Today is World Refugee Day. Our Communications Officer, Anna Wardell, has written a blog to mark today looking at how the right to seek safety is being sharply eroded by new legislation.
At Bristol City of Sanctuary, we advocate for a fairer asylum system which recognises both the right to seek safety and the immense contribution that people seeking sanctuary make to our community. Sadly, our work has never been more necessary. We are living in a country where recent legislation has chosen to punish rather than protect. It ignores the right to seek asylum, shirking our international responsibilities and ignoring our shared humanity.
Hostile rhetoric, which scapegoats people for doing exactly what anyone would do to protect themselves or their loved ones, seems to be driving asylum policy. I am scared for the impact this is having on our community, where people are being forced to live in state of fear of being separated from their family, of being removed to a country where they no know one. Fear of being disbelieved, of being returned to the country from which they fled.
Nobody wants to flee from their home. People are driven by a need to survive; a human instinct as old as time. If my house was on fire, I hope that I could escape to somewhere safe. Similarly, if I was forced to leave my home, as my grandfather was nearly 90 years ago as he fled Nazi Germany, I would like to think that I would be welcomed with safety and solidarity. As we all surely would. Too often, the rhetoric ignores what we have in common in order to divide us.
In our work, we come across so many incredible people. People who have sought sanctuary in Bristol, who advocate now for a better welcome for those who come after them. People opening up their homes to those fleeing, who create a community of solidarity and support. People who work tirelessly to make sure our city is a place of welcome. In amongst the hostility, there is so much hope; we just need to make sure this hope is heard.
“Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. Everyone has the right to seek safety.” That’s the message from UNHCR, whose focus this year for World Refugee Day is the right to seek safety. It has never seemed more poignant.