An encounter with a refugee from Afghanistan

The refugee crisis, ways in which people in often desperate need of help, should be supported, still hugely divides politicians, decision makers, families and our communities.

  • “Welcome or not welcome”?
  • If welcome, how many?
  • Support legitimate governments in war torn countries?
  • Send aid? Where to?
  • Support directly organisations such as British Red Cross?

Endless questions…There is not one easy answer. There is not one solution to solve this complex and global issue. People have always migrated. People will continue to “move around” for a wide range of reasons. Some of us have a choice of going back to our native countries, however many individuals have absolutely no choice. That choice was often taken away from them without their will. The decision to flee was “imposed” on them. Many refugees that I met since I arrived in the UK, often, didn’t want to leave their homes.

In the last week or so, I had another opportunity to meet a refugee, this time from Afghanistan. It is one thing to read a story in the paper or watch a bit of “refugee news” on TV; it really is very different when we encounter someone who had to, often overnight, leave absolutely everything.

Imagine this: it is hard, however you have a job, you work and you are able to support your family. Then, due to “external factors”; sudden change of circumstances, in order to remain safe and alive, you have to flee. You are then “parachuted” into another country, UK in this case. You are moved around; from Birmingham, Croydon, to Hertfordshire. You are given very little support. You have to find your way around a very inhumane and complex system. You might be moved again as your accommodation was given to you on a temporary basis. You have nothing; not even a buggy to move your child around while you are trying to find the best way to stay “sane”. You are tired, confused, bewildered. Endless emails, confused messages; an absolute nightmare. But, you still smile…How? I have no idea. A simple, often emotional conversation, with a real person can hugely change our perceptions on how to support refugees.

If the UK government is prepared, and has agreed to apparently welcome 5,000 – 20,000 refugees in long-term, the Home Office must ensure that those are already here receive all possible support. It is NOT only about having a number attached to your case; there is a real person being each case. The whole process has to be more humane and personal. Is Priti Patel the right person to improve or drastically change the Home Office operations? In Europe, have we done enough?

P.S:

Since August 2017, 895,515 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh.

Since war broke out in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, more than 2 million people have fled, including to neighbouring Sudan.

Pakistan is home to about 1.4 million Afghan refugees.

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and former councillor

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One Comment

  • Brad Barrows 11th Oct '21 - 3:17pm

    An interesting article but I note that you have chosen to focus on the issue of ‘refugees’ rather than the issue of ‘economic migrants’. On one level I suppose the two concepts are on a continuum since it could be argued that people living in a poor country who choose to seek a better life elsewhere and seeking refuge from poverty. However, while we have an obligation to provide a place of refuge for someone fleeing persecution, we are under no obligation to open our doors to the billions of people who live in poorer countries and may wish to move here to get a better life. We may wish to show compassion to those facing particular hardships caused by war or natural disaster, but unrestricted economic migration into the country should not be a consideration.

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