Posts Tagged ‘refugees’

Refugees

Posted: December 11, 2018 in refugees
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Talk by Daniel Trilling organised by the Salisbury group

The 10th December was the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Salisbury group decided to mark the occasion with a talk on the subject of refugees.  This is a hot topic since one of the contributory factors which led some people to vote to leave the EU in 2016 was the worry about immigration in all its forms.  At the time of the Referendum, there were nightly images of people fleeing Syria and others fleeing wars in Eritrea, Somalia and Mali trying to cross from Libya to Italy in highly unseaworthy boats. 

We were delighted to welcome author and journalist Daniel Trilling who began by talking about his own family’s journeys to these shores from Russia and Kiev.  His grandmother had managed to leave the Ukraine and get into Poland at the time of the civil war in Russia which started just after the revolution.  She made it to Berlin but had to leave again in ’39 because of the Nazis.  She came Britain 3 days before war was declared.  Britain was hostile to letting in adult Jews, as was the USA and Canada, and the ship MS St Louis found it difficult to find anywhere for them to disembark.  There was a book and a film Voyage of the Damned of harrowing attempts by the fugitives seeking somewhere to land .   Much was made recently of the Kinder transport coming to Britain but these were of course children, not adults. 

After the First World War, there was considerable turmoil in Europe with local wars and revolutions.  The Russian revolution left many millions stateless and there were great movement of peoples as the nation states became dominant.  The two main groups of stateless peoples were Armenians and Russians.  The League of Nations created passports for the stateless but only between members of the League.  In 1951 the Convention on Refugees was the foundation for the protection of refugees in Europe.  

His family history therefore was one reason why he became interested in the refugee question and in researching his book, travelled to Sicily, Greece, Calais, Germany and Bulgaria.  Wars in various parts of the world, Afghanistan, Iraq and the collapse of Libya for example, have created huge numbers of people fleeing to seek refuge in another country.  He noted of course that the countries most affected are often those with the least resources to handle the vast numbers involved, Jordan is a case in point. 

Europe has ‘militarised’ its border in an attempt to keep people out.  The problem was the Dublin Treaty which makes the state where refugees first set foot responsible for them.  This again puts great strain on Greece – which experienced severe financial crisis following the 2008 banking collapse – and Italy which is also under considerable financial strain.  Other European nations – with the exception of Germany – are reluctant to play much of a part.  In Greece, the rise of the neo fascist Golden Dawn party made life very difficult for refugees with frequent attacks.  This led to people living in limbo for many years.  

Effects on people 

The media he said tended to focus on the most dramatic cases, for example the boatloads fleeing across the Mediterranean from Libya.  They tended to give an impression of experiences which were over quite quickly when the reality is that people live in limbo sometimes for many years.  In one of the examples he writes about in his book, an 18 year old Sudanese boy lived on the streets of Athens for 3 years living on his wits. 

He spent some time describing the desperate attempts to hide under or in lorries.  One woman lived for 5 months in Calais.  

Perhaps the most significant question to ask is why do people suffer such privation and take such risks to leave their homes and undertake perilous journeys to an unknown country?  It is no accident that most, indeed nearly all, come from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Mali and the horn of Africa.  In nearly all cases, western powers have played a part in the problems being experienced.  Whether it be as a result of colonialization, war or exploitation of the countries’ mineral wealth, we – the rich countries – have had a deleterious effects yet do not want to take responsibility for the results.  

Britain has had a history in the past decade or so of treating people harshly as a matter of deliberate policy.  Largely, this was as a result of tabloid newspaper stories, using biblical language to describe hoards of refugees pouring into the country and living in luxury at others’ expense.  This Daily Express story (one of many) is fairly typical of the genre.  Trilling also pointed out that the government had privatised asylum housing which meant refugees ended up in remoter and poorer areas.  This only increased tensions.  The system was adversarial and complex.   There was no legal aid which has been withdrawn. 

Northern local authorities have the most problems but had born the brunt of the cuts.  By contrast, Theresa May’s constituency, affluent Maidenhead, had no asylum seekers.  

On the other hand the Scottish system was more positive and humane which was encouraging he said.  In answer to a question about how prejudice and hostility could be tackled, he said MPs had to face the hostility head on and not just accept the misinformed prejudice.  He recommended looking at Refugee Council’s web site and Buzzfeed for better information on the subject.  

