48 people of all nationalities, and some who had left Lancaster, attended the online Zoom celebration, while a further 500 people watched it live on facebook, thus reaching a larger audience than the usual face to face events.
A powerful podcast was shared, of asylum seekers and refugees speaking of their experiences and reflections about the lockdown, available in 3 parts now, here One refugee shared why he had had to flee Baluchistan, an area occupied by the Pakistani military who routinely abduct political dissidents and their families. A Yemeni refugee shared his pain of being separated from his family by the war.
Gisela Renolds, who hosted the event, said, ‘Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. In Lancaster, Refugee Week is usually a festival of food, arts, cultural and educational events, and we tried to recreate that online. Asylum seekers and refugees, many of whom have only started learning English in the last 6 months, shared videos of songs, dance and even food from their countries.’
Gisela added, ‘As for so many people, the isolation and restrictions of lockdown has been tough on asylum seekers’ mental health, exacerbating existing isolation and anxiety, anxiety about their families back home and what is happening politically in their countries, as well as insecurity about their legal status in the UK, and not being allowed to work. One man, for example, has waited almost 3 years for his interview with the Home Office, during which time he has not been allowed to work.’
Global Link is a Development Education Centre, now providing a range of support services as well as social, cultural and educational opportunities for asylum seekers and refugees