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]

diversity

Camden Lock Market: A taste of the world, a recipe for success

By Georgie Knaggs

Joe Timur of Sonita’s Kitchen in the West Yard of Camden Lock Market. Photo by Georgie Knaggs.

Camden Lock Market, one of London’s most popular craft markets, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The market is one of the many in Camden that together receive some 15m visitors each year. The job of feeding these crowds falls in part to the chefs in the West Yard. Here the cooking is personal – recipes are learned at home and flavoured with tastes from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Take for example Sonita’s Kitchen, run by Joe and Sonita Timur. Joe, born in Turkey, is half Turkish and half English while his wife is from the Punjab state in northwest India. They sell fragrant, delicately spiced curries cooked without butter or ghee.

“It’s a really good market because it’s known as a food market,” says Joe Timur. “People come here specifically to eat.”

The West Yard at weekends probably hosts a sample of the whole world to a lunch break with visitors and stallholders alike.

A little further along, Danish Mirza, the chef from Food in the Middle, is a chartered accountant from Pakistan. He worked in the City for eight years but now he sells paratha wraps, a popular street food in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

“I always wanted to do my own thing,” he explains. “Karachi is a cosmopolitan city and people are always on the run,” adds Mirza. “They are getting your traditional tikka and selling it in wraps. I went one step further and took my food, which is much healthier than street food, and put that into wraps.”

The West Yard has an ever-changing selection of food.  On some days, within the space of a couple of hundred yards, there will be the saffron colours of Spanish paella across from bright piles of French macaroons.  Barbecued Turkish kebabs might be found next to a pitch selling cauldrons of fresh English soup.  The macaroni and cheese stall advertising a dessert of deep-fried Oreos might rub shoulders with the wide front of the Chinese stall selling dumplings and noodles.  There might be Italian pizza, Jamaican jerk wraps, Japanese sushi, sweet French crepes, and to finish it all there will almost always be the warmth of Ethiopian coffee.

Luol Deng: A man to look up to

By Carlos Villegas

Team GB’s basketball star, winner of three major sportsmanship awards because of his ethical behaviour, fair play, and integrity on the court. A Sudanese refugee  who has not forgot his roots and works hard to bring education and sports to millions of displaced children in USA , UK and Sudan.   He plays for the Chicago Bulls in the USA as well as the UK team.  

Luol was only five when he had to flee Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War to go to Egypt with his siblings and was separated from his father for several years.  They were reunited when Luol moved to the UK when he was 10 following the decision to grant his father asylum in 1993.

His first impressions of the UK was that the country was “very clean with a lot of glass buildings”.  He lived in Brixton at the time which he felt was special.  It felt it was like a family – everyone the same – with similar problems.  Young migrant men were focused on getting better at sport, particularly basketball.  “..we needed to stick closer, work as a team and try harder to improve ourselves”. It was tough though, not speaking the language.  Now Luol continues to speak his native Dinka with his family but also speaks Arabic and English and is learning Masai.

Luol believes that it is very important that kids do not forget their roots, their mother tongue and their culture.  He felt that his Dinka language and culture gave him and his family a unique identity, strong family values, respect for his parents’ teachings and the desire to work hard and smarter in a different education system.

He became a British citizen in 2006 and says that he didn’t have problems integrating into British society.  “I came young and it was easy to learn the language.”  His respect for his parents meant that he was always focussed on having the right attitudes, not causing trouble, and being disciplined.  He says that the family always thought that they would be successful.

His father remains one of the biggest inspirations of his life.  He came from a humble background from a small village and rose to become the Minister of Education and Transportation in Sudan.  All of his family are doing well in the UK despite their struggles in his early life.

Luol was drafted into the NBA when he was 19.  He currently plays for the Chicago Bulls.  Away from the court, he has set up the Luol Deng Foundation to help children in South Sudan, USA and the UK who have not been as fortunate as himself. He believes it’s important not to be self centred and says “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”.

Parliament Week shows that Parliament is open to everyone

By Penny McLean

Photograph © UK Parliament

 

As part of Parliament Week 2012 Simple Acts is launching an online activity “Tell Your MP”, aimed at engaging migrants and refugees with the UK Parliament. Parliament Week (19-25 November 2012) aims to inform, connect and engage people across the UK with Parliamentary democracy. Coordinated by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Parliament Week looks at the people, places and events that shape democracy in the UK and offers something for everyone including migrants and refugees.

Across the UK, charities, schools, museums and community groups are organising events and online activities that demonstrate how you can engage with different aspects of democracy in the UK. One example is the online activity “Tell Your MP”, developed by Dijana Rakovic, Project Manager of Simple Acts. Dijana says, “Simple Acts is about inspiring individuals to use small, everyday actions to change perceptions of refugees.”

Dijana says, “With the “Tell Your MP” activity, we hope to create an online platform for both refugees and politicians to engage effectively with one another around issues of parliamentary democracy in the UK, e.g. how refugees can get more involved in the work of Parliament.” She adds, “We are really excited about Parliament Week and would like to see more of these initiatives from our Parliament.”
Refugees and migrants have fled and come to the UK from countries with a range of governance systems. For both migrants and refugees, UK parliamentary democracy will be new and many may not know the different ways that they can get involved in Parliament.

Although some migrants and refugees do not have the right to vote in the UK national or local elections, they can still engage with other parts of the parliamentary process, such as by visiting their MP to voice their concerns about important issues; by visiting Parliament to watch debates in the House of Commons or the House of Lords; by attending select committees which scrutinise the work of government; or by going on a free tour of Parliament organised by their MP.

Members of both Houses of Parliament will be taking part in Parliament Week events, providing the public with the opportunity to engage with key decision-makers at the centre of British politics, as well as with the institution that makes it all happen.

For the latest list of events or to find out how you can get involved visit:

http://www.parliamentweek.org/
http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/
http://counterpointsarts.org.uk/projects/
http://www.simpleacts.org.uk/

Follow Parliament Week on twitter and facebook