Daniel Trilling. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

This was a very interesting and enlightening talk on this most difficult of subjects.  Daniel’s book is called Lights in the Distance published by Picador (2018).

The next meeting of the group is on Thursday 13th at 4 Victoria Road at 7:30.  

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A talk by Daniel Trilling on the subject of refugees is tonight (10th) at 7:30 in the Methodist Church in Salisbury.  It is free with a parting collection to help with our costs. 


Salisbury group welcomes Daniel Trilling to Salisbury on 10 December

The author and journalist Daniel Trilling is speaking at the Methodist Church in St Edmund’s Street Salisbury on 10 December on the subject of refugees.   He has recently published a book Lights in the Distance which has had a number of favourable reviews (see below).  The talk begins at 7:30 pm and is FREE with a parting collection to help with our costs.  Copies of the book will be available for sale.

The refugee problem has caused immense problems particularly in Europe.  It has crucially affected elections in Hungary and Poland and some think that it was one of the driving issues in the Brexit referendum in the UK.  The American elections are currently taking place with president Trump making all kinds of claims about immigrants from Honduras now travelling across Mexico to the Texas border.

Lights in the Distance calmly portrays the reality of life for people trying to enter a Europe that largely doesn’t want them … If knowledge is the foundation of action, then [Trilling] has done us a great service by turning masses and numbers into people whom we like, who we can see are like us. (New Statesman)

Brilliantly researched and written Lights in the Distance is, above all, a book of witness … Trilling [brings] his reader as close as possible to the actual circumstances of those who have found their way to Calais, or to Catania in Sicily or to London or to Athens, only to find themselves condemned to occupy space, rather than live. (Observer)

A compelling account of the individual stories of refugees on the move … Its driving characters are nine migrants, and the book is almost entirely dedicated to their personal stories.  In a terse and powerful introduction and afterword, the author’s mastery of the details of his subject shines through. (Financial Times)

Subtle but effective … This is what makes Lights in the Distance such a powerful book. In the midst of an escalating crisis, Trilling manages to keep his lens focused tightly on the people who are most intimately affected by the geopolitical catastrophe taking place around them. (Irish Times)

Humane and illuminating, Lights in the Distance is a vital examination of what the new era of border control and deportations really means, what it costs, and who pays the price. (Olivia Laing)

Combining forensic enquiry with moral passion, Daniel Trilling has emerged as one of our most intrepid and resourceful reporters. In Lights in the Distance, he illuminates the vast human tragedy behind newspaper headlines about refugees, forcing us to confront Europe’s legacy of imperialism and nationalism. (Pankaj Mishra)

A deeply moving and much needed reminder of the human tales which are so often obscured by political rhetoric on migration. (Fatima Manji, Channel 4 News)

We hope this talk will shine some informed light on this vexed area.  There has been considerable interest in this subject recently especially in the light of Theresa May’s deliberately hostile immigration policy from when she was home secretary.  This was under the spotlight when numbers of the Windrush generation were caught up in after having lived here for several decades.


This would be an opportunity to meet members of the local group if you are interested in joining us

@wilts4refugees

 

 


The ‘I Welcome’ exhibition which has been running through most of December in Salisbury Library, ended today.  We have no means of knowing how many people attended but a number of people signed the visitors book and some of their comments are shared below.

We do not know how lucky we are in the UK.  We moan about the silliest of things.  Just think!  We could have been born on a rubbish tip, then we would know we had problems!

Love not hate, be thankful for what we have.

I am ashamed of us Europeans leaving people freezing on the streets who are refugees from wars we started or sold arms for.  Hundreds of children sleep under hedges at Calais now.

Excellent exhibition and shaming.

Well done Salisbury Amnesty, excellent exhibition.

Excellent exhibition very well done.

Amnesty International – what a brilliant exhibition of photos and words.  We need more of this.  How we react to other’s needs is what defines us and our ‘civilised’ society.

Excellent exhibition but shaming to ‘civilised’ states – what has changed?  Keep up the good work AI!

Required viewing by all (including politicians).  All going on while we ‘want, want, want’ on our mobiles.  We’re asleep.

Well done AI Salisbury Group – excellent exhibition of photos and thought provoking commentary.

