Why Run for Refugees?
In this inspiring blog Revive volunteer, Harriet Ditton, explains why she is taking part in this year’s Great Manchester Run for refugees and to raise awareness of their situations, both here in the UK and overseas.
An Iraqi boy I met (now aged 17), at one of Revive’s centres, described so casually to me the journey he had travelled to get here, 5 days of which was on foot through Turkey; no sleep, in silence. He arrived little more than a year ago, alone, hoping for some peace. However, the Home Office wrongly processed his claim as a 19 year old (he was 16 at the time) so it was refused and he was left homeless.
This made me reflect a bit on what I was doing at age 16. The extent of my worries was whether or not I would be allowed out to that party at the weekend, whereas millions of displaced children are wondering if they will make it to the next day alive, or if they will ever be able to access education.
Before volunteering at Revive, I knew that I wanted to help in some way. Volunteer. Run a marathon to raise funds and awareness.
I was (as I’m sure we all are) shocked and appalled by what I read in the news about the millions of people who are being forced to flee their homes because of war, violence and persecution.
However, something that I was less aware of (and am learning more and more about, week by week), was how difficult it is made for people even when they get to the UK.
This is what the media doesn’t report. Even when people arrive, more often than not having risked their life in doing so, things are made almost impossible for them by the UK complex immigration system and the British Government. It is at this point that they need our support – perhaps more than ever.
The culture of disbelief at the Home Office is nothing short of degrading. The lengths that people have to go to in order to prove that they have ‘suffered enough’ to warrant being allowed to stay is honestly shocking.
The endless questioning on the most personal and traumatic details would be impossible for anyone to cope with, let alone someone whose first language isn’t English.
And none of this is being talked about.
People are left for months and months with no news, after having made their asylum claim, during which time they are not allowed to work or access any mainstream benefits or services. They are given about £5 a day to live by.
Everyone I have met in this situation has said that all they want to do is to be able to work, to contribute to the community and to society, rather than feel completely excluded on every level.
They are people like all of us, with skills, qualifications and a wide range of qualities to share, but they are not allowed to do so. Over 65% of these initial asylum claims will be refused and this figure is rapidly rising, with new clauses and regulations being instated.
When refused, the allowance is stopped; they are left destitute. At their most vulnerable, they are forced to leave their accommodation and fend for themselves.
A man I met yesterday had just had his asylum claim rejected for the third time, for no apparent reason. He was from Libya and had been forced to flee, after having lost all of his family to the violence that our Government essentially started, alongside France and the US.
He joked, pointing out that even dogs in this country can get a passport and yet he’s not even allowed to work. It’s not really funny, but he said all he can do is laugh. He is a highly skilled professional, who speaks fluent English.
Thanks to the people’s generous donations, Revive is able to change this for some people. They offer free immigration advice, social work support, volunteering programmes, enrichment projects and more, making the process a little bit easier for their service users.
Thankfully, the Iraqi boy I mentioned managed to get in touch with one of our volunteers, who helped him to lodge a complaint against the Home Office (rather than acknowledge their culpability they chose to grant him refugee status as if nothing had happened) and is now happily enrolled in college, living in a children’s centre and gaining confidence by the day.
With more funding, Revive can continue to provide people the support that they deserve and the access to rights (which are basic Human Rights, by the way).
I am encouraging others to show their support and run this race with me!!
I don’t think I can do it alone.
By no means am I a great runner, but hopefully, together we do some fun training and ultimately raise money for what is a very important cause. In previous years, people have dressed up, walked, skipped and tied their legs together to three-legged-race their way to the end, for the charity of their choice.
Have a look at our ‘justgiving’ page here https://www.justgiving.com/companyteams/revive-manchester and if you really don’t feel like running, perhaps you could donate a small amount.
Or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for details of how you can join.
We hope to see you running, walking or standing alongside us at the Great Manchester Run this year!