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UPROOTED


Коротко о себе Родился в Советском Союзе, вырос в независимом Кыргызстане. Обучался политологии, международным отношениям, политической экономике и конфликтологии. Нашел себя в успешном продвижении реформы законодательства - в сфере предотвращения пыток и прозрачности избирательного процесса - содействуя ранее лидерам гражданского сектора в продвижении общественных интересов. Живя в Англии, провожу исследования для международных организаций по вопросу свободы выражения в интернете и прав человека в постсоветских странах. Увлекаюсь стихотворчеством и малой прозой. Попал в длинный список Русской премии за сборник рассказов в 2010 году. Семьянин. Воспитываю дочь. Эрнест Жанаев


Let those thrive who start low

The phone rang. Unexpected calls make you jump. Dreams of a call from an employer double the power and velocity. So it did. I recognised the same nervous voice I had heard during a previous interview, for a role assisting a solicitor. And yes, I recognised the number as a well. The voice told me excitedly that I am hired and need to bring my documents to finalise the recruitment process, then asked whether I am still available immediately. A strange question to ask just now. I expected it to come up during the arranged meeting. The first round of the interview was quite pleasant and mostly touched on things about my availability, degree, professional experience in legal fact-finding and analysis. We even agreed on working hours and remuneration. It seems my native Russian made a positive contribution to the discussion, since clients of the firm wish to speak to someone who reads Pushkin and Dostoevsky in their original. I was presented a volume of the guidelines of immigration law and asked how much time it would take to orient myself easily. Glancing through the volume I responded that two weeks will be more than enough.


Finding the place was difficult. There were several blank buttons on the security door to call and two firms. All right, I checked the first one, and they had not been waiting for me. Nevertheless, I persuaded them to allow me to enter. I needed just to get past this door. After I realised this first option was wrong, I apologised and continued my way up the stairs, where I found my boss-to-be solicitor. This second round of the interview I presented my credentials to the employer. Copies were taken and then I was told that an initial written assessment must be made. However, first we proceeded to have a coffee, this caused speculations. My first speculation: that this was to avoid discussion of individual matters in the presence of another member of staff. And my second: was that the employer had been planning to negotiate my remuneration, hours or something else. I was asked to share my vision about the firm’s budget and my hours, after a brief explanation of fee distribution and an expectation to see me as a partner in the future. I presented the solicitor my understanding of how my career experience would contribute to the firm. I said that since I trust the firm and it had already expressed its confidence in me then it is my turn to prove my loyalty: I am ready to sacrifice a part of my payable hours in order to volunteer for the firm,

increase its income and only after that moment to discuss increasing my share of the profit. The solicitor looked pleased with this answer. After returning to the office, I was asked to pass a written test. I did. Here, a third speculation was born: that this was an attempt to make this job offer undesirable from my point of view. I thought that a job offer had already been made and I needed just to give evidence of my suitability for the role. At the end of the written test, I was told that the outcome of the interview would be announced later. Having grabbed all my documents, I returned home, not signing a contract. My newest speculation: that the employer had had a change of heart during my way to his office, was becoming more apparent. Soon I received a message, and it was as anticipated. It said that my candidacy ‘would not work economically for the business’. It is strange, but I did not feel insulted or outraged. Probably I am flexible enough too, to accept this world ever changing. And to comprehend that employers have more things to care about that just being ethical or responsible. Looking back, I think I offered my best. Well, I do not regret it, and it is a brilliant experience of how low financial positions can be for those having minimal experience. Ernest Zhanaev, Kyrgyzstan


Interview

Limbo Having been a freelancer for most of my career, it feels overwhelming, the idea to go for a job interview. Especially, coming from a Middle Eastern background, where it is not as demanding as here in the UK. But this is something I will have to undergo sooner or later. The weird questions I believe I will be asked will be expected: boring and straightforward but hard to answer. Why? Because their answer is something that has become a habit, a day to day practice. Such as, how do you find contacts for your pitches? How do you approach editors? How do you find them? Hmm. I mean, who lives and works in the field of journalism nowadays and does not use Twitter or Linkden to find their way? I think one of the funny things will be, although it seems basic as well, how to approach your contacts.

The clichÊ of talking to sources, this should be different to dropping a message to a new friend. This one should clarify who you are, what you are doing, besides all the other information. These processes must be know by every journalist. In an absurd and optimistic scenario, I imagine the interviewer telling me that I’m the chosen candidate and they will carry on with the rest of the interviews, but only for the sake of it. Eventually, in perfect scenario, I would get the job. Then, they tell me what my role would be and we end up having a dinner together. In the pessimistic side of my imaginations comes another scenario, such as being asked questions that I have no clue about, or confusing the answer and then being politely asked (which feels like being told off) to answer again after a few clarifications. Such a dumb dreadful low, my self-esteem will end up being.


