Dozens of new groups and projects have sprung up since last year in response to the migrant crisis. We would like to share some of the methods we have been using over the past decade to help those groups ensure that their efforts are as effective and meaningful as possible.
Refugee Radio was established by a group of migrants and non-migrants coming together, including refugees, immigration solicitors, social workers and charity workers. Through our lives and work we saw problems right here in our local community that existing projects and services were not able to reach. We knew we had to try something new and we knew from the start that it had to be jointly run. The heart of our organisation is a group of active refugee and asylum seeker volunteers and our Trustee board is still refugee-led.
The radio programmes we make have always striven to combat the dehumanisation of refugees by giving a voice to the voiceless. It has always been crucial to us that this process is as much by and about refugees as possible, even if this means that we have to work harder and produce less as we navigate the barriers that litter the path of refugee integration such as homelessness, disability, unemployment, discrimination and especially the mental trauma suffered from war, torture or sexual violence. In order to build a project that helps refugees to overcome these obstacles and engage in the life of their new community then that project must itself be a model for that change we want to see.
Integration is not a one-way street with the onus on newcomers to make all of the effort but is a dialogue between communities. At Refugee Radio we use the power of the media to boost that communication and even subvert the media. We are not just giving refugees a voice in the immigration debate but also the power to determine the subject. Many do not identify as “refugee” or “asylum seeker” but instead as mothers, musicians, nurses, or students. This is important even if it seems to divert from the purpose of tackling discrimination. Our ultimate purpose is the restoration of humanity to a group of people who have been stripped of that right, even if that makes for a less dramatic social media campaign or a less exciting radio show.
When the dust settles what is left will be people.
Stephen Silverwood, Refugee Radio
If you want to find out more about Refugee Radio, check out their website: http://www.refugeeradio.org.uk/