Before they became refugees, their lives too were normal.
Imagine it is your home, town, country that is being destroyed and you have had to flee. You do not know what has become of your family, friends and colleagues. You hear of the destruction of your culture and history. You are ‘one of the lucky ones’. You have been resettled and are safe, in a country where everything is different: the language, food, customs, climate, landscape. Discuss those aspects of your life you have lost.
The asylum seeker
You were a lecturer and political activist in Egypt. The authorities imprisoned and tortured you. You survived but were not allowed to work again. Your parents had to guarantee you would not attempt to work, engage in political activity or leave. Life became intolerable and you eventually fled to Britain on false papers. Your parents were punished by having their home confiscated. You were held in detention, not knowing if or when you would be released, and eventually became clinically depressed. The Home Office sent you to Middlesbrough, where your red door clearly identified you as an asylum seeker. You share a house with 5 other young men from several countries. You have experienced a mixture of abuse and kindness from local people. Your case is still unresolved and you are not allowed to work.
What actions and support from local people might help ease the pain of exile and give you hope for the future?
The asylum seeker’s neighbour
You are poorly housed and your daughter’s family has been hit by the bedroom tax and had to move to another town, which is hard to reach by public transport. There is high unemployment locally, and you are struggling on a zero hours contract. The house next door is bought up by Serco, who use it to house half a dozen young asylum seekers. What are your feelings towards your new neighbours?
Life and death in a refugee camp
Your family is in a refugee camp in Lebanon, a country slightly larger than Cornwall and home to over 1.2 million Syrian refugees (roughly a quarter of the population). There are food shortages in the camp. The adults cannot work, so your money supplies are slowly dwindling. There is currently no schooling for your children. Some of the children in the camp have disappeared: there is talk of child slavery and worse. Your fourteen-year-old daughter falls ill with appendicitis. You have no access to medical facilities and she dies. Consider your options and discuss the arguments for and against attempting to reach Europe, where you could claim asylum.
The Eritrean conscript
You are a young man fleeing from indefinite conscription in Eritrea. Your family have pooled their savings so that you can escape. You want to reach Britain: you have cousins and close friends who are members of the Eritrean community in Manchester. You speak good English due to Eritrea’s historical connections with the UK. You reach Calais, but you cannot apply for asylum in the UK without being on British soil. You have run out of money. What are your thoughts?
Many thanks to Catherine Henderson