But, just to reach the interview for a job, particularly in journalism, is not an easy mission.

The diversity and differences between the British media and ways of working is significant.

The competitive atmosphere, the high requirements of skills and experience.

But it is rather professional and straightforward unlike other countries around the world, in which it becomes harder still.

These make it hard to start a career, equally so for a new graduate, who can’t fill the experience gap, as it is for a newly arrived foreigner, who wants to be involved with the industry but lacks the local industry knowledge. For a non-English native, it’ll be most challenging and a hardworking task to blend into the community and to obtain high enough English writing ability to write materials for the British audience. For a foreign journalist it is overwhelming when you try to find where to start, as basic as that may be.

Finally, the financial part is a fundamental issue, sustaining a decent place to work and a stable income living in the UK is difficult and overall is more expensive than other Middle Eastern countries. In order to succeed, some people say you need to start rich. However, richness doesn’t only mean money, knowledge and experience is more priceless and leads you to become rich in materialistic ways. But it doesn’t work the other way round.

Zouhir Al-Shimale, Syria


Searching for

employment in the UK I quickly learnt to face reality and quit

dreaming. The authorities demanded that of me. You now have permission to work, they said to me. Indeed, the card they handed me in place of my passport is a daily reminder. No more freebies. That is for the asylum seekers. Not refugees as they turned on the pressure. Get work at any cost. But I couldn’t do that. The flight to where I am today was the cause of my bad back. It had taken a physical blow, that rendered me no longer able to endure the strain of back breaking work that most quick job fixes ascribe to: cleaner, care worker, shelf stacker, floor assistant and the likes. So, I would dream on, even while I also began the search. I would recreate the images of that ideal job in my mind’s eye. But I had no illusions. I knew it would be an impossible task, getting back into the work I used to do. But in a foreign land? Impossible. Never. You see when you have been a broadcast journalist for more than twenty five years - you are obviously

of a certain age. Worse, here you are, a person uprooted and expected to reinvent yourself if you are to survive. The skill set you have is your only possession. Given that insight I set out to make my CV work for me. You will read below why I have found it so difficult to get employment in the field I spent so much time in. But first, let me tell you how far I have come in this search. It did not take me long to figure out the natural progression for a refugee is to look for work with the charities that help them. I started out as a volunteer. Tracing where I could find an entry point into some kind of media related work, I gravitated into the advocacy project of a certain local charity and there was soon a job opening that I applied for. Not equipped with work experience in the UK or more relevantly lacking experience in that sector, I did not land the job. As a consolation prize (for I had come in as a close second), I was offered a position on the board of trustees. A position I hold with pride.


It has served me well in that the parttime admin job I presently work at came from a recommendation from this same charity. And the solicitor firm I work for champions human rights and represents clients who are failed asylum seekers. The city I live in is a natural hub for community based organizations and the charity sector thrives here. I was looking for a way in. As a filmmaker, I sensed a place for me to tell their stories. I have since collaborated with a couple of local filmmakers to produce some advocacy shorts. One about a charity working to assist homeless asylum seekers and another focusing on ESOL (the English language provider) and its relevance to employability skills. All this has not gotten me any closer to working in any media organization. Not for lack of trying for I even had a fellow trustee member who is a counselor lobby on my behalf to no less than the mayor’s office, not to mention, a private audience I had with the MP Thangham Debonnaire (renown for her stand on human rights and the immigration issue) courtesy of the ESOL film who’s producer I was coaching on that collaboration. Through another volunteer at this charity (a former BBC producer) I gained access to BBC Points West

and had the privilege of being hosted by and given a guided tour by the studio’s only token Black broadcaster (for that’s how they jokingly referred to themselves as). Candidly they explained to me the realities of having to pay your dues and then some, if you are a minority and trying to join the ranks of the likes of the BBC. Now they had begun at an entry level position and over twenty years had eventually landed their own weekly production. My dream of hosting another talk show or presenting a prime time news stor on a major (or any) television station may still be far from reality, but thanks to the woman behind the initiative of the Refugee Journalism Project, I am a step closer. Her project connects us to peers and per- haps for some, there will be the chance to walk into a studio once more or write a byline for a major news publication. As for myself, I will strive to make films that send a message to communities that refu- gees are first and foremost human beings just like them. They have vital skill sets, not empty hands and no brains. They can con- tribute to community development, and like you, they have aspirations and dreams, which they hope will one day turn into reality. Citizens of the UK, just give them a chance. Over qualified? Me? Says who?

