that even the productivity of the day had only
made a tiny difference to the increasing numbers of people who need our help. The Calais camp was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to walk away from, and I have so much respect for the volunteers who have abandoned their own lives to help the people who need it most. It’s selfless, and they deserve our support in helping them help. Dawn O’Porter is a writer and TV presenter
VOLUNTEERS IN THE JUNGLE This poem was written by M. Omer, a refugee from Darfur now living in the Jungle Volunteers in the jungle as usual overworked, Overwhelmed by all the flowers and letters of support, Struggle day and night to make a wonderful jungle life. As vigilante in the night to make our lives gloom to a brilliant life, Because our life’s sorrow, our brilliant light’s shadow and our emotions grief, Our language broken as a child with a new mother tongue, Our speech silent and our daydreams Regardless our dreams is dreamy You gave us a newly hope as merely in the sky, The sky was a brilliant, cloudless blue, it was dazzled by a sunlight, that our dreams will become true,
“WE PREFABRICATE SHELTERS AND TENTS IN OUR WORKSHOP, SO ANYONE WITH CARPENTRY OR BUILDING SKILLS IS INVALUABLE. BUT ALL HELP IS WELCOME.” / PHILLI BUILDING PROJECT COORDINATIOR
Gorgeous stunning respect for our needs, So soft-hearted, so soft-spoken, The peace of understanding in each face, Jungles are so happy with you from the sunrise up to the sunset, As much as mum loves holdings her kids. Jungle will turn over without your exist, Our darkness life is lighting with your beings. Our life glorified by your existence as we all moonlight’s in the dark night fabulous, It was a real privilege to meet you, And our pleasure to welcome you, Solidarity together we are one, neither politics nor character shape, Humanity not religious values, peace, love not war, We hope to have a love of God working through people just like you, Our long time is shortening by means of you. We never account the time when we come around with you. It is so harsh when you say goodbye, everybody – I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, after we knows you in deep of the core of our heart, We don’t know you before you arrived, but after you take leave of your senses to say goodbye, I’m so sorry, but you’ll just have to say: The boat was about a mile from the shore Finally our boat reached the shore, I do appreciate that indeed, and I wish you every future success due that, you are a fruit of a rooted success, May God bless you greatly for every single little bit. M. Omer A.K.A Dream (from Darfur)
hree months ago everything changed. Spurred on by friends who were planning to drop some goods in Calais, we decided to start our own collection. The idea was to raise £1,000 and take a car load of sleeping bags, tents and other essentials to the makeshift refugee camp known as ‘The Jungle’. Myself and my friends Dawn O’Porter and Josie Naughton figured we would drop off the stuff, make a donation, and walk away feeling like we’d done our bit. Here we are months later with a full-blown charity – Help Refugees. The reason is simple: we were shocked by what greeted us in Calais. Shocked at the lack of large agencies, charity organisations and NGOs, shocked by the lack of government prescience. How were these people supposed to get processed and their asylum applications considered if there was no one there for them to talk to? Shocked at the incredible work of the volunteers, untrained and unprepared for the enormous task facing them – the care of 6,000 vulnerable, traumatised refugees.
FROM ABOVE: Scenes from the refugee camp in Calais. Help Refugees is working closely with volunteers to source as many useful items as possible. Due to challenging conditions and the onset of winter, warm clothes, shoes, tents and bedding are essential and will make a huge difference. See helprefugees.org.uk
Photographs by Daniel Lucchesi / Tanya Freedman / Hannah Summers / Tim Slee
Shocked by the large numbers of small children and women in the camp, having been led to believe by the British media that it was almost exclusively young men. And most of all, shocked at the truly appalling conditions that these people, many of whom have survived horrors the rest of us thankfully can’t even imagine, are being forced to live in. Freezing, wet, damp, unhygienic conditions not fit for any animals. People like the four-year-old girl I saw crouching to pee in the bushes, before her father tried to wash her bottom with a small bottle of water. Or the generous young man who offered me tea despite having nothing himself; who told me how he’d been forced to flee ISIS, and now was desperate to join his wife and two-year-old daughter, who had been granted asylum in the UK. And the young bright Afghan teen, so proud of the fact he had worked for a living back home, so depressed by the fact that despite him running away from the Taliban he wouldn’t be granted refugee status as we don’t consider Afghanistan officially ‘at war’. I could go on. These are just a handful of the heartbreaking tales we heard, from people who by all
rights, given what they’ve survived and endured, should be welcomed as heroes, and given love and care and some serious psychological support. So here we are, four months later, running our organisation Help Refugees (registered as a charity under the auspices of Prism). We’re building shelters, funding medics, sending food and sleeping bags… but it isn’t enough. It isn’t even close to enough. With the freezing winter ahead of us, we need to keep these people alive. Please help us help them. We are all human beings here. e Lliana Bird is a Radio X DJ and Help Refugees co-founder
Help Refugees UK works with L’ Auberge des Migrants in Calais. The team needs short-term and long-term volunteers (see page 83), or you can donate urgent supplies via its wishlist. Click on the Help Refugees logo at leisurefayre.com and follow instructions at checkout for 20% discount and free delivery to Calais. Also visit helprefugees.org.uk; @HelpRefugeesUK
HOW I GOT INVOLVED
USING THEIR IMAGINATIONS Dan Reynolds and his band Imagine Dragons are raising awareness about the refugee crisis through their performances and with a special single release. He tells Hannah Summers why when it comes to spreading the word, it really is good to talk
G E T I N V O LV E D SEE PAGE 83 FOR DETAILS #ESCAPISM25
ABOVE: Dan Reynolds (third from LEFT) and his Imagine Dragons bandmates are on a quest to raise awareness
Why I got involved I was raised in a family that’s very involved in humanitarian efforts, so it’s been a part of my life since I was young. Over the past couple of years I’ve watched the refugee crisis get increasingly overlooked while exponentially growing each year. It’s not only devastatingly sad, it’s also incredibly scary to see the world overlook it and focus on other things. I’d already been thinking about how I could get involved when SAP – a company we’d already worked with through the band’s Tyler Robinson Foundation (a foundation for children with cancer) reached out to us with the idea of putting out a song, with all proceeds going towards the refugee crisis. I said yes immediately, and the whole thing came together in two weeks.
help, but when it comes to it, many say “Yeah, I want to help but I don’t want them coming into my country.” Some US states are now saying they will not allow any refugees from Syria. Whatever side people are on politically, the one thing I can say for sure that it’s unacceptable to do is nothing; to stand by and just say “Oh, it sucks for them.” Because this is millions of people dying. This is the single greatest crisis in the last decade, in terms of the number of people it’s affecting, and something has to be done. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, this inspired me: my mum wrote me an email and said that her Christmas gift to the family was not going to be a present – instead, she was going to give money to the refugee crisis. That’s a small thing, but if thousands of people did this it would make a huge impact.
