World Refugee Week

It’s world refugee week. According to UNHCR and 2018 figures, there are 68.5million forcibly displaced people worldwide with 25.4million refugees.

Refugee versus Migrant?

On the week-end I was reflecting on a news report I heard on Capital Radio. In it, they referred to people fleeing wars and oppression as “Migrants.”

I also read about how you can now face criminal charges if rescuing refugees/migrants.

These news reports got me wondering, where we draw the line between showing up for humanity versus behaving illegally and working against immigration law?

What are the fears we continue to be governed by to show up for the other?

And what is the difference between a refugee and a migrant?

The last question, had come up when I filmed “Humanity Rising in the Refugee Crisis” three years ago.

I had taken the question to Dr. Ruba Salih from SOAS who shared her views on the difference between the category of “refugee” versus “migrant”

It feels the line between “refugee” and “migrant” is increasingly blurred.

Furthermore, Dr. Salih reminded me of how migration helps us economically- something which we read so little about in the news these days.

She summed up her view which is

...there needs to be a shift in the framework in which refugees and migrants are represented. Until media as well as the public and political discourse emphasise this as a small cake divided among too many people (which isn’t true), the public will struggle to accept more welcoming policies for refugees/migrants.

In the coalface of the crisis, volunteers such as Hettie and Ellen reminded me that ultimately, behind the labelling, we are part of one human family.

UK home office welcoming refugees

This week as we remember those losing their lands and homes due to persecution and wars, it’s been a welcome cheer to read about the UK Home Office’s move to welcome 5000-6000 refugees in 2020-21 as part of the new resettlement scheme from 2020. You can read more about that here.

Inspiring humanitarians

There have been some incredible people turning up for humanity in this crisis such as Lisa Campbell and her amazing volunteer team in Oinofyta Greece.

Lisa Campbell and her amazing volunteer team in Oinifyta Greece

Lisa lead the humanitarian effort for Do-Your-Part in a Greek refugee camp and within hours of meeting her and observing her work, I was struck by her compassion and empathy in meeting “the other” in respect and dignity. Her military precision in getting things done empowering the “citizens” of her camp (she refuses to call them refugees) saw them rise up and become engaged, contributing individuals who felt supported by her team.

Read more about Lisa’s incredible humanitarian work.

And if you haven’t been inspired yet, watch her TEDx talk. Lisa invites us to rethink our approach to this social issue and prove that we care.

Book Recommendations

It’s also thank’s to Lisa’s introduction to Afghan refugee Gulwali Passarly that I learnt of this beautiful book.

The Lightless Sky

Available on amazon, The Lightless Sky by Gulwali Passarlay is a powerful account of a year long journey to Britain and reinforces the positivity for me around the UK’s decision to support more refugees.

Gulwali Passarlay was sent away from Afghanistan at the age of twelve, after his father was killed in a gun battle with the US Army. Smuggled into Iran, Gulwali began a twelvemonth odyssey across Europe, spending time in prisons, suffering hunger, making a terrifying journey across the Mediterranean in a tiny boat, and enduring a desolate month in the camp at Calais. Somehow he survived, and made it to Britain, no longer an innocent child but still a young boy alone. In Britain he was fostered, sent to a good school, won a place at a top university, and was chosen to carry the Olympic torch in 2012.

Gulwali wants to tell his story - to bring to life the plight of the thousands of men, women and children who are making this perilous journey every day.This memoir celebrates the triumph of courage and determination over adversity.

Another amazing read on the story of displacement is “We are Displaced: by Malala Yousafzai.

Malala introduces us to what it means to lose your home, your community and the only world you've ever known. She shares the personal stories of some of the incredible girls she has met on her various journeys to refugee camps and the cities where refugee girls and their families have settled. The anecdotes focus on different parts of each girl's story - from what it was like the day she left her home to what daily life is like in a refugee camp.


The brook brings home how in a time of immigration crises, war, and border conflicts, that everyone deserves universal human rights and a home.

World Refugee Events

What’s been beautiful to witness cross London this week is the number of wonderful events taking place to support integration, diversity and community.

One of my favourites, particularly in light of the above book recommendations, is “Celebrating our Resilience” at St.Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in the heart of the City of London.

Survivors Speak Out and Refugee Allies invite you to an evening of friendship and solidarity, celebrating the resilience of those re-building their lives after persecution,

They also have a fantastic event on next week exploring how we converse about Migration!

Educating the next generation

And it’s these conversations on Migration that have been inspiring talks and screenings for Humanity’s Heart and the charities it supports.

Recently I screened Humanity Rising in the Refugee Crisis at St.Paul’s Boys School in London and it was great to hear the boys’ views on migration.

This Thursday, I look forward to meeting the girls from Godolphin & Latymers and sharing the film with them.

Refugee Action Colchester’s team Iman and Maria meanwhile have been educating primary schools in their area working at the ground level to help children learn about inclusion and difference.

Refugee Action Colchester’s team Iman and Maria

All proceeds of the film go towards website maintenance and continuing our work to keep raising awareness on the refugee crisis.

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