The place of refugees and asylum seekers in Britain is widely debated and much of the British Public’s understanding of refugee issues is shaped by an unsympathetic media. The debate is largely led by a section of media that frames the issue around keeping Britain’s borders secure against ‘bogus asylum seekers’ clambering to get in. In reality, the overwhelming majority of refugees come from appalling conflict situations such as, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Eritrea, Bosnia, to name but a few.
Many young people have witnessed atrocities before travelling thousands of miles to reach safety in the UK. On arrival many then encounter the possibility of detention and deportation, as well prejudice generated in the media and society. It is often forgotten that young refugees are also young people; and do not want to be seen always as just ‘refugees’. They face the same issues of growing up, the same needs and wants as other young people; but significantly more challenges – challenges that are often overlooked by the politicians’ authorities, schools, children’s services and even by peers in their new home country.
Many young refugees can feel vulnerable and confused in such a hostile environment where they have to adapt to living in a new country, a new culture, facing prejudice and communication barriers. Trying to access services can be distant, whilst coming to terms with loss of homeland and possibly family and friends. We often forget to think about the possible impact of these experiences on the physical and mental wellbeing of young people.
Despite these hardships there are many young refugees who are refusing to let this get them down, who are determined to make a new start and who believe that they can make Britain a better, fairer more just place for themselves and others.
What did we do?
Young Refugee Voices aimed to give the opportunity to young people from an array of various ethnicities to come together and talk about their life experiences, journeys and struggles through the creative expression. Through arts projects, documentary film making and photography Young Refugee Voices explored topics of belonging and identity. The campaign was led by 10 young people, who engaged with others from across London.