Please contact me on Roben@bradfordrefugeeforum.org.uk
Please contact me on Roben@bradfordrefugeeforum.org.uk
The year 2010 was the most successful for Bradford Refugee Forum. We set up a website; we had the biggest Women’s Conference I have ever seen in Bradford; and twice The Lord Mayor of Bradford officially opened our functions-at the launch of the website and at the opening of the Women’s Conference. We hosted The Black History Month function; were involved in the Refugee Week which ended with a wonderful day of dance and sharing of foods from refugee countries represented at the Centenary Square.
Bradford RCOs are an example to the UK. They are truly dedicated to the cause of making the lives of refugees more bearable. There are several that provide meals to destitute. Meals are provided by RCOs, churches, individuals and associations. Our destitute have a meal every day. There are organisations that even provide meals that meet specifications of some religious organisations. Is that not wonderful? THANK YOU BRADFORD.
There are organisations in Bradford that have chosen to take destitute into their homes. Imagine choosing to live with someone whose background you do not know; some from countries where we read of frightening stories. These organisations have chosen to live with these people because they love people. AND, every winter time these people come together to provide shelter for those that have not yet got a home to go to. They take turns to bring them hot soup each morning. THANK YOU BRADFORD.
There are those that collect clothes and place them in Churches and public buildings –clothes, blankets, shoes, pots, furniture.
There are Bradfordians that have created links with communities in Africa. One such organisation helps victims of rape in the DRC. There is an organisation that collects computers and sends them to poor communities in Kenya and Uganda. Computer classes have been started in Africa thanks to the work of RCOs in Bradford. There are ladies that run homes for destitute children in Zimbabwe. One Bradford based organisation is sinking boreholes in many parts of Zimbabwe. In several parts of Africa clothes are sent to the poor to be sold at give away prices to help these people make a living. THANK YOU BRADFORD.
BFR has been given the support of the people of Bradford. The City Council, private companies, colleges, and big institutions such as the Lottery have supported us. We are going to be a Charity in 2011. Let us be recognised for our work rather than for our disagreements. Let us be seen to be using our money properly. We are lucky to have a professional accountant. Let us use him to raise more money and to use the money to help refugees. There are many areas of real need that have not been looked at by existing RCOs and there are areas where we can help increase the work already being done. Here are some examples:
2010 was a great year for BRF and I am sure 2011 will enable us to achieve a lot more. May I wish all Bradford Refugee Forum members a wonderful Festive Season and a prosperous New Year!
As the Bradford refugee women meet for the Bradford Refugee Forum Women Conference on 11 November 2010, I urge them to use this opportunity to tell the many stories of their struggles to get the rights all human beings have under the UN Convention. They must tell the stories of their abuses: stories of domestic violence, sexual violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation, forced abortion or sterilization both inside and outside the UK. They must speak out about UKBA mistreatments –accommodation problems, food problems, child care problems, denial of medical support, detention, fear of deportation, mental stress and mental illness and everything. Here is a chance to say it and get it recorded so that there can be appropriate follow-up. If you do not speak out then people will not have enough evidence to support our struggle for the improvement of the lives of refugees in the UK. Here is the chance. Use it.
On 9 November 2010, I attended lecture by Andrew Geddes, professor of politics at Sheffield University in the Arts Tower, University of Sheffield on Immigration policy and immigration under the Coalition Government. I learned a few things from the lecture and literature distributed in the lecture room that will help women and all of us fighting to make refugees be allowed to work; refugees be allowed to sent their children to good schools; refugees be allowed to get proper accommodation; refugees be given proper benefits; refugees be allowed to open bank accounts; refugees be allowed to get proper identity cards; refugees be treated as human beings.
Professor Geddes brought to the lecture room salad vegetables in a plastic packet and asked people if they knew what was involved in getting the salads to the shelves of the supermarket. His first point was that people in the UK do not know that migrants are at the centre of the production of the food we get easily in the shops, and things essential in our day to day life. Some of the people that harvest vegetables from the farms; people that harvest fruit from the orchards; people that work in dairies across the country are people that are often looked down upon. People that clean our factories, hotels, hospitals, schools, churches, homes, offices, trains, busses, streets, theatres, and shops are often migrants. The people that look after our elderly, children, the ill, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the bed ridden are often migrants .The people that process the essentials of our daily needs are often the people we demonise. We must not treat refugees as either angels or sinners. They are just people.
Whether we approve of it or not the reality of the economic situation is that refugees will continue to be at the centre of the economies of Europe and the UK because people now live much longer. So people must learn to treat refugees as people. There is a lot of abuse of refugees in the UK especially in agriculture and the domestic industries. People are still denied proper wages, clothing, protective clothes in environments dangerous to their health, in environments too cold to work without proper protective clothing, some are forced to sleep in improper place, in garages, in room without heating, in places too far away from the work place, sleeping with animals, even in bathrooms.
