English classes: the key to integration

by Dr Jenny Philimore For many years now politicians and the tabloids have pointed to so-called self-segregation of migrants and their alleged reluctance to speak English as responsible for their lack of integration into economy and society in the UK. As a result much policy focus has been placed on trying to encourage cross-community connections and linking applications for citizenship to ability to speak English. New research from the Institute for Research into Superdiversity, University of Birmingham, and the University of Cardiff provides evidence showing that for refugees at least, there is no reality behind the rhetoric. Using survey data – the [more]

Latin American Regimes

  An overview of a troubled past   By Tania Farias “From the deep crucible of the homeland. The people's voices rise up. The new day comes over the horizon. All Chile breaks out in song…” claims the first verse of We Will Triumph, a supporting song for the Popular Unity coalition led by Salvador Allende in Chile. According to the Revolutionary Democracy journal (2003) the Chilean songwriter and activist Víctor Jara sang this song defiantly after having been violently tortured in the Chilean Stadium (renamed later Víctor Jara Stadium). He had been arrested – and five days later assassinated - because of his [more]

Asylum seeker pregnancy: a very sad situation

By Tania Farias Pregnancy is a very special state for a woman, one which requires complex and specialist care to assure the well–being of both, the mother and the unborn child. Pregnancy is also a time to share and be cheerful with family and friends. However, not every woman can enjoy such a protective support and some of them are exposed to very unstable situations. A pregnant asylum seeker under the support of sections 4, 95 or 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 will be offered accommodation and financial support but she won’t be exempt from UKBA dispersal policies, meaning [more]

Reflections: Through the eyes of a refugee

By Mercedes What do I hear when I listen to the city, when I look to the future in this place that surrounds me? I see a neighbourhood of multiple languages, cultures, sounds, and fragrances. I see a woman wishing to tell the city that she and her child crossed the ocean and several continents to feel secure. She did not want to hear the screams of people running from the effects of war, hunger and disease. She wants to explain that she doesn’t understand what happened. Her town was peaceful before the modern tanks and men in strange clothes speaking strange [more]

Each journey entails a hundred possibilities

By Kate Monkhouse Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) works with refugees and other forcibly displaced people, promoting their rights and providing a range of direct services. In London, JRS UK runs a weekly day centre at its base in Wapping, where each week up to 120 refugees come for lunch, some practical help and to share the joys and sadness of life in this country. In carrying out its activities JRS UK works in partnership with like-minded organisations, such as English PEN, a free speech and literature charity that campaigns to defend and promote free expression. English PEN’s trainers have run several creative [more]

From Sri Lanka With Surgical Skills

Vicky Ilankovan interviews her father Since I was eight I wanted to be a doctor. I still remember using pencils as injection cylinders and giving people sachets of powder from the kitchen to make them feel better. The concept of doing something to help people has always fascinated me. However, the year that I was to enter medical school in Sri Lanka was the year the policy of standardisation came into force. This meant that Tamils needed substantially higher marks than Sinhalese in order to get into university. For example, Tamils needed 250 points to get into medical school whereas the Sinhalese [more]


Reflections: Through the eyes of a refugee

The Red Bus by Renata Domagalska

By Mercedes

What do I hear when I listen to the city, when I look to the future in this place that surrounds me?

I see a neighbourhood of multiple languages, cultures, sounds, and fragrances. I see a woman wishing to tell the city that she and her child crossed the ocean and several continents to feel secure. She did not want to hear the screams of people running from the effects of war, hunger and disease. She wants to explain that she doesn’t understand what happened. Her town was peaceful before the modern tanks and men in strange clothes speaking strange languages came. No one asked her if she wanted that war, if she wanted the diseases or if she had enough to eat.

She is peaceful now. She feels relieved, this city will protect her, and her child will be able to grow and learn the language of the people helping her, a language so similar to the language of the men who came to her town.

No one is listening. No one responds, no one asks her how she is coping. She feels the city’s eyes looking at her with mistrust. She thinks: why do they look at me like that? Why are they sending me away?

