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Refugees: Misunderstood and Neglected

  • Lamyaa Hanchaoui is taking part in this year's Local Hero campaign, raising funds for Sufra NW London. To donate to Lamyaa follow this Link. Everyone who donates will recieve a link to Lamyaa's spoken word poetry. 

    As the Syrian conflict reaches its eighth year, so has the refugee crisis. Refugees have risked their lives to reach stability and safety here in the UK. They are also one of the most misunderstood and neglected people of our time.

    Due to fear-inducing media narratives and general lack of knowledge, a common belief is that refugees spontaneously decide to pack their bags, leave their homeland - the country they have spent their entire lives - and cross dangerous borders to settle in western nations for the “good life”.

    This is a long way from reality.

    From speaking with Syrian refugees in Jordan and witnessing families torn apart from the war, I learned that many who fled violence just about take the clothes they wore during that moment of escape. Crossing borders is not a walk in the park either. It is a dangerous journey, filled with unpredictable risks and complications which has taken the lives of thousands who have attempted to reach safety via sea.

    As distasteful as it to explain to those who assume that refugees are uneducated, it is crucial to note that Syrians are indeed very much educated, skilled and creative. Before the Syrian conflict, refugees came from all kind of professional backgrounds. Now they find themselves in positions in which they are refused to practice their skills and talents.

    Imagine this: you are a professional who provides income and takes care of your family. You are happy, stable and maintain close ties with your family and neighbours. Overnight, you discover that family members and neighbours have been killed or injured by drones, tortured to death or have lost everything. Every day, you hear someone new has been killed or severely injured. You are being treated in a hospital which cannot facilitate your care and is at risk of being targeted by an airstrike. The same school you had met your closest friends during your childhood years has been crushed to the ground, along with all its memories. What would you do?

    The reality is that refugees do not just decide to leave. They have no choice.

    Another assumption is that refugees who have resettled in the UK no longer need our help. This is perhaps the root source of their neglect. Many refugees who have resettled in London have not really resettled at all. Despite fleeing a war zone with violence, severe human right violations, and even death, refugees remain struggling to survive and lack access to crucial facilities and services. These include access to food, housing, employment, psychotherapy, English language support, and schooling. Psychological trauma and PTSD is widely common but is not properly addressed or supported.

    Sufra NW London is dedicated to helping refugees gain access to these urgent services via their Refugee Resettlement Programme. As a spoken word artist and activist, I use my platform to raise awareness for voices who are often neglected, silenced and misinterpreted. Together, we must advocate for basic human rights for refugees, who deserve so much more.

    To take find out more, or take part in this year's Local hero competition visit our campaign page.