He said that the problem of migrants is exaggerated by the politicians and the media. One of the papers circulated even suggested that that one of the reasons why the BNP did not do well in the past election was that their agenda was adopted by the Conservative and Labour politicians. Professor Geddes said that while the Lib Dem had a very good campaign document and strategy, their ideas evaporated when they joined the Coalition Government.
He said that Europe was not the main destination of refugees contrary to what the politicians and the press say. The greatest numbers of refugees went to Asian and African countries. But because we are now members of the EU the number of refugees will rise dramatically over the years. The UK must be grateful to Europe, to countries like Spain, Greece and Italy that remain the hot spot of the refugee issues. Refugees have been refused passage through Morocco , Libya and other North African countries but pressure will overwhelm both the European countries and North Africa and refugees will reach the UK in larger numbers.
Asked why there is so much negative attitude towards refugees, he replied that refugees are in a weak position. They are willing to work for less than other workers, they have language problems, they are minority in numbers and culture. Refugees are accused of deflating wages.
From the lecture I collected literature that supported the general theme that there is need to fight for improved conditions of refugees .Rather that moan, refugees must organise and fight for improved conditions. We must not allow this level of suffering which Jane cited in the Northern Refugee Centre hand out entitled STORIES OF OUR STRUGGLE to continue. Jane was detained at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration removal Centre. She said this about how powerless she became when her child became ill while in detention and how uncaring and unconcerned the detention officials were about her plight. Please use this as a pillar of the issues central to the Conference:
How can this cruelty be exposed please?
Kids as young as four weeks are being detained here, most for over one month, many for two or more. There is a virus epidemic; virtually all the kids are down with coughs, colds, vomiting and diarrhoea.
They won’t allow mums to take food to their children in the rooms even if they are ill, and most of the kids are ill with something, it’s hard to find a healthy one. It doesn’t even touch them that they are not eating, shrinking before our eyes. I have begging them to allow me to take some food to my room for my son, so i can try and persuade him to eat something.
So the women meet let there be no stone left unturned and let us document everything and then take these issues to the service providers and ask them to treat refugees as human beings.
When Robert Mugabe returned to Zimbabwe in 1979, I was at the University of Zimbabwe, exited about independence, “our” independence. Then I became a lecturer and because of my University job the numerous articles I wrote about “our” independence were published. I then wrote two secondary school books-People Making History, Books 3 and 4 to educate our young men about the values of “our” independence. Little did I know that Mugabe did not think I was a part of that independence! Mugabe was to tell Zimbabweans like me that they were not “liberation” fighters; they would not be included in the land redistribution, pension funds and other benefits. When they challenged these decisions, he organised their torture, jail, rape and murders. Armed Mugabe party supporters formed what were called war veterans armies to raid homes and vandalise human lives and property. Today I am a refugee, guilty like many academics at the time that I failed to notice the deception and that I had to hide and leave my people, the people I taught the values of education to be abused By the Mugabe regime.
All over Africa, people have been deceived by people they trusted. Most of them come with chains of university degrees-doctors, professors, economists- Mugabe is said to have come with seven degrees. People thought they had come to bring an end to the suffering of colonialism, only to find out that life became far worse under black political rule. In the last 10 years, the average African country in sub-Saharan Africa has lost a million lives! Indeed there are countries such as in the DRC, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia and others where more than five million lives have been lost! In fact in Rwanda it is said that one million of those lives were lost in a10 day genocide. These people were murdered by politicians they initially trusted, voted for and welcomed.
Last week the DRC women got together for a silent commemoration, because the figure of 1 000 000 [one million] rapes in the DRC conflict was reached and passed! Raping the woman is the sign of victory over an enemy man. This rape is usually carried out in front of the whole family, including children. In Liberia chopping off the hands was the method used; and in Zimbabwe, Mugabe throws victims alive down disused mines.
African people [women, children, everyone] are desperate for someone to save them. They are looking for someone they can trust. They are willing to trust anyone. As a result, not only have some been killed, some turned into child soldiers, others into child prostitutes, child drug peddlers, adult thieves, and whatever abuse you can think of. Those that have been lucky have managed to escape to become refugees in different parts of Africa and the Diaspora. In their new found places of refuge, they desperately look for someone to save them and help save their parents, sisters, brothers and sometimes even their children that could not escape with them. In Africa the only hope is with the NGO groups and in Europe is the Refugee Community Organisations.
The NGO groups have indeed rescued many starving, injured, raped and other suffering Africans. But almost all their work can be classified as REACTION. Very little of it can be classified as PROACTION. NGOs have researched and produced wonderful reports, with graphs, maps and pictures of suffering Africans. It is from this kind of research we have been able to count the number of women raped in the DRC. But this wonderful work has generally been for themselves and their organisations and this has helped them to receive more support from the UN and EU. But they have failed to help vulnerable Africans save themselves and improve their plight. The violence, rape and murders are often perpetrated by small groups of bandits. If people were trained in self-defence skills they could dramatically reduce the incidence of their attacks.