By a refugee woman broadcast journalist from Africa


Kerim Balcı. Herkes gibi, asrımın çocuğuyum ben de. Ne yazık ki savaşlar, soykırımlar, sürgünler, ithamlar, tutuklamalar, mahzenlerde tüketilen yaşamlar asrı oldu benim asrım. Dilimizi kuranların kökünü kazımak tabirini niye kullandıklarını, kökü kazınarak, tarihten silinerek öğrendim. Sürgünde, doğmak zorunda kaldım, yeniden. Geçmişin kamburuyla, diktatörlüğe karşı dik durup direnmem gereken zamanda dik duramamış olmanın suçluluk duygusuyla, benden önce ezilmişlerin ezilmişliklerinin farkına ancak ezildikten sonra varmanın ezikliğiyle… Sürgün, gurbet değil sadece. Hayatta kalma çabasının, ayakta durma gayretinin her şeyi, ama her şeyi gölgesinde bıraktığı, kimlik bunalımlarıyla, ahlaki değer yargısı sarsıntılarıyla başa çıkmak için enerjinin kalmadığı yer sürgün… Çöl gibi… Çöl gibi…


Forbidden from taking employment Forced unemployment was part of the persecution I fled. Turkey’s emerging dictator had vowed to leave us, the voices of dissent in the country, devoid of jobs, reputations and even water. He kept his vow… On 4th March 2016, Zaman Media Group, where I worked all through my professional journalistic career for 20 years, was taken over by brutal police force, and we were all made unemployed. After the heinous coup attempt of July 2016, alongside 189 other media organisations, Zaman Media Group was closed altogether; our websites were taken down, printed copies of our publications were collected from public libraries, and the ones kept in archives were made forbidden for the public to access. We were erased from history. Seeking asylum in the UK was not only an attempt to escape imminent arrest for me. It was an attempt to resurrect, to come back to life, back to history.

No economic or social benefit scheme offered to asylum seekers in this country provide for the needs of a journalist, an academic, or an intellectual. I had been stripped of my freedom of expression, and that was precisely what I was looking for in the UK: a right to write, and a job opportunity conducive to creative writing. But yet, the ARC (Application Registration Card) given to me on the day of my first screening had this warning on it:

FORBIDDEN FROM TAKING EMPLOYMENT. It is understandable that the asylum system should not encourage baseless claims. But it also should not encourage reliance on social benefit schemes or illegal employment. When I realised that turning back to Turkey was no longer an option for me, I sought asylum. But I also made a self-imposed promise: I won’t become a burden on the British economy.


Two years on, having relied mainly on the income of my wife and having exhausted all my credit from taking personal loans when that income did not suffice, I am still forbidden from taking employment. I didn’t only start questioning my original promise, but I also lost quite a bit of my journalistic skills, and my touch with my areas of expertise. Even when given the permit to work in this country, it will take a year or two to get acquainted with the Western journalistic tradition, and to flex my muscles for the work. I didn’t stay idle. When my asylum application reached the one year point, I applied for a right to work. The Home Office happily informed me that now I was permitted to work, but… but… on condition that… and only… I was permitted to work only at jobs listed at the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), and only at a limited number of companies that bother to employ asylum seekers and were accredited by Home Office. The SOL professions that sounded closest to journalism were ‘dancers’ and ‘cooks’. When I raised this issue with former Home Secretary Amber Rudd at the Conservative Party Conference 2018, she told the audience that the list was prepared but restrictive; because in case of refusal of application, it would be mentally detrimental

for the applicant to be deported not only from the country, but also from the job. It was, as if, I would care, if I also lost my job while being sent back to Turkey to serve three consecutive life terms plus 15 years of bonus in jail, the sentence a Turkish prosecutor is asking for my alleged “dissemination of subliminal messages” in my columns and YouTube appearances. It was, as if, it would be more detrimental for journalists to have lost their jobs, than dancers or cooks doing so. I tried telling politicians that SOL was prepared in accordance with the needs of the overall British economy, while the needs of the immigrant communities were neglected. Journalists, authors, and academics are the prime victims of persecutions, and they are also the prime actors of integration in their host countries. Both the reason and the aim of asylum policies necessitate some form of prioritisation for the holders of such professions in their asylum applications. Delaying integration of these integrators will inevitably delay a successful integration of the overall communities they inform, inspire, and occasionally lead. The current asylum intake policy is a lose-lose strategy. It could have easily been re-designed as a win-win one…

Kerim Balci is a former editor, columnist, and analyst from Turkey. He sought asylum in May 2017 and is still waiting for a response.


Made by Michaela Nagyidaiovรก Nancy Hurman Niaz Malekina Tim Boddy

Special thanks to our collaborators from The Refugee Journalism Project Organisation A refugee woman broadcast journalist from Africa Ernest Zhanaev Kerim Balci Zouhir Al-Shimale

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By MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography students for the Visible Justice Exhibition (16/04/19) at London College of Communication....

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