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Stories From Our Community: Baher

Each month, we are asking people from our community to speak about the importance of welcome and sanctuary. This month, we have asked Baher, Partnership Development Officer at BRASP, if we could include the moving speech he gave at Show Your Heart.

I must begin by expressing my feeling of gratitude for being able to stand here in front of you today! I thought I would never survive the war in my country, but here I am, and I have a few things to share with you. 

It is often confused as to what a refugee means. While I know that many of you here do exactly know what that word means, please let me tell you one more time. 

A refugee is a person who suddenly finds themselves in a situation where they no longer know what being alive means, or what it is like to feel safe in their own country. A refugee is a person who is put in a position where they have to give up their home, family, country, school, friends, favourite food and go to the unknown; go to a place where they know nothing about, do not speak its language or feel connected to in any way. Whatever I say or however I describe it, it will not do justice to how that feels like. Imagine you wake up one day in the morning knowing that you have to leave everything you have worked for, behind you, or else you will die. 

Unfortunately, the world we live in fails to understand this. From treating refugees as if they just fled to safe countries seeking money or materialistic benefits, to making them feel inferior as if they chose to be put in this situation, and the greatest example of this is the nationality and borders bill introduced by Priti Patel. That bill not only violated the 1951 refugee convention but the spirit of it and the spirit of any human right convection. 

Refugees have no choice. If they stay in their countries, they will die… But if they choose to come here, even if the cost could be their lives on the way, they still might have a chance to survive. 

And how do they get treated after a death journey? Well, this is another tragedy they have to go through. 

Oh so you’re a refugee, how come your English is good? How could you get into university? Why did you come here? Wouldn’t have been better if you stayed in your country and fought for it? Are you wearing a wig?

These are real questions I have been asked, not once or twice, but countless times. I am sure I am not the only one who had to go through this though, many refugees who are victims of misrepresentation and systemic discrimination had too.

But this is what brings me to the purpose of this speech, to share with you how important achieving the feeling of sanctuary is; not only in this city but across the whole UK. 

We are people whose life was not easy going and we came here hoping to start over, get back on our feet and continue where we left in a new environment. We are not here to cause any trouble or take away people’s chances as claimed; we are just here to dust the war’s ashes off our dreams and just try to know how it feels like to be safe, not afraid to die any moment. We are looking to see the bright side of life again, dare to dream and build up the power to achieve a valuable impact on our lives and our surrounding communities. 

I am standing here to ask you to support us to feel that we have a home, feel like we belong somewhere and that we have a community where we can love and be loved. Let us learn from you and learn from us. Trust we have so much to give. We just need you to offer us the feeling of sanctuary and welcoming we came all the way here for, so we can unleash our potential. 

But, mind you. I am not asking you to treat us like charity cases or give us what you have. We just want you to make us feel that it is ok to be broken and it is ok to start over again. 

I would like to say thanks to the city of Bristol, for its endless efforts to make everyone feel welcomed here, especially with creating Bristol Refugee and Asylum Seeker Partnership that unifies the efforts of 15 organisations to offer the best support to asylum seekers and refugees, and ensure developing new pathways for them. I am genuinely heartwarmed to see such efforts being put into supporting the people who need it, and I am incredibly lucky to be part of this promising project. 

I would also like to say thank you to Bristol City of Sanctuary organisation who is always sharing refugee’s voices and ensuring authentic representation to them. 

I have so much hope that many cities in the UK will bring a change and do their best to make everyone feel welcomed. 

Remember, Refugees need empowerment, not handouts!!! 

Refugees are people with rights, not only needs.

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