In the Diaspora, Africans have found relatives of the very people they ran away from waiting for them with messages of hope. Desperate Africans have been cheated by predator Churches. On Sundays refugee community is packed in Churches where millionaire preachers promise them status if they have faith, promise them healing from the diseases they got from African trauma. But they have to pay tithe and offering. Church leaders drive state of the art vehicles from money collected from unemployed asylum seekers. In every service they are told, if they have not yet got the papers they should not worry as long as they know the Lord is always with them!
In the Bradford area there area alone, there are more than 15 RCO groups working for refugees. They meet regularly; produce volumes of minutes, reports, news articles and magazines. They have posters all over Bradford. They receive a lot of support but most of them are not attended by more than one or two refugees. Majority of them do not have a clue about the number of refugees in Bradford, where they stay, what they survive on and indeed how many of them are destitute .Refugee children are still being detained. Asylum seekers are still not allowed to work. They are still denied medical treatment once their support is terminated. And they are still being deported to the African dictatorships they walked away from for months and years before they got someone to help them to get here.
So when we meet, ask for assistance and spend the money that has given to us to run RCOs, do we have the interests of the suffering people we have offered to help? Are we using this money to make their lives better? Do we serve the serve asylum seekers? Do we have the interests of the refugees at heart? Think about it.
In my last two articles, I addressed the issues of racism in a rather radical manner. The idea was not for black people to take up arms to fight white people. My intention was to show readers how ugly racism is. It so happens that the examples I used were of white racists but there are black racists that are just as cruel. Take the case of my President, Robert Mugabe. After all those murders of white farmers did he improve the lives of black people? No! We are now in England running away from our black leader. My idea was to make people see how cruel people can be and to ask us all to try to love one another and live with each other without thinking of race and colour.
One area we need to work together in Bradford is in the area of mental health. Here is a paper I presented to the Ethnicity, Health and Well Being Conference on Tuesday, 15 June 2010.
Let me begin this paper by paying respect to the people that have researched and written extensively on mental health in the West Yorkshire region. Among these is a research paper done by NHS Bradford and Airedale in conjunction with the University of Central Lancashire entitled Outcomes and Commissioning in Mental Health Services for BME Communities, Asylum Seekers and Refugees. , March, 2009.I also must mention the 2008 report done by the Centre for Research in Social Inclusion and Social Justice, University of Hull entitled Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants in Yorkshire and Humber 1999-2008.
Both these reports and others, state that the numbers of refugees in the Bradford area is not known, which means no one knows the exact level of the mental health problem in our community. There is therefore urgent need for research on the true figure of people with the mental problem. We, at the Bradford Refugee Forum, have drafted a proposal for this research and are currently looking for funding.(If anyone knows any organisation that can help fund this project please get in touch with Abraham ,the Bradford Refugee Forum coordinator on 07824707458)
This report will therefore limit itself on the research that has been done and the problem that has been faced.
Mental health issues have been found to be prevalent among refugees and asylum seekers because many asylum seekers experience severe trauma from persecution that may include rape, genocide, ethnic cleansing and violence mainly in countries of origin. Difficulties are worsened by separation from families and the failure to secure basic needs on the asylum journey and even at the destination.
At the destination many face language problems, a barrier that can cause frustrations. Poor English can affect diagnosis of the problem, first by the receptionist and later the medical expert. There is need for improvements in social services for trauma and counselling of mental patients. There are almost no personnel who understand the cultures of the mental patients, that have knowledge and information, appropriate information about the refugee communities. There are virtually no interpreters. The use of families as interpreters for discussing sensitive issues is known to be problematic and inappropriate.
Mental health patients have a problem in understanding entitlement to health care and there is no clear guidance for health professionals to assist them. Secondly, lack of understanding of institutions and systems among asylum seekers prevent asylum seekers from accessing appropriate care, and exacerbated by language barriers and apparently poor cultural understanding among medical practitioners.
There is the problem of disbelief and rejection associated with asylum case refusal and constant fear (or experiences) of detention and removal. These leave asylum seekers exposed to intense anxiety and vulnerable to sudden and traumatic rupture in social relationships.
There are numerous other fears associated with mental illness: fear of being labelled mad (nuts); fear of the loss of status; the erosion of personal confidence; the difficulties of communicating the problem to others.
Mental patients often do not know how much access they have to essential services. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and this often leads to homelessness and destitution.
Then there is the problem of denial of secondary care owing to health care professionals checking immigration status, promoting a perception among immigrants that they may not be eligible. I am told that it has been routine for secondary care to be denied, or refused asylum seekers to be billed and this is worrying and helps confuse mental health patients about entitlement.
Often the early signs and symptoms are not recognised by the mental patients. In cases where asylum has been refused, the mental patient has no access to refugee community organisations. He has to grapple with negative government policy on social/economic issues, on housing, rights to work, education and health care. In the end the patients become withdrawn. There is loss of confidence, hypertension, depression and even aggression.
When I wrote about racism at the beginning of the week, I was discussing OVERT racism. This was a racism where the white communities of the world chose to classify the black people of the world as human minerals and went to Africa to ‘mine’ black metal labour.