She talks loudly so people can hear her. She tells them “I can work; I can pay for your help I am a strong woman. I crossed the oceans and several continents.”

I see other people wanting to communicate, wanting to tell their story but the city is becoming a city full of fear, closing doors and windows, not wanting to see, to hear or to talk, not even to their neighbours. I see the woman and her child in the street, begging and sleeping rough. Wishing to tell her story, but no one is listening.

But if I really really listen I can hear a child talking to the woman’s child, becoming friends, listening to each other in the park, and in this park a rose strong and bright is growing. Hold on, other children are talking, other children are listening. They talk about peace, about the games they used to play in their country realising they are the same but have different names, and they laugh at the sound of their voices and their accents. They will build a different world and they will grow listening and appreciative of each other.

When I whispered this to the woman’s ear she smiled and the star of hope sparkled in her eyes.

Dirty Game

Mugabe and his boys: Why Zimbabwean refugees are in UK

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, sits in the Plenary Hall of the United Nations (UN) building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 12th African Union (AU) Summit.


The Zimbabwean crisis might have not drawn as much attention from the mainstream media as other similar cases of clashes between civilians and government, but in London there are clear signs that the problem continues. The first time I saw demonstrators outside the Zimbabwe House in Agar Street, was a few weeks ago, only to realise that it has become a common phenomenon, as every weekend protesters are demonstrating against Mugabe’s government. More than that, Mugabe’s dictatorship  as recently denounced by Kofi Anan  has forced generations of Zimbabweans to leave their country for better conditions, where violence and human rights violations hopefully are not part of life’s daily routine.

Probably this explains why Zimbabwe finds itself near the top of a list of refugeeproducing countries. The example of Zimbabwe gives us ample food for thought with regards to the meaning of Refugee Week in June. Asylum Seekers are testament to the existence of injustice and impunity around the globe. As long as these problems persist, then more uprooted generations will follow and there will always be something to do about it.

Mr Fatso, a Zimbabwean refugee, explains why the demonstrations still continue.

Every weekend demonstrators gather outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in London, rain or shine. They are there to express their discontent with the ruthless and malicious government that has ravaged the former basket of Africa, turning it into a begging orphan.

When the freedom deprived Zimbabweans shout ‘MUGABE MUST GO, MUGABE MUST GO, they mean it. Mugabe must vacate his position one way or another.

There are elements even within the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) which want to see change at the helm. However, they just follow the rules religiously, considering the experience of Edgar Tekere, Ndabaning Sithole, Duri, Mike Mataure, former Shabani Mine owner- Mutumwa Mawere, James Makamba, familiar names to the Zimbabwean community. There is a circle of greed for power and wealth, people who are taking advantage of the current political situation to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses. They will have to go or face the wrath of law when it comes in the post-mugabe era.

Kofi Anan recently denounced Mugabe as a Dictator, as if he wasn’t aware of that all along. He could and should have acted in a different way when he was still at the helm of the UN. Mugabe should have gone a long time ago. Manicaland Zanu-PF Mike Mataure said, ‘The legs are tired, new pairs of horses are needed to pull the cart’. Since then he has never served in the government again. As things were better at the time, people didn’t take him seriously. Mugabe went from being an aspiring African Father to being called the ZANU PF mobster. He turned governmentcontrolled, yet traditionally non-political institutions into political instruments: the police, army, even some religious groups. The Border Gezi militia, which terrorized, raped, killed and burnt homes, schools and properties of anyone opposing the regime, was formed to strengthen the grip of power. Unfortunately, it was mostly uneducated and unemployed youths who were sent to beat up the opposition across the country, turning schools into torture bases. They were paid with intoxicating substances, so that most didn’t even realise why and what they were doing. Time after time, Mugabe used unconventional tricks to stay in power, aided by those around him. He won back the support of war veterans by printing non-gold backed notes and dishing them randomly, with almost his then full cabinet benefiting – some getting 300% disability benefit. The printing of money brought a steep rise in short-term demand for goods against supply, which triggered the fall of the Zimbabwean Dollar and sparked hyperinflation. As if this was not enough, they sanctioned land grabbing, which kept away even more investors. Zanu PF wants more of these policies, because it will give them more freedom to do deals under the table, such as the forceful acquisition of personal wealth from state coffers. And they will blame everything on the West.

