- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

United Kingdom: Asylum seekers telling their stories

Categories: Western Europe, United Kingdom, Human Rights, Humanitarian Response, Media & Journalism, Refugees

More and more refugee organizations are using online social media and asylum seekers’ own words in their advocacy work and outreach to donors. With these stories they are able to bypass, and/or complement their work with traditional media, and provide information directly to donors and advocacy groups.

Some examples:

“Four years ago I was living a busy life [in Cameroon], running my own business. Now I am in the UK, waiting to hear the result of my asylum case. The reason for my altered situation is that in my home country there is a lot of prejudice and harassment of people who are gay. It is illegal to have a homosexual relationship, and sentences range from a fine to five years imprisonment.”

“Hi i am laying on the bed, watching TV and believe something will happen before the end of week.”

So what are the problems these organisations face in publicising the stories?

It's not easy getting nuanced and accurate refugee and asylum stories to the attention of the public. In theory, access to the internet should allow asylum seekers communicate their personal stories themselves. But certain barriers are difficult to overcome.

“I am trying to develop ways of getting more refugee voices online, but computer access and language confidence and abilities can be a deterrent for many people,” says Kelly Arnstein from the Refugee Council.

For example, the Refugee Council ran a fundraising campaign where ordinary citizens (normally non-destitute) had to live on £1 a day. On their blog [24], one person raised the point that free internet access at the local library would be a bit tricky to organise if you weren't fluent in English, and really did have no money.

“We’re hoping to set up a blog for refugee volunteers who are working on an allotment project in Leeds later in the year– many people have been put off by thinking their English won’t be good enough,” says Arnstein.

Independent voices

As you can see, the list is formed mainly of examples that have gone through the filter of an ‘organisation’. If you know of any cases where people have used blogs and social media campaigns independently, please do leave comments below.

There is increasingly less dependence on mainstream media to tell a story. If it's powerful enough it should be able to reach the influential people it needs to, without necessarily negotiating precious printed column inches. And it can be told accurately, at length, and in a person's own words.