Why I visited a refugee camp in Germany Once we’d decided to do the song, I thought if I was going to be involved in this I had to be more educated about it. I wanted to see what it was like at the camps so I could actually speak from experience as opposed to what I’d seen on the internet. I went to a camp in Germany and it was such an eye-opening experience – I realised it was something I had to get more involved in.
Why the worst thing we can do is stop talking This is such a hot topic right now but I feel like a lot of people in the industry are afraid to talk about it, because nobody knows what to do. But honestly, I think now is exactly the moment that we have to – the second we stop talking about it, terrorism is winning. They want people to turn these refugees away and that can’t be the answer. I can’t come up with the political answers, but my goal is to become more educated on the matter, do what I can to raise awareness and say “I don’t know what the answer is but there needs to be one”. Whether the timing is right or wrong, we have to talk about it. Even when we post about the subject [on social media] there are people who will immediately respond and say “Why don’t you talk about things happening at home in the US?” That’s just so strange to me – it’s such a narrow way of thinking. I’m going to do everything I can and, especially after going to the refugee camp, I’m definitely inspired to become as involved as possible. e Dan Reynolds is the lead singer of Imagine Dragons. The single, ‘I Was Me’, is available now on iTunes. As part of the #One4 Project, proceeds will be donated to the UNHCR
Why we can’t turn a blind eye to the situation This is really pertinent right now. A lot of people are shying away from the topic because of the tragedy in Paris last month – I understand that, but by the same token, most of these refugees are people running away from that exact thing. What they are trying to get away from is terrorism and these people who’ve been taking their lives away. So for us to turn our backs on them? It can’t happen. Awareness is even more important now than ever. Every single time we play a show we talk about this on stage. We reach 10,000 a night, just hoping to raise awareness – but talking is not enough. I think we need to be actively finding solutions, and someone in the spotlight like myself has the opportunity to write about it, travel to camps and create a video documentary to spread the word. I’m working closely with the UN Refugee Agency. Why everyone has something to offer I think everybody’s role is different, and every single person can get involved in different ways. Even if people are politically against the idea of refugees coming to the place they live, that doesn’t mean they can’t help to provide food for where they’re at already. A lot of these camps have the most dreadful, terrible conditions: they’re overpopulated, so much so that some of the refugees are forced to turn around and go back. Most people, when they know the numbers, want to
I WENT TO A REFUGEE CAMP AND IT WAS SUCH AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE. I REALISED I HAD TO GET INVOLVED 65
“ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE AWARE THAT THEY ARE NOT ALWAYS WELCOME” For the asylum seekers who do make it to the safety of British shores, it’s not the end of the struggle, but often the beginning of a new one. Jenny Phillimore outlines the challenges those hoping to be granted refugee status in the UK face, and the importance of raising awareness to ensure they find genuine refuge here 66
he vast majority of refugees arrive in the UK as asylum seekers – this is a legal term that we allocate them until we have reviewed their claim for asylum and determined that they are genuine. Only then are they termed refugees. Apart from the Vulnerable Persons Programme – which until recently only settled 216 Syrian refugees in the UK – there are no routes for individuals to claim asylum in the UK ‘legally’. Those fleeing from their homes generally do so with little warning and therefore cannot collect travel documents, arrange a visa and make travel arrangements. Frequently the process of escape means arduous journeys on foot, in the backs of trucks, and in unseaworthy boats at the hands of the people smugglers who offer the desperate and the brave the only realistic option of escape. Research has demonstrated that many refugees have no idea where they will end up when they hand over everything they have (or incur a debt that can tie them to indentured labour). Many are detained in special centres when they get to the UK and, despite frequently being unable to speak English well, and not understanding the asylum process, have to begin their claim for asylum soon after arrival when they are disorientated and bewildered. These days the funds for decent solicitors are scarce and many are initially too frightened to tell the full stories of the persecution they experienced – they fear authorities and reprisal. Women who have experienced sexual violence which they may never have before disclosed are naturally reluctant to share harrowing details. Fairly soon after arrival, asylum seekers are dispersed to asylum housing, on a no-choice basis, in areas which are deprived and may have little experience of diversity – vicious attacks and even murders have occurred. Most asylum seekers are aware that they’re not always welcome. They live in poor-quality housing, sharing with strangers while they await the determination of their asylum claim. They are not allowed to work or to study – they have no money for language lessons. Many volunteer to keep themselves busy, and they receive less than 70% of income support to cover all of their food and clothing costs. Poor health results from a combination of physical and mental health problems. The food, the weather, culture, language – everything is different, and they experience the phenomenon of migration bereavement: the loss of everything they knew, everything that made them feel at home. On top of this they may have lost friends and family, seen atrocities committed and/or have been injured. Post-traumatic stress, depression and sleep disorders are common but asylum dispersal areas often lack basic counselling that can help victims of torture.
