'Plan to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda is cruel and inhumane'

Hundreds of people gathered for a vigil to support Ukraine on Ipswich Cornhill. Picture: Sarah Lucy

Hundreds of people gathered for a vigil to support Ukraine on Ipswich Cornhill earlier this year. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Martin Simmonds from Suffolk Refugee Support highlights the achievements, creativity and resilience of refugees who have arrived in the county, as well as highlighting problems they face this Refugee Week.

This week has been national Refugee Week, and at Suffolk Refugee Support we are highlighting refugee issues and celebrating the creativity and resilience of people who have found safety in Suffolk.

Among them is Lutfullah, a university graduate, graphic designer and animator from Afghanistan.

In Kabul, he worked for a local TV station, did freelance projects for the BBC and made films on subjects including women’s rights. His wife, Saghar, also worked for the BBC.

They were forced to flee Afghanistan last September when the Taliban took over the country and those who worked for western organisations were in immediate danger.

They escaped to Islamabad in Pakistan before a UK military flight brought them to the UK. Since arriving in Suffolk, Lutfullah has been working on a new film project called Where is Home, which we screened a preview of at the University of Suffolk this week.

A still from Lutfullah's film 'Where is Home'.

A still from Lutfullah's film 'Where is Home'. - Credit: SUPPLIED BY SUFFOLK REFUGEE SUPPORT

Another refugee finding a new home in Suffolk is Ksenia. Ksenia is from Kharkiv, the second biggest city in Ukraine, just 30km from the Russian border, where she worked as a translator.

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Kharkiv saw heavy fighting and many casualties in the early stages of the Russian invasion, and Ksenia’s family house was damaged.

After ten days of sheltering in a basement, the family of five left early one morning and made the dangerous journey out of the city in their small car, with a few possessions packed around them.

Having been sponsored by a host family under the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, they arrived in rural Suffolk on May 13.

They are finding the countryside beautiful and – most importantly – safe. The family are very grateful for all the support they have received.

The children are settling into school and Ksenia’s husband, an accountant by profession, has already found work here.

Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, over the past few months, the people of Suffolk have welcomed nearly 700 Ukrainian refugees into their homes.

Local communities and support groups have come together the length and breadth of the county to welcome people, provide practical help and opportunities to learn English, socialise and share experiences.

At Suffolk Refugee Support we have been deeply moved by the generous, compassionate response of the Suffolk public to both the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the brutal violence and destruction in Ukraine.

Both Lutfullah and Ksenia have been able to come to the UK under refugee resettlement schemes.

But for the vast majority of the world’s refugees, there are no safe, legal routes to access protection here.

The number of people forced from their homes worldwide recently hit a record 100 million.

Most of these people are internally displaced or refugees in a neighbouring country, which are often poorer, developing nations with fewer resources to support them.

A tiny proportion of these refugees attempt to reach the UK, often because of family or language reasons. The UK ranks 18th in Europe for asylum applications per head of population, and three-quarters of asylum claims here are successful.

At a time when more people than ever before have been forced from their homes around the world, and the British public are showing such incredible compassion towards Ukrainian refugees, at Suffolk Refugee Support we think the government’s plan to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda is cruel and inhumane.

The majority of the people we have supported over the last two decades were forced to enter the UK through clandestine routes.

Today, they are our friends and colleagues, they are British citizens, doctors and local business owners.

Many of them would have been denied the chance to rebuild their lives in safety under these plans.

If it would be wrong to send a Ukrainian refugee to Rwanda, we should not do so with other people fleeing conflict, violence and persecution.

This Refugee Week we are celebrating the achievements, creativity and resilience of refugees arriving in Suffolk, no matter where they are from or how they arrived here.

A still from Lutfullah's film 'Where is Home'.

A still from Lutfullah's film 'Where is Home'. - Credit: SUPPLIED BY SUFFOLK REFUGEE SUPPORT

As well as showing a preview of Lutfullah’s new film, we have taken part in a multicultural event at the Unity Centre in Ipswich, held a picnic in Christchurch Park for our International Women’s Group, and delivered workshops at Northgate High School.

Our week culminates in a stall at the Saints Summer Street Market on Sunday, June 26, at which we will be selling beautiful items of sewing, embroidery and tapestry made by members of our sewing group, alongside recipe books and greetings cards designed by refugees.