Powerful images that shame the world, and us in our comfortable city.  Thank you Amnesty International for putting this on.

Thank you Salisbury Amnesty group for raising awareness and for [the] call to action.  Shocking statistics on your host map.

Our thanks to all those who took the trouble to comment.  All comments were favourable.


If you would like to join the local group you would be very welcome.  The best thing is to come along to an event and make yourself known.  Details of what is happening will be posted here or on Facebook and Twitter if you prefer those platforms. It is free to join the local group.  For further details see our latest minutes.

 


The ‘I Welcome’ exhibition is now open in the Salisbury Library and will last until the end of December.  It focuses on the plight of refugees and consists of a series of 30 powerful photographs from the Magnum agency.  Refugees get a poor reception in the UK and the numbers we take in is a tiny proportion of the total.  Rich countries generally take in a very small proportion.  The exhibition is free and visitors are invited to make any comments in the book provided.


Exhibition on refugees in the Library – 2nd to 29th December

Throughout December we will be hosting an exhibition in the Library with a display of 30 evocative panels entitled I Welcome.  There are 30 panels and they represent the experience of millions of refugees, people of all ages, faiths and walks of life.  The exhibition was first shown on the South Bank a year ago and attracted considerable media attention.  Refugees get a bad press in the UK and there is considerable hostility to them coming here.  Some of this hostility is whipped up by the media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It will be on display upstairs (a lift is available) and is free.  All the photographs are by Magnum photographers.

The Library is open:

Monday:  10 – 7pm

Tuesday/Friday:  9 – 7pm

Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday: 9 – 5pm

The exhibition is FREE

Refugee Vigil

Posted: September 29, 2017 in asylum, refugees
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Members of the Salisbury group held a vigil in front of the Guildhall in Salisbury in support of refugees and asylum seekers.  We were delighted with the response which was not huge but even so, several came forward and thanked us for our efforts which was gratifying.  A number signed our petition.  Refugees and asylum seekers get a poor reception in this country and the negative nature of coverage by the tabloid press cannot help.  We reported in a previous blog, Sir Vince Cable’s observation that Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary, suppressed a number of reports which showed the benefits of immigration.  She is also famous for the statement to a Conservative party conference about a man unable to be deported ‘because he had a cat’: “I’m not making this up” she famously said.  Only she was.

For another picture of this event go to this link on the Salisbury Camera Club site.


Some group members at the Guildhall

If you live in the Salisbury area and are interested in joining us we would be pleased to see you.  The best thing is to keep an eye on this Website or on Twitter or Facebook (salisburyai) for our events and come along and introduce yourself.  It is free to join the local group.

 

 

 


Ice and Fire to perform in Salisbury

The performing group Ice and Fire are to perform in Salisbury at Sarum College on 18 September starting at 7:30.  The performance will consist of readings from testimonies of refugees, human rights lawyers and home office workers, to show how the system of asylum seeking and acquiring refugee status works in reality in the UK.  It forms part of Amnesty’s continuing campaign to highlight the plight of refugees and how they are treated here.

There is considerable hostility to refugees and asylum seekers with many stories in our tabloid newspapers of such people abusing the system.  People are led to believe that hoards are arriving here and living in hotels by the seaside and costing the country huge sums of money.  The reality is the UK has only 1% of the world’s refugees and has received around 3% of asylum claims made in the EU.

The event is FREE but there will be a parting collection.

A review by The Cambridge Student of an earlier performance.


If you live in the Salisbury area and are interested in joining us you would be very welcome.  If you can come to this event, several group members will be about so just make yourself known.  It is free to join the local group.  Details of other activities will be on this site and on Facebook and Twitter – salisburyai.


This is an urgent action for refugees in Serbia

Over a thousand refugees and migrants are being exposed to disease and inhuman living conditions by the Serbian authorities who are failing to provide accommodation, food and healthcare to them.  They are being forced to endure the extreme cold winter temperatures by lighting fires and squatting in derelict warehouses in the capital.

If you can find time to write that would be appreciated.

Urgent action

 

 


We are pleased to attach the monthly minutes for the October meeting thanks to Lesley for preparing them.  We discussed the Refugee, North Korean and Death Penalty campaigns, forthcoming films, Evensong at the Cathedral and Citizenship days at some of our schools.

october minutes (pdf)


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