On top of all the loss and suffering, asylum seekers report feeling overwhelmed by the negative press and public attitudes to them – they came seeking refuge and instead face the presumption of being bogus until they prove otherwise. And proving who you are and what you went through can be very difficult. If you cannot be precise about the dates on which key events happened – and research shows that those who undergo trauma frequently forget details of particularly traumatic events – then you are accused by the barely trained officers who make the all-important decision of concealing information. Those who do not recall the same facts exactly the same way each time they are questioned are accused of lying; women who do not disclose rape until their legal advisor manages to convince them they must are accused of changing their story. Human inconsistences and the well-understood psychological impact of trauma on recall are disregarded. Only around a quarter of asylum seekers are granted refugee status and most of them are told they can only stay for between three and five years, meaning their futures are by no means certain and they live with the threat of being deported to further persecution. Amnesty International has demonstrated that over a quarter of decisions are overturned at appeal largely because of flawed credibility assessments, while most asylum seekers are homeless and destitute while they await their appeal. Those who gain refugee status are evicted from their asylum housing within 28 days of a positive decision, with all but the highest priority individuals and families made homeless and jobless until they receive a National Insurance number, which can take weeks or even months. It is essential that the nature of their experiences are better understood and accurately reported, and that we find ways to move beyond the hype that is so damaging and seek to offer genuine refuge and welcome. e G E T I N V O LV E D Professor Jenny Phillimore is SEE PAGE 83 FOR DETAILS the director of the Institute for #ESCAPISM25 Research into Superdiversity.
MANY HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY WILL END UP WHEN THEY HAND OVER ALL THEY HAVE 67
This Syrian boy was a real charmer and attempted to assist UNHCR staff with information sharing and posing for the photographer. He was with his family; they have travelled from Syria across Turkey, crossing the sea to reach Greece and have now found their way to Vinojug reception centre in Macedonia.
WHAT YOU CAN DO There are hundreds of ways to get involved and support those seeking refuge. As you’ll see, this doesn’t just mean making financial donations or giving up your job to volunteer; support comes in the form of raising awareness – that can include visiting art exhibitions or attending music and food events. Making refugees feel welcome in their new home is also crucial: try a mentoring scheme, for example.
SUPPORT Photograph by © Photograph UNHCR/Adam by Moller ###
70 . COMMUNITY / 71 . TECH/EDUCATION / 72 . CULTURE / 74 . MUSIC / 76 . FOOD / 78 . GLOBAL GATHERING / 80 . NEED TO KNOW / 82 . FINAL THOUGHTS / 83 . GET INVOLVED 69
COMMUNITY A refugee’s plight isn’t over if they’ve made it safely to the UK – many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, have been separated from families and feel miles from home. With these community projects you can offer guidance MENTORING
Mentoring programmes have been set up to help refugees cope with isolation and loneliness. Both The Forum and Time Together are looking for mentors who are willing to pair up with a mentee and meet with them for several hours a week over the course of six months. You’ll be given training and have the support of a project coordinator, and the aim is to help refugees feel oriented and more involved in their community. Your role will vary weekon-week, from helping a mentee enrol into college, to involving them in group activities such a theatre workshops. migrantforum.org.uk; mandbf.org
London Welcomes Refugees is a brand-new initiative where Londoners can register their interest to meet and help refugees. Founder Stuart Rubenstein tells us it’s about “welcoming newcomers with good oldfashioned hospitality, and is based around food and conversation.” The aim is fast-track integration into London life via the group’s own well-established networks of people, who will offer advice based on their field of expertise – it could be a Syrian teacher meeting an English teacher, or a refugee doctor meeting a British medic, for example. The group currently needs web developers to build its site, but is also looking for people with time, energy and ideas to sign up and
HOUSING There are an estimated 200,000 refused asylum seekers currently living in the UK who are destitute. These are people who have been unable to prove their asylum case to the government but say they are scared to return to their home country. Some asylum seekers must wait months or years for the outcome of their asylum claim, during which time they’re prohibited from working and receive minimal or no financial support. There are groups all over the UK who help these people find accommodation. Housing Justice provides housing for destitute asylum seekers in London, and is looking for hosts willing to offer a spare room in their home for people whose asylum or immigration claims are being addressed. Other hosting organisations include the No Accommodation Network, and My Refuge, an Airbnb-style site which enables people to offer a room to a refugee. housingjustice.org.uk; naccom.org.uk;myrefuge. world
The Migrants Resource Centre is looking for professionals to help its members find a job in their own field, or who can offer work placements. Laura Marziale, the centre’s community education and employment team coordinator, says: “Work experience in the professional field is really key and we always struggle with finding companies willing to accept our users.” The centre is looking for volunteers to donate a couple of hours a week to help users search and apply for jobs. If you’re an experienced yoga or pilates teacher, Women for Refugee Women – an initiative which seeks to help women fleeing violence and severe persecution – is looking for a woman to teach yoga to a small class of asylum seekers near their offices in Old Street. Hackney City Farm is also looking for yoga teachers for refugees. migrantsresourcecentre.org. uk; refugeewomen.co.uk; hackneycityfarm.co.uk
DAY CENTRE HELP The Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers is a day centre that provides support and seeks to secure rights for asylum seekers and refugees in Southwark. Services are far reaching, helping refugees and asylum seekers with health, housing and employment. Members are offered lunch and can do gardening or attend art and writing groups. The day centre needs volunteers to help with the day-to-day running, from helping out in the kitchen to administrative work (some of which can be done from home). sdcas.org.uk e
Illustrations by Mark Boardman
attend its first meeting. It’s in its very early stages, but you can visit facebook.com/ londonwelcomesrefugees to register your interest.