There are theories which argue that white slave owners went out of their way to torture slaves for fun. I do not buy that theory. There were obviously some who sexually abused slave women and were cruel masters. But abuse for the sake of abuse is outside the economic theory. Yes over rally the living conditions were inhuman because slaves were not regarded as human. Yes, dead slaves were thrown into the sea or were not given proper burial. Yes, they were bought and sold. And yes, they were beaten and punished, just as you shape metal to suit your purpose. I will support a theory which argues that slaves were fed to be strong, male slaves were turned into “oxen” because bulls are not as strong and they spend their energies elsewhere.
These commercially oriented slave owners made up the majority of the class that even went to the extent of taking up arms to defend their property. They are what I want to call the OVERT slave owners. When they lost, they abandoned the slave oriented economy. Some even helped to remove slaves from their properties to Africa or the Caribbean Islands. Some even chose to keep slaves as paid labour. I think that this category of former slave owners is the group that has changed although I do not think they have yet reached the stage of accepting black people as fellow human beings or as equals.
But it is what I call the COVERT type former slave owners that form the majority racists today. These people may not be scientists but they accept the Darwin theory of evolution. They believe that black people have biologically not yet evolved to reach the level of white humans. They fear that associating with black people would have negative effects on their evolutionary development. So they as much as they can avoid eat with blacks, living near blacks, worshipping with blacks and so on. These are the hard core racists. Behind their minds they know that it is bad to associate with black people but they do not know why! These are the people that strive to collect negative stories about Africans, Africa ,African rulers, African worshippers, African shoppers, African time keeping[African puntuallity], African food, Africa everything. These are the people that see asylum seekers as people only from Africa who must be returned to Africa.
When some people read what I write, they think I am a racist trying to use the past to justify the present. But what do you think of the story of Ota Benga, which happened just before World War I. In 1904 an African explorer, Samuel Verner went to river basin of the then called Belgian Congo, now DRC to hunt for African pygmies because Americans wanted to see a real pygmy.One of those captured was Ota Benga.In 1906, he was put in the Bronx Zoo[New York Zoological Park] with his ‘ancestors’ monkeys,chimpanzees, a gorilla named Dinah and an orang-utan named Dohung.The 4feet 11 inches Ota Benga[named Bi which means friend] had been married had been married twice;both his wives had died but he was referred to as a boy.
The Director of the Bronx Zoo, Dr William T. Hornadgy believed he could read the zoo animal thoughts. He “apparently saw no difference between a wild beast and the little black man”. Every Sunday some 40 000 visitors visited the zoo to see the pygmy.”Nearly every man, woman and child of the crowd made for the monkey house to see the star attraction in the park-the wild man of Africa. They chased him about the grounds all day, howling, jeering and yelling. Some of them poked him in the ribs, others tripped him up, all laughed at him.” Finally after fabricating a small bow and arrow and shooting at the obnoxious park visitors he had to leave the park for good. But people could not leave him alone. One day he managed to borrow a revolver and shot himself in the heart ending his 8 years of torture in the United States.
The story of Ota Benga may be an extreme example but you will be surprised how many people we live with here in the UK think we are different, we are unusual, that we are strange, that we are foolish and that we underdeveloped. Black people therefore have a duty to educate their neighbours that they are not different. They have a duty to fight racism positively. We have a duty to make white people trust and have confidence to live next to us.
One of the major election issues last month was the ‘problem’ of immigration, yet one of the main preoccupation of the Labour Government was legislating against immigrants. Never in the history of the UK was were so many laws passed against Third World asylum seekers as in the 13 years of Labour Administration. As a result, over 80% of asylum applications were/are turned down mainly because they couldn’t/can’t meet the threshold placed by the Labour Party on top of the United Nations RC 51 definition of a refugee/asylum. Consequently, the number of people that managed to apply for asylum went down from 92000 a year in the year 2000 to just above 23000 in 2008. Yet both the Labour and Conservative parties could not stop pouncing at asylum seekers. Asylum seekers were blamed for taking British jobs, even though the law does not allow them to work! They were accused of taking council houses from the British, even though failed asylum seekers are forced out of Government accommodation. Failed asylum seekers have been forced into destitution; some have been forced to take up illegal employment doing the dirty jobs the British are too proud to do-cleaning of toilets, care for the elderly and disabled; dangerous security jobs; off-loading trucks at night and in the cold; nursing and many similar tasks. Some asylum seekers have worked secretly for government officials that talk against during the day.
But while most asylum seekers were refused entry, the same Government allowed East Europeans to flow in unconditionally, even where there isn’t the slightest chance of being employable for so many of them. As a result, between the year 2000 and 2008, the number of East Europeans immigrants rose from around 500000 a year to around 600000 a year. The argument is that they are a part of the EU family. In other words people of the Third World from whom the slaves and slave labour that enabled the Industrial Revolution to take place; people from whose countries most of the minerals that made industrialisation to be a reality; people that fought on the side of the Allied forces and people whose Governments have allowed EU countries to invest in their countries are not members of the family. How then is this family defined? Is the family based on economic interdependence? Is this a political family? Is it a religious family? Or is this not just a form of racism!
