There’s a lot of misleading information about Asylum Seekers, get the facts in this great DOCUMENT . There’s a big difference between an Economic Migrant, a Refugee & an Asylum Seeker.
An Economic Migrant is: Someone who has moved to another country to work.
A Refugee- A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
An Asylum Seeker is: A person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum (protection) in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded.
There is also no such thing as an ‘illegal’ or ‘bogus’ asylum seeker. Asylum Seekers who have fled war, torture or persecution are looking for a place of safety. What do we have left if we have no compassion? Can we not learn from history!? We must educate ourselves. We can’t rely on the media to do it for us.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” MARTIN NIEMÖLLER
We’ve had an excellent week working with the Stockton community to develop Free to Stay at ARC Stockton Arts Centre. As we develop our new show about belonging it’s interesting that the moment we step through the doors of ARC Mike and I feel right at home. The whirlwind of people in the foyer and cafe attending shows, workshops, events and just meeting friends for tea makes the building buzz morning through to evening. It’s the sort of environment that makes you feel safe and comfortable and well looked after, feelings that the participants of this project have said that they often feel without.
During our development of the show in Stockton we have been visiting some brilliant groups and organisations who are supporting Asylum Seekers and Refugees to settle into the Community. Settling into a new country, with a new language and different culture is not easy at first, our time on the Thai-Myanmar border has taught us that, but when you are fleeing war and persecution, a community like Stockton appears to be sanctuary for many. There are so many local groups and individuals going out of their way to welcome those who feel on the outskirts, we have been blown away by the determination and compassion of those who have dedicated their lives to others in this town. As we were discovering this large support network we did have to ask ourselves, does a show like Free to Stay even need to be made? After much exploration and meeting with people who had fled to the UK after being forced to leave their own country for various unimaginable reasons, the answer was a very definite yes. The importance of making this show couldn’t be more urgent, this subject must be spoken about.
One man we met in Stockton, an Asylum Seeker who had been sent to the UK after he fled his country due to war, was hoping to find refuge with his pregnant wife but instead he has had a very difficult time since he has arrived. He was thrown into a detention centre just outside of London for 6 months being forced apart from his wife. He describes the entire experience as “inhumane”. He told us, “We were locked in our room from 7pm until 7am with no windows to open, no fresh air to breathe. The guards intimidate you, they treat you like a prisoner. If an Asylum meeting clashes with dinner, you do not get fed and go hungry. In that place, people are afraid to speak out when treated like animals, they are made to believe they will be deported.” The man informed us that while in transit to a meeting at a different building the car stopped for a toilet break, “I was humiliated, they handcuffed me and dragged me to the toilet, I told the guard ‘I have not done anything wrong, there is no need to use handcuffs’. He ignored me and I had to follow his orders”. Is this fair treatment of people who have often fled horrific situations such as war zones, rape those who have recently been torn apart from their families? Is this fair treatment? This man says, “The UK goes to other countries and fights for other people’s human rights whether they have been asked or not, what about the human rights of people in this country who are pleading for help?”
Through a series of workshops and conversations discussing the themes we built relationships that have had a big impact on the show’s development and as we usually do, we held a sharing to perform some of the material that we have generated at ARC to get feedback before we continue the development next week in Leeds. We were thrilled at the turn out and support from Stockton and are so grateful to the people who have been helping with our shows. Our audience included some of ARC’s staff, asylum seekers, activists, we were also joined by groups who have experienced homelessness that we worked with in Eden’s development. All came along to see the material so far and we had an informal post-show discussion to discuss the issues raised. One audience member who had been involved in the Path to Eden Project last year said “[The show] might be about statelessness, but being controlled by the government effects everyone, the government treat us like we don’t belong”.
Thank you to ARC and the brilliant community of Stockton, we can’t wait to come and perform the full show of Free to Stay on the 9th September!
Exploring Life Without Nationality
Wed 8 July 2015 11am-3pm
Fri 10 July 2015 4pm-5pm
Displace Yourself Theatre are currently working to develop a new performance, Free to Stay, which explores themes of statelessness and what it means to have (or not have) a nationality.
Come along, meet with like-minded people, share some skills and have some fun!
