Refugee Week Guest Blog: Our Home

Dr. Martha Ako, a trustee of Swansea Asylum Seekers’ Support and a management committee member of Swansea City of Sanctuary, has shared a guest blog outlining what the theme of this year’s Refugee Week means to her:


“To me, Refugee Week is a time for sober reflections on the living conditions of people seeking sanctuary. A time to take stock of their achievements in the UK and to assess how far they have come in their quest for lasting peace and holistic integration.

It is not a time to sugarcoat words but a time to send strong signals to the UK government on the challenges and negative issues affecting people seeking sanctuary in the UK. These include amongst others, the frustrations surrounding the entire asylum process, refugee integration, homelessness, the life threatening journeys of some, fleeing the UK in quest of peace and shelter in neighbouring countries and the deteriorating mental health conditions of sanctuary seekers.

Refugee Week is a time to assess how much we all have contributed to the development of this country and what more to be done to make it a better place. It is also a time to expose to the government, how harmful and inhumane some of its policies are. A time to expose some issues like the constant threats of eviction, evictions at short notices, disrespect of people in Home Office accommodations, prevention of family reunion, refusal of rights to work from day one, the prejudices surrounding the asylum process and the bottlenecks in transition for new refugees. Also, the challenges of job hunting, discrimination and the limitations or challenges on access to education and employment for people seeking sanctuary; the long and frustrating wait for Home Office decisions, the inhumane ways of moving sanctuary seekers to new environments; the gruesome treatment of detained asylum seekers just to name a few.

Refugee Week is a time to question our milestone, progress, level of integration, our image, growth levels and resettlement issues. A time to take stock of our improvement and what more to contribute to make the UK “our home”.

It is a time to question why some people seeking sanctuary are more welcomed than others. Why some lives matter more. Why some refugee policies are so openly biased. Why the UK is home to some nationalities seeking sanctuary on arrival and not others.

If this is home, why are we still lifting a red card to racism and fighting hate crime in our communities?

The Oxford dictionary defines the noun “home” as a place where one lives permanently. A home is a place of residence where one feels most comfortable, loved and protected. It is a safe haven and a comfort zone. It is a sanctuary. A place to build memories. A dwelling that provides a sense of security.

Looking at the theme of this year “OUR HOME “, it questions our consciences on what a home truly means to us. The UK can only be home when all people seeking sanctuary feel at home here. How safe is the environment for people seeking sanctuary? Do people suffer persecution in a sanctuary? Is this home where some lives matter more? Where people are rendered homeless, living in abject poverty, destitution, fear of detention and rights violations? Where people are forced on Rwanda flights?

People don’t live in fear in a sanctuary. They don’t feed on daily negative narratives and media hate. They don’t suffer hate crime or racist slur. For the UK to be considered home, everyone seeking sanctuary has to feel safe, live in peace and work hard to contribute to the development of their country. All issues affecting people’s lives have to be addressed, to promote holistic integration. The pain of one should be the pain of all.

I shall rest my pen as I beat the coat to bare the Iroko’s chest and stare at the wrinkles of an ailing nation.”

This Refugee Week, individuals and organisations can take action by signing the Fight the Anti-Refugee Laws pledge and joining the Lift the Ban coalition.

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