The wealth of the World has, from known times, been defined in terms of its use of known minerals. This is why we have the Stone Age; Bronze Age; and Iron Age. But a major upset of this historical development when people of today’s EU decided to classify black human beings with energy minerals. For over 200 years people of today’s EU states went to Africa to mine human minerals. It is not true to argue that people of the Bronze Age did not know about iron. Similarly, it is not true that slavery did not exist before. These eras were given their names because the minerals they used became the main source human survival. The people of today’s EU states created the slave age. Like other minerals before slavery, technology moved beyond slavery but many people in the EU still look at black people as an energy mineral. They are unable to regard what they took for a commodity, like coal piled outside in the rain and taken into the oven to burn only when energy was needed into an equal.
Sadly for people of this mentality technology has not stopped moving. It has now moved beyond coal. While the UK, France, Poland, Germany and Belgium have large quantities of coal, coal is no longer the metallic mineral central to modern industrialisation. Coal included, these are the metals essential to industrialisation. The important point to note is that most of these metals are not found in Europe!
Aluminium Jamaica, Surinam, France, Ghana, USA, Russia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Hungary, India, Greenland.
Asbestos Canada, Zimbabwe, South Africa.
Chromium India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cuba.
Coal USA, Russia, China, Germany, UK, France, Poland, Belgium, India.
Copper USA, Russia, China, Germany, Zambia, DRC, Spain, Mexico, Japan, Australia, India.
Gold South Africa, USA, Australia, Canada.
Graphite Sri Lanca
Iron Ore Russia, USA, Australia, Canada, France, Spain, India, China, Brazil.
Lead USA, Russia, Spain, Germany, Belgium.
Lignite Germany, Russia.
Magnesium India, Russia, Mexico, USA.
Mercury Italy, Spain, USA.
Petrolium Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, UAE, Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt, USA, Russia, Indonesia.
Silver Canada, Russia, Mexico, USA, Australia.
Tin Malaysia, Bolivia.
Uranium DRC, South Africa, USA, Canada, Germany, Czech, Slovakia, Russia, India.
Thorium India, Brazil, USA.
Zinc Canada, Russia, Belgium, Germany.
Yes it is true that the EU countries, because of their colonial experience have industrial technology higher than most countries of the world, but the majority of the people that migrate from the continent to the UK do not have that technology. The UK does not allow them into the country therefore because they bring technology, if anything they bring them to take away ordinary British people’s jobs.
Before the slave trade and slavery, black people were not looked at as a form of energy resource. They played their part in the societies they belonged just like anyone else. You may be surprised to read that a black man once ruled England. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus[AD 193-211] was from North African Libya. Many black Roman soldiers were stationed in England to guard the Hadrian Wall. Many married English women and left children in England. Several Roman Emperors had wives from Africa and there was nothing unusual about it.
THE CORNERSTONE OF RACISM
The two main cornerstones of racism in the UK are the Church and the media.
Although 3 Roman Catholic Church Popes were from Africa, the Catholic Church has not encouraged disclosure of it, and has in some situations argued that although the Popes may have come from Africa, they were not Africans. Pope Victor[AD189-199], the Pope who encouraged baptism with ordinary water where there was a shortage of holy water; Pope Miltiades[AD310/311 to314], the Pope who constructed the original Basilica of St John Lateran; and Pope Gelasius[AD492 toAD496], the Pope who inserted “Kyrie Eleison” (Lord have mercy) into the mass were Africans. But when it appeared like Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria would be likely to succeed Pope John Paul II of Poland, there was uneasiness in the Catholic Church.
The Church supported slavery and the slave trade. Church leaders, including Bishops owned slaves. Church institutions owned farms that generated money that has made Churches some of the richest institutions in the World. Church schools, colleges and universities were financed from slave labour. Many Bishops in America justified slavery from verses in the Bible. Up to today, the church has not yet come out positively enough in support of the black peoples of the world. What has the church said about the scores of immigration laws passed by the Government in the past 14 years? Children from Third World countries are still being detained in the UK today!
Present day EU countries when they colonised Third World countries often hand in hand with the church. The Church is partly responsible for colonialism. But the Church has not come out strongly against form of neo-colonialism taking place and resulting in many people coming to seek asylum in the UK.
But the greatest campaigner for racism remains the media. The media has deliberately obvious signs of negative race relations in British society. If you are black and you go into a pub, the first question you are asked is: Where do you come from? If you answer: Bradford, you are asked: Originally? If you think you solve the problem by telling him the name of a country. You are lectured on the evils of African leaders. If you carry on the discussion, you may find out that the man does not even know that Africa is a continent. If you see anything on television here in the UK on Africa, it will either be a documentary or report of starving Africans and their mother; or child soldiers in the “blood” diamond trade; stories of rape and torture; stories of life in slums; or tradition naked woman living among animals. Positive stories are of game wardens from Europe saving game from slaughter.
The media has done nothing meaningful to educate society that black people are people like everyone else. Their only crime is poverty partly caused by rich nations’ support of violent methods of getting mineral resources.