Kofi Anan should be calling Mugabe to the Hague for the atrocities committed against his own people since he came to power. However, this time it will not be in Matebeleland only, but country-wide, with the potential to engulf the whole of Southern Africa. Zimbabwe played a big role in both conflicts before, with the Zimbabwean ministers plundering DRC Diamond in 1998. Mugabe should be stopped to avert the eminent genocide. Many people have died and disappeared under Mugabe’s government. The world is aware of the torture of opposition activists, destruction of the health service which facilitated conditions for spreading diseases, deliberately ignoring the high infant mortality rate. It’s difficult to provide actual figures due to undocumented migration trends but the numbers could be in the millions, more than even the displacement seen in Darfur or Rwanda. Mugabe must go, Mugabe must go. His henchmen should be answerable one way or another.

Fat or fiction?

By: N. N. Dee

English athlete Jessica Ennis. Photo by Adam Kerfoot-Roberts.

English track and field athlete Jessica Ennis’ personal bests and record-breaking heptathletic feat could not have come at a more opportune time. Only last Friday it was revealed that a “high-ranking” athletics official had described Ennis as “fat”. What is remarkable about this is that anyone looking at Ennis would not dream of attributing to her a label that is so grossly inaccurate.  She is not anywhere near overweight or even chubby – two milestones one would certainly have to arrive at before one could be convincingly called “fat”.

I myself am no athletic official so cannot exactly be considered an authority on matters such as this, but I think that the average person would agree that Ennis’ physique more closely resembles “muscular”, “well-toned”, “strong”, “athletic” or any of a host of other words that do not denote surplus deposits of fatty tissue.

Apart from being untrue, the description of Ennis as “fat’ also reveals something very telling in society today: women are constantly bombarded with unfair and downright erroneous messages about their bodily appearance. The official’s inaccurate comment captures with absolute precision the serious body-image challenge that the typical woman faces today. The official’s voice simply articulated the non-verbal message women face on a daily basis – the fictitious message that physical feminine form achieves its pinnacle in “beauty” – a vague notion of some physical proportional dimensions increasingly being promoted as “ideal”.

Some women desperately aspire to this false (and unhealthy) ideal. They go to great lengths to conform as best they can to achieve what others deem to be an acceptable body image. Lamentably, in the process, many self-destruct, falling prey to depression, eating disorders and/or many other unhealthy behavior patterns.

If female athletes who are in peak physical form face such criticism, what hope is there for typically un-athletic women, who often feel ill equipped to cope and respond effectively when inaccurate and condescending labels are thrown at them? While it is a monumental task to surmount given the sheer volume of messages coming through to women from multiple sources, Jessica Ennis has provided an excellent example of how to deal with such messages.

By clever vowel substitution, Ennis proudly declared that she is “fit”, thereby effectively nullifying the label of being fat, not deigning to engage with the inaccurate label. In other words, she defined herself on her own terms. This act of self-determination and self-mastery of destiny, spells ultimate empowerment.

Even if she were fat (which she clearly is not), she is performing (and excelling!) in her chosen field and that is what matters. If actions speak louder than words, then her smashing of Denise Lewis’ heptathletic record, scream that “fit” is indeed the most appropriate word to describe her physical condition. She has indisputably proved that it would be a fiction to think anything else.

Her approach is flawless: pay less attention to how my body looks and more attention to what I am able to achieve once I put my mind and effort into it. This is the important factor – constructive achievement following applied effort and discipline in honing skill in one’s chosen field. Many women would do well to emulate this model rather than preoccupying themselves with societal messages of emphasis on size and image.

Ennis’ triumphs in Götzis this past weekend are being heralded as predictors of Olympic gold for Team Great Britain at the games, a mere 60 days away. That would be the icing on the cake. To my mind however, the a constructive model of effort and determination over preoccupation with size and image that Ennis demonstrates for girls and women everywhere, is conclusive proof that she is already a true Olympian success.