This post was developed after a SEIN Network Meeting where network members shared their concern and support for refugees coming from Afghanistan, and how to harness the wider public awareness of forced migration to positively impact the whole New Scots community.
Trigger warning: this blog post mentions forced migration, racism, and reference to traumatic events.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless when we see and hear about events that force people to leave their countries. It’s also easy to feel angry and frustrated when the UK government and members of the public show no compassion or understanding for forced migrants, and instead create a racist hostile environment for people seeking asylum.
In the wake of these events, it’s easy to forget what we can do, and how we can change things for the better. In response to this we have put together a list of resource, petitions, and other materials that can help directly support those both in the UK and abroad, as well as positively change the conversations around migration to benefit the New Scots community overall.
The latest mass publicised refugee crisis that has been unfolding over the last few months is the Taliban take over of Afghanistan. This is naturally an incredibly upsetting and uncertain time for Afghans, and there has been a huge public outcry to support and protect Afghan refugees. Currently the UK Government have committed to settling 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next 5 years. This might sound like a lot, but it’s a very small amount (around 1 person per 3400 or 0.03% of the UK population). Another way to put that into perspective is that there are 79,000 empty homes in Scotland alone. It’s hard to get an exact statistic for the number of Afghan refugees, but current data from the UN suggests upwards of 3.5 million. The UK Government simply needs to do more. We have the resources, capacity, and infrastructure to welcome tens (if not hundreds of thousands) of people every year, and yet are consistently bottom of the league when it comes to supporting people.
So what can you do to help Afghans both here and away? Well, writing to your MP is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make your voice heard, and Safe Passage have a handy form that you can fill out to make it even easier. There are also a number of petitions you can sign: a resettlement commitment petition on Change.org, and two petitions against the Borders Bill, which seeks to criminalise many human rights held by asylum seekers in the Refugee Convention. You can sign Freedom from Torture’s petition here, and Refugee Action’s petition here.
There is also a whole section of resources and information on the Scottish Refugee Council’s website, including a support network for newly settled Afghans, and frequently asked questions on the resettlement scheme.
There’s no denying that the public are currently more aware of forced migration that they have been for a while, and with that comes opportunity to educate, have positive conversations around migration, and grow your organisational audience so the work you’re doing is more supported and embedded into the community. Imix have put together fantastic toolkits to help you talk about immigration to different audiences, as well as a toolkit for effectively telling migrant stories. Freedom from Torture have also recently published a toolkit which is intended for the refugee sector to use to positively change the narrative around forced migration. Beyond these resources there are public campaigns like the Together with Refugees Campaign, which is made up of over 200 organisations challenging the Borders Bill (any not-for-profit organisation can join). There is also Praxis’ No Recourse to Public Funds Campaign, which looks to end state mandated destitution for asylum seekers.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we are trying to protect and support people forced to migrate, but there are things that we can do on a practical and structural level that truly help, and in such an uncertain time the only certainty is that we have to keep going.
If you, or someone you work with, have been affected by any of the content in this post, Freedom from Torture offer therapy and support to refugees/asylum seekers who are survivors of torture, Refugee Council offer mental health support to all refugees/asylum seekers, and The Mental Health Foundation run the Amaan Project which is for asylum seeker/refugee women in Glasgow.
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