LIVING IN THE PAST
The slave trade will never again be a viable industry. Technology has moved beyond the concept of using human beings as energy resource as if they were minerals. There is need to help the black people to regain their place in society. The British Government must move away from looking at immigration, especially asylum as a crime. The Church must ask Africans for forgiveness and educate society to love one another genuinely. The media must begin to go to Africa to write positive stories .What the UK forgets is that it needs the Third World more than any time in the past. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. Today’s industries are dependent on oil and gas. None of the EU states has oil and gas. The World Wars were fought because Germany was excluded from benefitting from slavery. She was not allowed by other EU super powers to trade in slaves; to control major rivers and seas of the world that were the main means of transport then. Germany was therefore not able to control the ferrous metals, base metals and precious metals of the world. She found she could not compete others in the industrialisation race without these metals. Improvements in technology, changes in the Third World politics have resulted in the former major EU states to lose their dominance of the control of these base metals. The EU now needs the friendship of the former slave nations if they are to survive the economic battles of the future.
2. None of the EU states has petroleum, the most important energy mineral of the moment. Yes BP has control of most of the oil of the world, but as can be read from the language of the Americans, it would not surprise anyone if they started to demand control of the oils in their waters. In fact all the countries of the petroleum world currently are looking for ways to control their own minerals. Russia wants greater control of the Caspian states and oil and gas there. Iran is preparing nuclear weapons to control the Persian sea area, Canada is controlling the North Sea oils and the battle for such control goes on .The EU countries still control oils from Third World partly by helping to put and maintain in power governments that chose to trade with them. The result has been a lot of instability in them and a rise in the numbers of people from these countries that come to the EU states to seek asylum .People from oil-rich Algeria, Angola, Chad, Congo, DRC, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia,, Thailand, Vietnam, and others are being refused asylum here even though the troubles in their countries are partly caused by governments in the EU.
Racism is against UN human a right regulations .Racism is unchristian .Racism is inhuman. Economies that survived on racism are now history and will never again control the World. Violence used to be chef instrument for acquiring resources to support economies, but improvements in technology have shown that a third world war may be the end of the human race. As human beings let us revisit our laws, our cultures, faiths, relationship and identify racist issues and remove them. Let us help the state to create legislation that is not based on racism. Think about it and you will be surprised how many people of the Third World are dying because behind their systems of government and social life, there are entrenched forms of racism.
Beatrice and I attended a training programme [27 to28 April] on RACISM AND DIVERSITY. Many factors of racism were analysed but what touched me most was how people like the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela were able to reverse the negative image of racism that had forced him to be imprisoned on an Indian Ocean island for 27 years into something positive which enabled him to unite South Africa and avoid the possibility of a racist bloodbath. Mandela received numerous and different forms of punishment for the “crime” of being black but he chose positive reactions all the time, because he had one clear objective-the freedom of his Nation. He replaced the many stories that could have come out of negative reaction to his wide range of punishments by a SINGLE STORY-the story of national freedom. What lessons can we derive from Nelson Mandela? Can we not turn the stories of going to Croydon to apply for asylum; applying for NASS support; applying for housing support; detentions and everything else to do with asylum application into one SINGLE STORY? Can we not have one story with a beginning, a clear direction and successful end?
Many immigrants arrive in the UK undecided about asylum. They go to live with friends and relatives for weeks, months or even years before they go to claim asylum and yet the law clearly says you need to claim asylum as soon as is reasonably possible, in other words as soon as you arrive in the UK. Most relatives and friends know this because they most probably were at one point or other asylum seekers. New arrivals do not even know that they can first claim asylum and then go to live with relatives and friends while their claims are being processed. These conditions are found in free libraries and there are numerous organisations that give free advice on these issues. Some choose to hide and live illegally. One can easily do that in the UK but it is unwise because one day you may become seriously ill, can be injured, will get old or decide to leave the UK. We often turn the simple story of applying for asylum into many often expensive stories because we do not prepare a clear introduction to the SINGLE STORY of asylum application.
Some asylum seekers have ended in unwanted marriages and with unwanted and often unloved children because they chose to get advice from unqualified “knowledgeable” persons, often friends who give examples of cases that happened before some well publicised changes in law. Many have been forced into illegal activities because they chose the wrong direction. Some have taken expensive trips to offices that no longer exist. Some have been forced to sleep rough, eat unhygienic food, and expose themselves to criminals and even murderers because they depended on the “I know it all”. They have chosen to put their lives into stories rather than a SINGLE STORY. The correct direction remains at often free public institutions and the humanitarian organisations.