TECH & EDUCATION Supporting the refugee crisis is as easy as downloading an app or logging onto a computer. And you might learn something, too SHARE THE MEAL Remember that time you paid 69p because you couldn’t wait 20 minutes to get some more lives on Candy Crush? It was easy, wasn’t it? That’s what the World Food Programme’s banking on with its new app ShareTheMeal: apart from five cents a time to cover overheads, the proceeds of every donation go towards feeding children in Syria. sharethemeal.org
SEND EMOJIS It’s tempting to think of something like emojis tailored to the refugee crisis as flippant, but if you buy the special Refugee Emojis keyboard on iOS or Android, your money will go towards Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) which is bringing aid to some of the places worst affected by the refugee crisis. refugee-emojis.org
UNDERSTAND THE FACTS Did you know the average time spent in a refugee camp is 17 years? You’d know that, and a lot more about the lives of migrants, if you downloaded the
UNHCR’s (that’s the UN’s Refugee Agency) app-based game My Life as a Refugee. It might seem strange to learn about such things through a medium usually used to kill time on your commute, but that’s the beauty of it: simple illustrations and straightup facts presented in a straightforward, heartfelt way. mylifeasarefugee.org
ENCOURAGE UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIPS While working with an NGO in Jordan, Ben Webster realised that refugees face many challenges, but saw access to higher education as a particularly interesting challenge as it is not considered classic humanitarian aid. With his new platform, the Jamiya Project, Webster hopes to allow Syrian refugees access to free, accredited courses in Arabic (or other languages) so that they can gain qualifications to help them rebuild their lives and their country. The project currently needs tech assistance and more university partners. Visit jamiyaproject.com
LEARN A LANGUAGE NaTakallam – meaning ‘we speak’ in Arabic – uses its name literally, by providing those wishing to learn the language with someone to converse with. That someone will be one of the 1.1 million Syrian refugees currently in Lebanon. The concept is simple: sign up and participate in conversation-focused classes over the internet. Not only is it a good way to learn something new, it also provides safe employment for the Syrians involved. To find out more or sign up to some classes visit natakallam.com
SUPPORT SCHOOLING Love to Learn was founded in response to a compelling need for educational support services for refugee families living in Wandsworth. It offers an array of services for parents and children, from advice regarding the British education system, to trips and activities so refugee children can see new places and, most importantly, have fun. Volunteers are required across all areas. See love-to-learn.org.uk e
THE JAMIYA PROJECT ALLOWS SYRIAN REFUGEES ACCESS TO FREE COURSES IN ARABIC SO THEY CAN GAIN QUALIFICATIONS 71
CULTURE Art, theatre, music, poetry – these are some of the creative tools being used to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. Here are some current projects created both by and for refugees with the intention of encouraging integration and unity PAPER BOAT PROJECT Horrified by the sheer number of refugee deaths caused by failed boat crossings this year, artist Bern O’Donoghue’s paper boat project aims to humanise the figures we hear about in the news. For the project – called Dead Reckonings – O’Donoghue has made a paper boat for each of the 3,423 refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. She’s currently looking for galleries interested in exhibiting the installation. A second project, Refugees Crossing, is her reaction to the misrepresentation of refugees by politicians and the media. Supporters can sign up via the Facebook page to receive 30 paper boats which come with
facts about the crisis printed on them. You are then encouraged to leave the boats in public spaces for others to find. facebook. com/Refugees-Crossing
since his time at Exeter. The project is currently seeking a UK venue to host the exhibition. Those interested should visit facebook.com/ Baraakouja
RESPOND TO SHAKESPEARE WITH JAZZ
Baraa Ehsaan Kouja, a Syrian student at the University of Exeter, has curated a new exhibition created by refugee children. From Syria with Love consists of around 25 prints of poignant drawings and paintings made by Syrian refugee children aged between 12 and 18 currently living in Al-Abrar refugee camp in Lebanon. Each picture is accompanied by the child’s, name, age, and dream – often as simple as the desire to return home. From Syria with Love aims to thank the countless relief workers that Kouja has met
EXPLORE THE ISSUE The Paper Project began as a collaboration between seven young artists from migrant communities and award-winning British artist Mark Storor, who specialises in collaborating with people on the margins of society.
MENTOR A REFUGEE’S WRITING Freedom from Torture is a centre offering care, treatment and support for torture survivors to help them rebuild their lives. Write to Life is the centre’s creative writing group, which turns poignant, tragic stories into pieces of poetry, music or art. Its members read all over the country, write for
Illustration by Mark Boardman
THE PAPER PROJECT’S VISUAL PERFORMANCES ARE ACCESSIBLE TO THOSE WHO CAN’T SPEAK ENGLISH
Bards Without Borders is a collective of London poets from refugee and migrant backgrounds, who will be fusing poetry with spoken performance and a threepiece jazz band to create a new, modern response to the work of William Shakespeare. Following three workshops led by theatre director Arne Pohlmeier and poet Laila Sumpton, and focusing on The Comedy of Errors, the show at Arcola Theatre on 30 January will be Bards Without Borders’ premiere performance. For more information, visit counterpointsarts.org. uk and to book tickets arcolatheatre.com
The group explores the issues and experiences of migration, in particular the trafficking of young people and the human rights of undocumented children, and their most recent piece – Safina Al Hayat, which means ‘lifeboat’ in Arabic – addressed the current refugee crisis, and was made in solidarity with all those who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean. The group’s highly visual performances make them accessible to those who can’t speak English, with shows often presented in non-theatre settings to reach a wide audience. The Paper Project team are currently working on new ideas for 2016 and are seeking crowdfunding to be able to continue to perform. crowdfunder.co.uk/ paperproject2015
online and print publications and star in live theatre and film. They meet every two weeks for group workshops, with each member offered one-to-one mentoring from professional writers. Want to get involved? Visit freedomfromtorture.org/ survivor-voices/7086
from 10 December until 7 January, but this is part of a much bigger project, so check back on the website for details. The installation will be moving elsewhere, so if you think you can host it at a venue contact Dorman via arabelladorman.com
VISIT AN ART INSTALLATION
New play Nine Lives tells the story of Ishmael, who has fled from his home in Zimbabwe to escape lifethreatening homophobia and find a new life. The ensuing story, penned by Zodwa Nyoni – Channel 4’s Writer in Residence at the West Yorkshire Playhouse – threads together both humour and humanity to tell the personal story behind asylum headlines. The play received rave reviews when it debuted at the West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this year, and after a national tour it comes to London to the Arcola Theatre from 6-30 January 2016. To buy tickets, visit arcolatheatre. com/production/arcola/ nine-lives
In partnership with St James’s Church Piccadilly, internationally renowned conflict artist Arabella Dorman is putting together an installation called Flight, comprising one of the rubber dinghies that has ferried refugees from Turkey, and three life jackets – two adult and one child-size, representing the Holy Family. The installation will be illuminated from below and will also include personal testimonies from refugees and a selection of photographs to reiterate the significance of each life jacket and boat that has travelled across the Aegean this year. You can see the installation
THIS IMAGE: Refugees Crossing is a project by artist Bern O’Donoghue featuring handmade paper boats.
