Like so many millions of people in this country I was horrified by that picture of a little Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach last week. And since then I’ve been very moved by the public’s response, not just in support of Syrian refugees but others such as Iraqis too. It’s really touched my heart because I am an Iraqi refugee who was resettled to the UK five years ago with the help of Refugee Action.
In Iraq I had been working as an interpreter for British forces. I took the job because I needed to support my family. But it was very dangerous. In one instance, seventeen of my colleagues, travelling home together from an army base, were kidnapped and executed. Militants used brutal methods to deter people – those who didn’t stop were killed. The security situation got so bad that in the end I applied for resettlement and in 2012 I was accepted.
I will always be grateful to Britain for welcoming me, my wife and two daughters. But we are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more families in Syria and Iraq are in need. Sadly only a small number of refugees are resettled here – fewer than a thousand a year from around the world, and only a couple of hundred from the recent Syrian conflict. Meanwhile the UNHCR, who along with Refugee Action helped me to resettle, estimates that nearly a million other people are in need of resettlement worldwide. Even with the recent announcement from the government the scale of resettlement in Britain is small.
I would like to think that my adopted country Britain could do more to help. But for that to happen the huge outpouring of support for refugees from members of the public in recent days needs to be maintained.
Where I live in Greater Manchester, and across the country, lots of people have been phoning refugee charities pledging money, or offering to donate food and clothes, or even saying they’ll take refugees into their own homes. These are wonderful signs of support and I hope they will continue. But if there’s one thing I would ask people to do now it is to take part in Saturday’sNational Day of Action in solidarity with refugees.
There’s a big march in London – which I will be travelling to from Manchester. And there are similar events taking place in many other cities and towns around the country. If, as I hope, there is a big turn out and lots of support from people on social media it will send a powerful signal to the government that Britain wants to show more compassion to people fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and other conflict zones.
Every single person who takes part on Saturday will be making a difference. So if you care about refugees and want Britain to do more, nothing else you are thinking of doing on Saturday matters more than joining the Day of Action.
For more information about the Solidarity with Refugees demo in London: www.facebook.com/events/1047978998546751/