Many people do not know that there are few things that are more expensive than IGNORANCE. Most problems of the World have their roots in ignorance. Many people that claim to know often do not know. There are many people with PHDs that are very ignorant .The roots of ignorance are much deeper than most of the teaching we receive from colleges and universities. Just imagine the number of people that lost their lives from malaria before we knew that it was the little female anopheles mosquito that caused it. Did we not have people with PHDs? Do not believe people that tell you that they are educated and know the law. Similarly do not waste money going to unqualified lawyers or changing them like shirts. Do not try to prepare your own cases. Wait in the long queue of the free legal advisers. Have the patience of Nelson Mandela. Be determined to follow the correct channels. Determination is not cheap. It is not expensive financially only, it costs a lot of time, it costs a lot of patience and it costs a lot of energy. You sometimes have to walk long distances to get to where help is found but that is the price of success. Your story of asylum must be a SINGLE STORY of determination in ONE clear direction not claiming asylum because of political reasons one day; claiming asylum because of domestic disputes the next day; claiming asylum for health reasons the third day and claiming asylum for those many other reasons on the fourth. You need a SINGLE STORY.
To have a SINGLE STORY you need to understand the system of asylum properly, especially the laws. You need to report as instructed. You need to be far away from any criminal activity. But most important of all you need to know what you want and be convinced that no matter the odds you will get what you want. You need a single story. Nelson Mandela was a member and leader of the African Nation Council [ANC].They tried to break him, to lie about him, to torture him, to enslave him and the rest but he remained the leader of the ANC. He told and lived a SINGLE STORY and he saved South Africa from possible bloodshed. You need a SINGLE STORY which is convincing in its content so that no one will deny you asylum on the grounds of your inability to tell a single story of your asylum claim. This training did not discuss the life of Nelson Mandela, but from this training I came up with a SINGLE STORY. I hope this article and the one by Beatrice in her blog will help someone.
May I begin this article by thanking the Lord Mayor of Bradford City, Councillor John D Godward and Lady Mayoress, Mrs Jean Godward for launching the Bradford Refugee Forum website on Monday, 29 March 2010.
Now that we have a website, there are a few worrying issues about the Bradford Refugee Forum [BRF] which I feel we need to address as members of the Bradford refugee community. The BRF, although formed in 2005, is virtually unknown to refugees, asylum seekers and the destitute because it has no office, office staff and No equipment. Although there is a lot of support accessed by other Refugee Forums in West Yorkshire our BRF does not have the knowledge and machinery in place to source support from institutions that have been formalised by the state and from the humanitarian community.
Is it not sad that we claim to represent refugees in the Bradford area, yet we do not even know how many there are, how to reach them, let alone how to help them. It is organisations that are supposed to be affiliated to us that have the numbers, assistance schemes and results. It is these organisations refugees go to because they help them with food, clothes, accommodation and legal advice and support.
May I appeal to the present leaders of the BRF to either come up with strategies to assist refugees or step down from office because there is a lot of talent in the refugee community that is being frustrated by people that seem to have the mentality of Third World politicians that hang on to power at the expense of their nations.
When the UKBA refuses to recognise the talents our members have, is it not our duty to help prove to the UKBA that these refugees are and will be useful to Bradford. Do you know that despite the hardships refugees and asylum seekers have faced here, they have nonetheless been asserts rather than liabilities in the Bradford community. The NHS and Care Agencies, cleaning and security companies and even some farms would not be operating were it not for the support of the refugee community. But I am not talking about these popularly debated contributions and their pros and cons. I am talking of silent contributions made by these people to the clothing and food industries and to the motor trade sector. Every Sunday Bradford churches are packed with neatly dressed refugees driving from half-moving to some of the latest vehicles in Bradford. The money transfer shops at nearly every corner of Bradford rely on refugee support. Half our refugee girls talk on the phone half their lives, so the cell phone and top up companies need refugee as well. All this is money contributed to Bradford by people not allowed to work! Finally there is the Hair pleating industry. The best hair platters are refugees and they have inexhaustible ideas. My friends Bradford would not be the same without refugees!
But refugee contributions to Bradford would be much more pronounced if BRF helped identify talents among refugees and helped place it where it is critically needed. While there are economists, engineers, teachers, nurses and doctors among refugee, theses are not the hidden talents I needs identified, I am talking of men with surviving skills. I talked to many refugees about what they are capable of and I chose these three to show you the unbelievable talent in the Bradford refugee community.
The first is Alexander Chipatiko. Although Alexander was never sent to school by his parents due to poverty and other reasons, Alexander somehow learned to drive. By the time he sought asylum Alexander could drive every type of motor vehicle from car to lorry, truck to bus. As Alexander drove trucks throughout Sub-Saharan Africa he studied all the major languages of the whole region. Today he speaks Zulu, Ndebele, Shona, Chewa, Nyanja and some Swahili. Incredible talent. When he got status he learned to drive the forklift. Before he got status, he joined the UK branch of the Zimbabwean MDC and reached the position of membership in the top executive. He formed the Bradford branch of the MDC and is now also vice chairman of the Zimbabwe Association in Bradford. He learned to play the guitar and the organ and leads the Zimbabwe choir. He is the leader of the Forward in Faith in Bradford He has also done training in care, security, photography and is currently studying English. This man and all his talent have not found a permanent job since he got status and we have done nothing to help him.