SEE A PLAY
BRAVE NEW VOICES PROMOTES FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ENCOURAGES ASYLUM SEEKERS TO WRITE READ ALL ABOUT IT Around 100 different languages are spoken in most London boroughs. Brave New Voices is a threeyear project offering creative writing and translation workshops to young refugees and asylum seekers with the aim of celebrating their multilingual skills. It was devised by English PEN, a worldwide writers’ association that defends freedom of expression and champions the global exchange of literature and ideas. Supported by the Limbourne Trust and John Lyon’s Charity, the project will
include sessions with young adult fiction writers from outside the UK alongside their translators, and at the end of each year, English PEN will publish an anthology of writing by the young refugees and asylum seekers who have taken part in the project. Visit englishpen.org to find out more.
LEARN ABOUT AFGHAN ARTS Afghan Association Paiwand is a multicultural organisation that was founded in 2002 by Afghan refugees living in London, working with refugees and migrants of all backgrounds and nationalities. At its annual Afghan Cultural Festival in London (next taking place in summer 2016), the association celebrates the work of professional musicians, actors and poets, aiming to inspire young people and introduce Afghan arts to those living in London. Paiwand means ‘integration’ in Dari and Farsi, and, in that vein, the festival promotes the creativity of multiculturalism by inviting the Afghan community and others to denounce violence and war. e afghanculturalfestival.co.uk or paiwand.com
MUSIC Music unites people worldwide in many different ways, and is playing a crucial part in raising awareness of – and generating funds for – the refugee crisis. From charity singles to disco nights, here’s how you can use song and dance as a novel way to support thousands around the world SEE THE SONGHOY BLUES Bands today know about graft: unpaid gigs, diminishing record sales, Kalashnikov-toting extremists... Well, perhaps the last one not so much, although Songhoy Blues know a thing or two about the lot. Aliou Touré, Oumar Touré, Garba Touré (unrelated) and Nathaniel Dembélé are four (very) unlikely lads from Mali. Named after their indigenous (and marginalised) ethnic group, theirs has been a stellar ascent, one bassist Garba couldn’t have envisaged in 2012. Accosted in the street by mujahideen fighters, guitar in hand, he was told decadent music was haram – sinful. If he was caught again, he would be killed. It would have been understandable
if he’d burned his beloved acoustic guitar, but he didn’t. He escaped to the south, soon followed by Aliou and Oumar. In the capital, the three Tourés met Dembele and before long, the band was formed. Songhoy Blues. Pride, resilience and, of course, the blues. They developed a following (mostly among the exiled northern community) and were soon earning around £1.20 a night between them. While Garba and Oumar were studying at university, the group played two to three residencies a week, in addition to weddings, baptisms and other gigs. Stressful stuff, especially as the three Tourés lived in the knowledge that their families up north were prey to Islamist fanatics who were fast taking control,
THE SONGHOY BLUES ARE FOUR LADS WITH INSTRUMENTS, HOPE AND A SURFEIT OF IDEAS 74
with extremely violent and draconian consequences. Yet, amidst this, the band caught the attention of of French producer MarcAntoine Moreau. Travel to the UK to record at Damon Albarn’s studio followed, and a spot at Glastonbury festival, too. “They want to tell us that music is condemned by religion…” says Garba of the fanatics who tried to
make him give up the thing he loved: music. “Well, not by this generation it isn’t,” he adds. With the evocatively titled album Music in Exile under their belts, the young band’s fame continues to grow. But what surprises about them the most? Familiarity. This is blues. Not Malian, nor African. Just rock and roll:
goblet-type drums, although all are welcome), and the organisation would also like to hear from people willing to collaborate on workshops and recording projects. It’s also keen to get enthusiastic refugee musicians in the UK involved in upcoming festival projects and gigs. Instrument donations need to be posted directly to Music Against Borders. For information on this and getting involved visit musicagainstborders.org
ROCK FOR REFUGEES
ABOVE: Songhoy Blues, originally from Mali, have caught the attention of the music industry, and played at Glastonbury
Illustration by Mark Boardman / Photograph by Andy Morgan
four lads, with instruments, hope and a surfeit of ideas above their station. They have already seen much of the world and now, it is starting to see them. Spread the word and see the Songhoy Blues play the Roundhouse on 16 May, 2016. Visit songhoy-blues. com for more information.
DONATE INSTRUMENTS Music Against Borders aims to ‘bridge divides, connect communities and heal the wounds of war.’ Through music, it empowers the displaced and provides migrants a resource to tap into their passion for music. One of its key aims is to provide refugees at camps with donated musical instruments (particularly
Formed by two former EMI colleagues inspired by news footage of the crisis, Rock for Refugees brings together musicians to raise money for several organisations supporting refugees. The two were inspired by the spirit and resilience of Nujeen Mustafa, a disabled teenager who made the grueling journey from Syria to Germany. The pair’s aim is to create live music events which will raise money and improve the lives of refugees all around the world. Despite the catchy name, their focus isn’t solely on rock music, with other genres in on the good cause, too. All money raised will support organisations including the Refugee Council, War Child, MOAS and Proactive Open Arms. Visit rockforrefugees. com for details on events in 2016; @RockforRefugees
DANCE TO DISCO You wouldn’t associate a charity in aid of refugees with the EDL, and you’d be right not to. EDL (this one, at least) stands for English Disco Lovers, with a One World, One Race, One Disco slogan (while mantras include ‘Don’t hate, gyrate!’,
EDL – AKA ENGLISH DISCO LOVERS – HAVE A ONE WORLD, ONE RACE, ONE DISCO SLOGAN and ‘Racial hatred is such a bummer, I’d rather listen to Donna Summer.’ On 18 December, they will host a disco-inspired party at the award-winning Komedia venue in Brighton, with £2 from each ticket going to the Hummingbird Project, an organisation helping refugees in Calais. Visit edl. me/upcoming_events. html and facebook.com/ Hummingbirduk for details.
