It’s Refugee Week in the UK and the theme is ‘welcome’. The series of events celebrating the rich contribution that migrants and refugees make to the UK falls amid the hysterical ‘invasion’ narratives dominating the media. Between 20 and 26 June, the initiative will aim to promote a deeper understanding of why people seek sanctuary. Held annually to coincide with World Refugee Day on 20 June, it is now an established part of the UK calendar.
With global displacement at an all time high, even the sea has been politicised. In the desperate search for a better life, almost 3,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. One of the largest charities helping refugees and migrants across Europe, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), has stated it will no longer accept funds from the European Union, in protest at the bloc’s shameful response to the crisis.
Refugee Week began in 1998 as a direct result of media hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers. Never in recent history has it been more vital to deal a counter punch to fascism and dehumanisation of the ‘other’ than it is now, sandwiched between the devastating murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, and Thursday’s EU referendum. The week-long programme of art, cultural and educational events will highlight the massive social, cultural and economic contribution that refugees have made to life in Britain over the last 450 years.
Fear-mongering rhetoric, which has included labelling migrants and refugees as “swarms” and “cockroaches”, began long before the Brexit debacle. Yet the fountain of hatred whipped up by the right-wing press during the last few weeks took propaganda to new extremes. Think of it like the famous ‘builder’s bum’ — you really didn’t want to see it but you did. Most recently, increasingly hostile campaigning has escalated to the point where desperate political posturing has mirrored Nazi propaganda. Is it any surprise that many remain unaware of the difference between an economic migrant and a refugee?
Sadly, it took the appalling atrocity on a West Yorkshire street by someone with links to Neo-Nazi groups, to burst the toxic bubble. Within hours, the media narrative changed. The wicked murder of a mother of two young children, who fought for a better world, triggered the entire country to reflect on its odious nationalism.
Three days before she was killed, Jo Cox implored the public not to “fall for the spin”of the Leave campaign. Writing for PoliticsHome, she acknowledged the benefits Britain has reaped from immigration. At the same time, she argued that the country can do far more to address the impact of immigration while remaining in the EU. Her husband Brendan has also been frank on the subject. Warning that mainstream politicians are focusing on the wrong issues — and obsessing over numbers instead of fairness and order — he accused them of being clueless on immigration.
While the extreme focus is on preventing people coming into Britain, the lengths the country goes to keep people out are barely mentioned. Around 30,000 people a year are detained under Immigration Act powers. Thousands languish under high-security conditions in a network of ten immigration detention centres around the country. Run by the prison service or controversial multinationals such as G4S, most detainees are asylum seekers whose claims are being processed or have been refused. Others may be non-UK citizens who have lived here unlawfully, or breached visas. Detention is the norm rather than the exception and, unlike most other European countries, there is no upper time limit.
Everyone is welcome to participate during Refugee Week. Events hosted by voluntary and statutory organisations, schools, faith groups and individuals will provide a platform for the voices of refugees and migrants. Past activities have included football tournaments, public talks, dance festivals and theatre projects.
Irrespective of belief on whether Britain is stronger in or out of Europe, few would argue that any attempt to counter the negative climate, overcome hostility and create deeper understanding between communities, has never been more essential.
— Find out about Refugee Week events taking place in your area
— Join the campaign to end indefinite detention in the UK
— Take action with Hope not Hate to celebrate an inclusive Britain
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?