Posted: 17 June 2012

Refugee Week and why it matters

Britain has a long and proud history of welcoming refugees seeking sanctuary from all over the world. This week, 18-24 June, marks the fifteenth Refugee Week

Begun in 1998, Refugee Week was developed in response to increasingly negative public attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers, often fuelled by hostile media coverage. 

A recent poll by the Migration Observatory shows that there’s still a need for Refugee Week. The majority of people surveyed wanted to reduce the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK over other groups of immigrants, despite the fact they make up just 4% of the immigrant population. There continues to be a lack of understanding about the reasons why refugees including children and young people seek sanctuary in the UK and our duties to protect them.

Refugee Week celebrates refugees’ contribution to the business, cultural and social life of the UK and highlights why refugees seek sanctuary here. Hundreds of events up and down the country aim to help different communities better understand and integrate with each other, enabling refugees to live in safety.

The spirit of the Olympics

As we are gripped by Olympics fever, this year’s Refugee Week celebrates the contributions refugees are making both to the Olympics and to sports as a whole.  

From footballer Fabrice Muamba, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, famously playing for Bolton Wanderers, to Luol Deng, a refugee from Sudan who is Team GB’s leading basketball player, refugees have a long history of professional sport in Britain.

Refugees are also playing a vital role working behind the scenes in a range of roles, including campaigning, media and recruitment, to make this year’s Olympic Games in London a success.

Our work with refugees

Every year The Children’s Society works with almost 2,000 children and young people who are seeking protection in the UK. They seek sanctuary from war-torn countries still in a state of chaos and countries with recognised human rights abuse records such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Iran and Somalia. These young people have experienced torture, persecution, abuse and many have lost their family members and friends. 

We have seven specialist centres across England where we help young refugees find accommodation, learn English and, most importantly, rebuild their lives in new communities, surrounded and supported by new friends. Some of our services are holding their own events to celebrate Refugee Week, which we will be reporting on later in the week.

What can you do to mark Refugee Week?

Visit Refugee Week's list of events to learn about the hundreds of exciting events taking place across the country. You can find out what’s going on near you by clicking on the interactive map. 

Examples of events are:

  • Celebrating Sanctuary London, 17 June: The launch of Refugee Week in London, with musical performances, dance, spoken word, delicious food and much, much more, to satisfy all tastes and ages. 
  • RefuTEA, 19 June: Tea and cakes to get to know your neighbours and learn about refugees and migrants in Ipswich.
  • Casablanca, 22 June: A Friday evening event based around the film at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London featuring acoustic music.
  • Gig in the Gardens, 23 June: Hull’s World Music Festival marks its 10th Anniversary with a line up of entirely locally based world acts - a fun day out for all the family.

For more information about Refugee Week and our involvement, please email Beth Herzfeld.

By Natalie Williams, Policy Officer



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By Natalie Williams - Policy team

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