DOWNLOAD SONGS Grammy Award-winning rockers Imagine Dragons will be donating all proceeds from the single ‘I Was Me’ to the UN Refugee Agency, highlighting the (often underplayed) power of the individual to aid change. Read more about lead singer Dan Reynolds’ thoughts on the refugee crisis on page 64. Download Imagine Dragons’ ‘I Was Me’ at itunes.com Writer Pete Paphides and his wife Caitlin Moran have worked in conjunction with Save the Children to re-
release the Crowded House song ‘Help is Coming’, with all proceeds going to the charity. Manufacturing and mastering costs have also been waived, while Benedict Cumberbatch has supported the campaign. Read why Pete Paphides got involved on page 58 and download the song at itunes.com
FESTIVAL ABROAD Refugee camps aren’t traditional settings for a festival, but then Tumaini (Swahili for ‘hope’) isn’t your average festival. Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi, home to 20,000 displaced refugees, welcomed 3,000 visitors in its inaugural year, with a vibrant mix of talented performers from both within and outside the camp. The aim is simple: change the way refugees are perceived around the world, by showcasing their creative talent. Dates are TBC for next year. See: facebook.com/ tumainifestival e
BELOW: An EDL night out
FOOD Food is a universal means of communication, and one of the simplest ways to cross cultural boundaries. Be it a recipe book, supper club or food delivery service, these inspired ideas use eating and drinking as a way of supporting refugees and spreading awareness
GET ON THE ROAD Dan Shearman of The Roadery founded his travelling food truck (housed in a classic Renault Estafette van) on the premise that he wanted everything to be ethical, working with suppliers who rear animals naturally, grow produce organically and make their food with love. He’s now bringing these values to helping the refugees in Calais: having crossed the Channel in September to bring them hot, nourishing meals, he and other street food vendors including Rupert’s Street,
Fleisch Mob, The Bowler and What The Dickens! are teaming up in the hope of crowdfunding £10,000 to take the refugees food and other necessary aid in January, when winter will be at its harshest. Volunteers are needed, along with other vendors. For more info and to donate: crowdfunding.justgiving. com/StreetAid or @RoaderyFood
EAT OUT It’s not often you get to try dishes from Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Iran in one sitting, but that’s what you’ll
BELOW: The Roadery’s Renault van will be travelling to Calais in January to deliver aid.
find at Mazi Mas (which means ‘with us’ in Greek) at The Ovalhouse Theatre. Its aim is to support and train refugee women so that they can use their cooking knowledge as a source of income, as well as welcoming them and their cultures into our city. As founder Nikandre Kopcke points out: “If we want to continue making refugees feel welcome and give them access to employment, what we really have to do is ensure that we run a buzzing restaurant.” Sounds good to us. For more information visit mazimas.co.uk
COOK AND DONATE Here’s a cookery book that’ll expand your repertoire of
belly-warming soup recipes whilst giving you the feelgood factor: Soup for Syria. Buy a copy and 100% of its cover price will go to the UN Refugee Agency. Everyone from Yotam Ottolenghi to Sally Butcher has donated recipes, and Pavilion Books and the Guardian Bookshop have covered all production and distribution costs. The idea came from Barbara Abdeni Massaad, author of the award-winning Man’oushe: Inside the StreetCorner Lebanese Bakery, who comments “When I visited the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, I said to them: ‘Had I been a barber, I would have cut your hair. Because I am a cookbook writer and photographer, I am doing what I can do to help through
NEW BOOK ‘SOUP FOR SYRIA’ PROVIDES RECIPES AND DONATIONS TO THE UNHCR 76
my work’.” For more information and to buy the book visit soupforsyria.com
TRY NEW RECIPES
Illustration by Mark Boardman / Photograph (Mazi Mas) by Marianne Chua Photography
Food is much more than nutrition: it’s one of the most relatable ways of communicating and understanding different cultures, which is key when welcoming refugees to their new life in the UK. Food delivery service Marley Spoon is stepping up to the plate by working with Syrian, Afghan and Pakistani refugees to introduce us to their dishes through its recipe boxes until 11 January – as well as donating 100% of profits to a charity working to help set up satellite initiatives across Europe. Each box will contain the exact quantities of fresh ingredients needed to make meals such as Pakistani chicken curry with fresh ginger and Afghan carrot soup with red lentils, yoghurt and pita bread. For more information visit marleyspoon.co.uk
HOLD A SYRIAN SUPPER CLUB Hands Up Foundation has taken it upon itself to help us learn more about Syria with monthly supper clubs at E5 Bakehouse, where you’ll be able to sample Syrian food, learn about Syrian culture and donate to an extremely worthy cause. Co-founders Louisa Barnett and Rose Lukas spent time in the country, and came back wanting to raise awareness of what’s going on. If you want to help, you can also host your own dinner – Hands Up will help you with recipes, give you flyers to tell guests exactly
where the money is going and try to provide you with a speaker who has recently been to Syria. You can then donate some of your profits to your chosen charity or crowdfund campaign. For more information visit handsupfoundation.org
HOST A PARTY The Chickpea Sisters, based in Tooting, was born when a group of refugee women involved in CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) decided to turn their culinary skills into an incomegenerating activity. They’re now cooking up
AT THE E5 BAKEHOUSE YOU CAN TRY SYRIAN FOOD, LEARN ABOUT SYRIAN CULTURE AND EAT DELICIOUS FOOD delicious dishes for supper clubs and events, and hope to have market stalls soon. It has more than just a financial benefit – you’ll also have a chance to learn more about
the chefs and their home countries. You can support them by enlisting them to cater for parties, or by attending one of their events. See chickpeasisters.com e
CLOCKWISE FROM THIS IMAGE: Marley Spoon; Soup for Syria; Mazi Mas: three initiatives using food to raise funds.
