Today is World Refugee Day, a day where we honour refugees around the world, whilst also recognising the immense obstacles that so many face in their search for safety. One such obstacle is sadly hatred which appears in many different forms, including media portrayals, political rhetoric and policies, pushbacks and much more.
What seems to be often forgotten in narratives of hate is that we are all human. This is particularly evident in the negative rhetoric around people seeking sanctuary; often minimised in the national narrative to statistics or as a threat to national security, the individual human being is lost. The person with their own stories, their own hopes for the future. The person who is so much more than just their migratory label.
There’s no national breakdown of hate crime statistics for refugees and asylum seekers, yet we know from our work that hate crimes against people seeking sanctuary continue to be an issue. Imagine fleeing your home because of war, persecution, or violence and, instead of finding welcome and safety, being met with hatred. The prospect is terrifying but all too real. In November of last year, a man threw incendiary devices at an immigration centre in Dover, in an act that has since been labelled as a terrorist incident.” In February, The Times reported that so-called “migrant hunts”, where activists turn up to hotels and accommodation centres to harass residents, had doubled in the past year. These acts of hate may be extreme, but they’re a clear reminder of why hatred must be challenged. It’s also worth noting the hatred stoked up by certain factions of the media and some politicians, and the damage that this can have.
Whilst the national picture can feel difficult, it’s worth remembering the numerous people who are committed to welcome and sanctuary. In our region, we’re lucky to work alongside many different organisations who are dedicated to making our communities places of sanctuary for people who have fled here. There’s immense hope in the individuals who open up their homes for people to stay, who donate their time, money and items; the people who stand in solidarity.
Today is World Refugee Day. Contrary to the narrative that refugees and asylum seekers pose a threat to our society, people who have fled here for safety are essential strands in the fabric that make up our country. Our communities are richer for the people who build their new lives here, and the sooner we recognise this, the better.
At Stand Against Racism & Inequality, we advocate for a society which welcomes in safety and solidarity. We celebrate the people who have made our region their new home. We champion their right to live in the community free from fear of hate.
Bristol Refugee Festival is happening now. If you would like to find out more about events happening in your area, click here.