In case you didn’t know, it’s National Refugee Week.
I’m feeling really emotional today. And it’s not because I have my periods. At lunch I went to listen to a free talk being put on for National Refugee Week, by Women for Refugee Women.
It was awkward. It was good awkward, the confronting awkward. It was about 10 people sitting together at a table listening to the shocking story of a woman, Marie, originally from Rwanda, who had slimly escaped death with her family when she was just 12 years old.
You’ve seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, so you know what brutal inhumane style of death I’m talking about too. This woman had literally been a child lying face down on the floor with her siblings when the militants came in machetes swinging. It was only because her mother was a nurse and had seen one of the machete swingers had been shot, that she was able to offer to save his life in exchange for her children’s.
The guy agreed and then came back to tell them to leave immediately. Apparently the monsters outside weren’t happy that they hadn’t “finished the job”. Assholes.
Anyway, this story was horrendous. But the most important thing to take from this is to look after our refugees when they get to us. Because as Marie put it, people in Syria aren’t just waking up randomly one morning and thinking “I know, I think I’ll go to the UK”. They are running from things we may never be able to comprehend.
It’s our bloody governments’ fault that all this violence and conflict is breaking out in their homes. Our greedy-bastard power-hungry governments have been going onto other people’s properties for years to swipe their resources. Egging on the civil unrest, willy nilly, and providing brutal weaponry to absolute clowns. And then closing the fricking curtains on refugees who don’t want to be murdered in their homes.
Then just to put the icing on the despicable cake made of poop, the refugees who do succeed in hitting our shores (let’s not even start on the ‘boat people’ issue), have to deal with the ning nongs at immigration. They often make it as hard and intimidating as possible for these desperate people to find asylum. The governments are setting rules that allow parents to stay but not children, rules that allow children to stay but not parents. They’re telling women that they can’t help them but they can take their baby into care.
Imagine being new to a country, unfamiliar with the culture or the language and hearing the words “take your baby”. Foreigners (and some locals) don’t know that they can stand up to the bureaucrats and fight for their human rights. And often they’ll just retreat to the streets, hook in under the radar and live a sad homeless life so no one takes their baby.
This is one example in a sea of many undignified examples that are happening to people every day here in the UK.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You can be nice to the next refugee you see. You can be kind, gentle and compassionate when you are talking about the subject of refugees. You can do something fun to raise money, you can donate, volunteer, tell friends, share something on social media… write a damn blog about refugees in your lunch break.
Basically, what I’m saying is DON’T BE COMFORTABLE. Don’t love life, do yoga, eat nice food, drink lush wine, live on social media, do your hobbies… don’t comfortably do anything you love without doing something (big or little) for people who aren’t as fortunate as you.
It’s easy to get complacent and comfortable and I’m so guilty of it lately. Let’s do nice things for people because we can. Refugees are in desperate need of tender love and care. And we as everyday butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in the West, need to show them that we are compassionate people with lots of culture and kindness to exchange. We need to show them that we don’t all think like the evil governments and their Home Office minions.
We can do a lot guys. There is a refugee crisis going on and it’s not because we are overrun by them, it’s because we are not looking after them and showing them how nice we are.
Here is some info I got on the email about the women who spoke today:
My name is Marie Lyse Numuhoza and I am a refugee originally from Rwanda. Having experienced the horrors of the Rwandan Genocide, I dedicated my life to promote human rights, social justice and social development. Over the years, I developed interests in women rights advocacy, citizen participation and sustainable development at a global level. I hold a degree in African Studies and Development studies which has inspired me to pursue career opportunities in community development/international development. For the past 14 years, I have worked in the lead management of a variety of programmes such as Community Champions programmes, The Youth of Today programme, V Inspired consortium on volunteering and Live UnLtd programmes on social entrepreneurship.
To keep up with my interest on international development issues, I volunteer with NGOs that support women asylum seekers/refugees, that work to end war and promote peace alongside sustainable development. I am currently a trustee at the Mother’s Union, Norwich Diocese Board with responsibility on community action and outreach. I am a trustee for Make Every Woman Count organisation that promotes and advocate for the rights of African women and last but not least, I sit on the executive board for Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF- UK). On the board, I champion promoting UN Security Council resolution 1325 for Women, Peace and Security and represent the UK section at the WILPF international secretariat board. I am currently co-teaching the advanced English class to an exceptional group of refugees and asylum women at the Women for Refugee Women organisation.
Natasha Walter is director of Women for Refugee Women, a charitable organisation which supports women who seek asylum in the UK. Natasha is a distinguished columnist and feature writer for the Guardian. After studying at Cambridge and Harvard, she worked at Vogue and the Independent. Her first book, THE NEW FEMINISM (Virago, 1999), attracted great attention and controversy when it was published in 1998, and is still used as the touchstone for debates about modern feminism. She regularly appears on Radio 4’s Front Row and BBC2’s Newsnight Review. Her second book, LIVING DOLLS, was published by Virago in 2010.