GLOBAL GATHERING The effort to support refugees and asylum seekers of course goes beyond British shores. Take inspiration from these inventive schemes, initiatives and projects that are currently taking place all over the world AUSTRALIA Few things are as affecting as a naive drawing of the inside of a barbed-wire fence, especially when you know that the person standing behind it may be staring at that same view for the next five years. The creators of the Refugee Art Project are a collective of academics and artists who have been holding art workshops for detainees in Australia’s Villawood Detention Centre, and among refugee women, in Sydney for the last three
and a half years. In that time, they’ve exhibited more than 500 works to the public, as well as producing seven zines of refugee art. Safdar Ahmed, project director and co-founder, says that the project “aims to facilitate and harness the creativity and self-expression of refugees in order to challenge misconceptions and educate people about the refugee issue.” Producing art provides a creative outlet and a link to the outside world for those
THE PROJECT HARNESSES THE CREATIVITY OF REFUGEES IN ORDER TO CHALLENGE MISCONCEPTIONS 78
FROM TOP: ‘Bird’ by Murtaza Ali Jafari; ‘Tamil Asylum Seeker’ by Kamalesharan Selladurai, – both are part of the Refugee Art Project
who are otherwise stuck in a confusing and often hostile limbo. Meanwhile, the profits from the exhibited works are given back to the refugees, and often sent on to the families they’ve been forced to leave behind. Perhaps most importantly, the art forces those who encounter it to connect with the voiceless. The Refugee Art Project has found a way for refugees to communicate their humanity beyond language barriers. therefugeeartproject.com
GERMANY A scheme referred to as
‘Airbnb for refugees’ has exploded in Germany, placing more than 150 refugees into the homes of those who are keen to offer help and support. Refugees Welcome was founded by three students, after two of them hosted a Malian immigrant on the recommendation of a friend. The man spoke five languages and had been searching for work, but had been forced to live on the streets. The site links home owners with refugees, helping them quickly adjust to life in the country and live in adequate accommodation. The money for rent is crowdfunded either from family and friends or from the public, so no one is left out of pocket. It has since expanded to more than 20 countries. refugeeswelcome.net
Photography (right) by MOAS.eu/Jason-Florio
When Small Projects Istanbul’s founder Karyn Thomas was working in a refugee camp in Damascus, she was so appalled by the lack of education provision for children in the war-torn country that she sponsored a young woman to continue her education outside Syria. Donations flooded in, and the girl now has a full scholarship to a US university. After this experience, Thomas moved on to helping Syrian refugees in Turkey. Her organisation, Small Projects Istanbul, runs classes on Turkish and art for the children of refugees, who tend not to have the language skills to get the most out of school. Alongside this, they run Turkish classes for adults and a craft collective for women. Thomas believes this will stop the downward spiral into unemployment and poverty
that these families might otherwise face, and give the ‘lost generation’ of Syrians the best chance it can. smallprojectsistanbul.org
NORWAY Top Norwegian chefs have been feeding refugees waiting outside the police’s asylum office in Oslo. Leftover food from the city’s restaurants, some of them Michelin-starred, is being handed out alongside specially made vegetarian pasta. The initiative was started by writer and musician Jan Vardøen, who has launched some of Norway’s top restaurants. “It’s very important that they (the refugees) are met with sympathy,” he says.
HUNGARY Kate Coyer, director of the Civil Society and Technology Project at Central European University in Budapest, has decided to help connect refugees with their friends and family. Coyer’s group of volunteers has been plugging extension leads into all the outlets they can find
SMALL PROJECTS ISTANBUL RUNS LANGUAGE AND ART CLASSES FOR THE CHILDREN OF REFUGEES in Budapest train station, and have also come up with a novel way of offering Wi-Fi: by putting hotspots in people’s backpacks and sending them out into the crowd. Six hours of Wi-Fi on the ‘Free Wi-Fi, please no YouTube’ network costs about £60 to provide, and can support around 12 users.
US A group of US-based Vietnamese refugees have come together to raise funds for the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a search and rescue team trying to reduce loss of life in the Mediterranean – the world’s ‘deadliest migrant
crossing’ according to the International Organisation for Migration. Duc Nguyen, an Emmy Award-winning director has launched the #ICAREBECAUSE hashtag to raise awareness and donations, encouraging people to upload videos completing the phrase “I care because…” alongside the hashtag #MOAS. Nguyen fled Vietnam across the South China Sea following the end of the war in 1975, and says: “For those of us that belong to the Vietnamese overseas community, we share a moral obligation and social responsibility to support this mission.” moasusa.org e
THIS IMAGE: The Migration Offshore Aid Station works to rescue refugees travelling by sea.
NEED TO KNOW The refugee crisis is ongoing, and the need for support continues. If you want to carry on learning and stay up-to-date with ways you can help, keep these key websites and organisations on your radar HELP REFUGEES UK
SAVE THE CHILDREN
This organisation was founded by a trio of friends after a trip to Calais earlier this year. Now Help Refugees has grown into a fully-fledged charity which, working alongside L’auberge des migrants, is coordinating volunteers and building projects in the ‘Jungle’ in France. See our last page for details on joining them. helprefugees.org.uk
Save the Children is Working to distribute essential items for refugee children across the world. Many young refugees have experienced conflict and severe trauma. Along with information on how to donate, its website also encourages people to set up youth groups for young refugees in the UK. savethechildren.org.uk
As well as responding to medical crises across the globe, in countries including Sudan and Iraq, the Red Cross also offers practical support and advice to refugees and asylum seekers to help them settle in to a new environment. Visit redcross.org.uk for updates.