Another refugee of outstanding ability is Cathrine Ndiwenyu. Because I need to keep this article short I will not describe the heroic achievement Cathrine made in her native country of Kenya before meeting and marrying David of Uganda. Cathrine is true example of determination. Cathrine and David escaped the problems of the region and claimed asylum in year 2000. Although well educated and had got status in 2003 Cathrine could not get a job in the Leeds/Bradford area. She learned had to plat hair and to do care work. At the same time she went to College to learn to use the Internet, mathematics and business skills. She knew what she wanted, she had the talent but nobody knew her and could help her. Determined to demonstrate what she could do she started a cosmetic business with almost no money. Because no one could give her a reference she could not get support from the banks. On more than one occasions in Leeds she was forced to close. But people of the calibre of Catherine do not give up easily. She moved to Bradford where she set up the Beauty Station. Today the beauty Station in one of the few very successful refugee shops in West Yorkshire. She sells nearly all types of beauty products needed by women. She orders them from United States, Brazil, South Africa, China, Germany-everywhere. She sells on the Internet to the whole world. Yet she is still doing women’s hair, doing care work and nursing. She has recently registered to do a business degree at the Bradford University. She is an example of true talent. If her route had been shortened, she could be right now way ahead, giving more services to people of Bradford and employing more people.
Finally, the story of hidden talents cannot be completed without describing the life of Beatrice Botomani. In fact the women’s’ movement in Bradford and surrounding areas would not be the same if Beatrice had not been sent here by UKBA. She works tirelessly, organising women rights meetings especially through The Outcry Campaign. She has brought women from all walks of life to speak with one voice. She is also active in BIASAN, BRF, City Santuary and New Community Music Development. Throughout the day she is using the Internet to reach as many women as she can teaching them of their rights and how to stand for these rights. She has been detained and forced to stay in the detention centres for indefinite period but she has never looked back about who she is and what her rights are. She has made her teenage children that have been traumatised with her to speak out. Her 14 year old son has written a book about his life in detention. Perhaps her determination is built on a foundation of faith in God. She has a leadership role in the Christ Embassies Church. Through this Church she has turned round the lives of many refugees. Beatrice is a law student.
I could go on citing more examples of talented refugees who could do much more for Bradford if we all supported them and I know you have your own examples. What we need is a system to support all this world of silent talent within the refugee community. Let us make the BRF work.
If you escaped from a country you had lived in fear all your life; if you saw your brother gunning down members of your family as proof to the rebel invaders that he had become loyal to them; if you were gang-raped by the dirty, smelly and brutal invaders; if your family members-your daughter, your son, your father, your mother-were locked in a house and burned to death as you were forced to watch; and if you managed to escape and run, run and run in what ever direction, away from these horrors-murders, wild lions and snakes, you would not want to have another such experience of fear or be constantly reminded of this past and threatened to be sent back to where you lived in fear, fear, fear !
If you have spent days on end without food; failed to produce milk to feed your baby; failed to give your baby that has starved to death a proper burial; walked for miles and miles; collapsed often because of hunger and thirst but struggled on to to the safe haven of the UK, would you not be afraid to be told you are to be sent back. So you live in fear on the Bradford streets. You do not want to see a police car; people in blue suits; people that ask you where you come from because you do not know who to trust. The experience you had in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe keeps coming back; hounds you. You live in fear, fear, fear!
When you were an asylum seeker you were asked to report to the UKBA offices in Leeds go to your nearest police station,every day, week, or month. Now the Home Office has asked you to leave their accommodation and leave the UK. For 2 years they slowly worked on your case. You were not allowed to work or touch British money. You were given “gift vouchers” to buy food from selected outlets. They were not allowed to give you change. So if you brought money from your home, you used it because not all your needs could be got from the selected outlets. In fact most of what you wore were used clothes from the benevolent community. Now you have been told to go out of that UKBA accommodation. They do not tell you where to go. You have no money, no food, no clothes and no friends. Who wants a woman with 2 children to come and live with his family indefinitely. You become a destitute in Bradford. For the first time you know that Bradford at night is just as bad as your home country because being killed is being killed. There is nothing like being killed nicely.So you live in fear, fear, fear!
You were once a teacher,engineer, clerk,air hostess-someone important. Here, no one believes you! You, an asylum seeker want to teach our children? What do you know? Why did you not defeat the invaders, or become a politician and change the politics in your country? Why did you not persuade the rebels to lay down their arms? But many such people think that Africa is a country. They tell you “What you need to do in Africa is talk to the rebels,”Go there and form a political party that will make Africa peaceful. So you can’t go to these people. You fear them; you do not trust them; You live alone in fear, fear, fear!
But my good friends, things are changing in Bradford! The culture of trust is overtaking that that of fear. There are organisations in Bradford that know that Africa is a continent with many countries and that some of these countries -Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Africa and a few others -are each bigger than Europe. They understand the cruelty of rebels and their objectives and methods. These organisations are genuine helpers. Please come out of your hiding and we will show you where the genuine helpers are. Reject the fear culture and educate the Bradford people what you can offer them and together we will fight destitution! Together we will make Bradford a sanctuary for all its residents. Come let us build Bradford through The Bradford Refugee Forum