Set up my Melinda McRostie on the island of Lesbos, Greece, this new NGO is looking after thousands of refugees arriving from Turkey by water. Along with donations via the website, they are in need of volunteers during the winter months, including doctors and lifeguards. asterias-starfish.org
MSF MSF, or Doctors without Borders, provides medical aid for refugees in countries across the world. Donations are welcome, while its website also details fundraising events that are taking place across the UK. doctorswithoutborders.org
COUNTERPOINTS ARTS The mission of Counterpoints Arts is to support and promote the arts produced by – and about – refugees, to ensure that their cultural and artistic
REFUGEE ACTION Refugee Action is an organisation that works to support refugees once they arrive in the UK. Its website is a source of helpful information about how you can help, from simple guides on welcoming refugees into your hometown, to opportunities to write welcome messages to new refugees. Visit the ‘refugee voices’ page for stories from asylum seekers in the UK. refugee-action.org.uk
REFUGEE COUNCIL Supporting and empowering refugees, the Refugee Council is the place to learn more about the UK’s tough asylum process, and some simple facts about refugees and asylum seekers. Volunteering opportunites are also available. refugeecouncil.org.uk
DO IT Do It is the UK’s national volunteering database, and a one-stop shop for anyone looking to volunteer in their community. If you’re worried about committing the time, check out Team London, a new speed volunteering website for people in the capital. do-it.org; speedvolunteer.london. gov.uk
REFUGEE WEEK The big national refugee festival is Refugee Week, which will be taking place from 20-26 June 2016. It’s a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities. Keep an eye on the website for details and info on events earlier in the year. refugeeweek.org.uk e
Illustration by Mark Boardman
As well as providing a huge source of information on different countries around the world (visit the data pages for up-to-date figures on the European crisis, data.unhcr.org) the UNHCR website is crammed with inspiring refugee stories. Its winter appeal is now live, just a £15 donation can keep a refugee family in Jordan warm through the winter. donate.unhcr.org/gbr/ europe-crisis
THE RED CROSS
contributions are recognised and welcomed within British arts, history and culture. Find out more: counterpointsarts. org.uk
Photograph Photograph by by ######
‘Freedom’ by Kamaleshwaran Selladurai, Refugee Art Project
FINAL THOUGHTS T
he first thing Murtaza said to me was thank you. “Thank you for letting me share my story,” he whispered through tears down the phone. Murtaza is a 15-year-old refugee who has just been placed with a family in Sweden. He travelled for months on his own, through Afghanistan, Turkey and the Balkans, to try and escape a violent and hopeless life in Iraq. Most of his family reached Pakistan, while his father is presumed dead. Murtaza had his own story to tell, but there are more than 19,500,000 refugees worldwide today, and each one has their own unique story. They are parents, children, siblings and friends. They are artists, musicians, teachers and doctors. They are people. And they have names. When I first started working on this edition of escapism, I worried about how I could do their stories justice. How could I condense a crisis of such vast proportions into one issue of a magazine? The answer is, quite simply, that I can’t. But after meeting volunteers and refugees in Calais and Greece, listening to their experiences first-hand and seeing what they’ve been forced to leave behind, what I can confidently say is this: we must do something. This doesn’t just mean donating money or, on the other extreme, quitting your job to become a refugee aid worker. It’s also about understanding – about curiosity, listening, learning, and welcoming our new neighbours with warmth and kindness. What struck me most about my conversation with Murtaza was how lonely he sounded. Finally he had
reached sanctuary and safety only to be confronted with a whole new battle. He is surrounded by people, yet feels so alone, so far from home. And that’s why I’ve signed up to a programme to mentor a young refugee, through a project that I had no idea existed until I started working on this issue. Me? A mentor? I’m pretty sure it’ll be the other way around. So, along with pages highlighting refugees’ stories, and how other people have taken action, within this magazine you’ll have found other ways that you can get involved in supporting refugees – whether it’s through raising awareness and money, or simply by making new friends. When I became a travel writer I never expected to cover an issue like this, but I’m grateful for an opportunity that has opened my eyes to an unjust and painful reality that’s also full of courage, humanity and, ultimately, hope. This crisis affects us all, and we all have a part to play in how it unfolds. There are many ways you can get involved, but the most important thing is that you do get involved. Please, take action today.
Hannah Summers, Special Report Editor, Escapism
WITH THANKS TO: Alida Bahrai, Jolly Banerjee, Lliana Bird, Emily Churchill Zaraa, Heaven Crawley, Tanya Freedman, Maya Khera, Henrik Kjellmo Larsen, Dani Lawrence, Josie Naughton, Murtaza Nazari and Peggy Whitfield.
LET’S GET INVOLVED VOLUNTEER
Help Refugees needs you! We’re asking 100 of you to give up just one week of your time to play your part in supporting the 6,000+ refugees in Calais today. Working alongside L’Auberge des Migrants and Help Refugees (page 60), your tasks will involve building, sorting and welcoming new refugees to the camp, making a huge difference to living conditions, and lives, through the winter months. You’ll be joining a kind and bighearted group of volunteers who will guide you through your work.
We are raising money that will go directly and immediately to help refugees in Calais. There’s support needed everywhere, but if we can make a noticeable and long-lasting difference in one area, we felt that this was the best thing to do.
We’re asking for 25 volunteers to join the teams on each of the following dates: w/c 28 December w/c 4 January w/c 11 January w/c 18 January
Photograph by ###
The organisations aren’t able to fund your travel and accommodation, but can suggest low-cost Airbnbs and hotels nearby. To register your interest, email ‘Escapism magazine’ plus your preferred week in the subject header to firstname.lastname@example.org
The chances are you are reading this magazine in central London somewhere, which means Calais’ main refugee camp, known as ‘The Jungle’, is just a one-hour train ride from you. Conditions there are truly terrible. You can make a difference by donating and helping us hit our target of £100,000 to buy much-needed materials, blankets, sleeping bags and other essentials. There are 105,000 copies of this magazine being printed. If everyone reading this took just two minutes of their time to donate £1, then we would hit our target. If you can afford £10 – or even more – then we, and the people you will be helping, would be extremely thankful. Please donate via: escapismmagazine.com/appeal
Escapism Magazine - Issue 25 - Special Report