This free event is for those who have experienced statelessness and /or seeking nationality, and those who work or volunteer with refugees and asylum seekers. You are welcome to join us for some creative activities and an informal discussion surrounding the themes of the show at any time on Wednesday 8th July, between 11am – 3pm. Participants are also invited to see some of our show, Free to Stay, and talk to us about what they saw – on Friday 10th July at 4pm. If you would like to bring a group please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org with a name, a contact number, which day(s) you would like to attend, any special dietary requirements (Wednesday), the number of people you will be bringing.
ARC STOCKTON ARTS CENTRE
Dovecot Street Stockton on Tees TS18 1LL
We are happy to announce that we have been successful with our most recent Grants for The Arts bid and the R&D of our new project Free To Stay will be supported by Arts Council England! We are over the moon and looking forward to working with all involved. Free to Stay is a project exploring statelessness and what it means to have, or not have, a nationality. We will be taking the project to communities across the UK including Barnsley, Bradford, Leeds, Teeside and Camden to name a few, asking what identity means to you. We will be working with people that have first hand experience of statelessness, facilitating workshop events, leading debates and gathering real-life accounts. We have been building relationships with organisations and groups that offer support to Asylum Seekers and Refugees and are delighted to be able to continue to offer creative learning opportunities exploring the themes of the show in the areas we visit.
We are pinching ourselves when we look at the list of partners who are supporting the project and whose expertise has already been invaluable, a massive thanks to you all: Arts Council England, ARC Stockton Arts Centre, The Civic Barnsley, Theatre in the Mill Bradford, Slung Low’s HUB and The Carriageworks Leeds.
So here we are. This is our first blog as a new theatre company and with our recent success of receiving Arts Council Funding to develop our debut show EDEN (Yes if you’re wondering we are still doing impromptu dances every time we remember this news), for some this is the start of our journey. However, this moment to us has been long-awaited for and a dream that on those doubtful, stressful, “is this actually any good at all” days seemed impossible.
Our actual journey began in 2009 when Mike and I first worked on a show together at East 15 Acting School in a piece of new writing. He replaced another actor who unexpectedly had to leave the production and as my directing debut, this upheaval left me on shaky ground. However, Mike’s positivity and talent as a collaborator put me at ease immediately; Within a few rehearsals I was determined that one day we would devise our own theatre together.
It has been said by those that know me that once I have an idea, I wont let anything get in the way of it, and I suppose in this situation, well it’s kinda true. Three years later Mike and I got married, and we began our plans to start our own theatre company sharing ideals of using theatre to raise questions about this ever-changing world.
Two days after our wonderfully fun and magical wedding, we flew to Thailand on a one way ticket to begin Displace Yourself’s journey. We didn’t know where in the world we would end up or what adventures were going to unfold, but we knew that we shared the same goal: We wanted to use arts as a way to contribute to vulnerable communities. It sounded simple and our excitement left us naive to the stories we would hear and the challenges we would encounter. Our travels led us to a community on the Thai-Burma/Myanmar border, a small town home to many refugees fleeing war and poverty in Burma/Myanmar. We ran drama classes in a local school set up by an NGO. For many of the children this was their first experience in “Theatre” and the first time they had heard the term “Actor”. To teach this entirely new concept to children in a class where the language was split between Thai, Mon, Karen and English was challenging at times, but to see these children enjoying expressing themselves through drama (for most their first time) was a delight and it was here I met some of the most inspiring people who have changed my world forever.
My frustration with the inequality people face everyday and the human suffering caused by power-hungry governments infuriated me as I saw the damage left by a country still full of despair. I was outraged (and I could write a whole other blog about this topic alone) but something very special about the positivity and endless courage in those who were living this nightmare was so beautiful, that it was more powerful than any corrupt government could ever be. This gave me hope. My anger became something else, a powerful devotion to do whatever I could to raise awareness of the suffering in under represented communities wherever they are in the world and ask questions about how we all can do our bit to reduce this suffering. This community has taught me that we all have the ability to make a difference, however sour a situation may be and however insignificant we feel; This is at the heart of what we want to achieve through Displace Yourself Theatre, and something we are trying to encourage through our Path To Eden Project.
We are about to begin a new adventure as we embark on our residency at ARC, Stockton Arts Centre tomorrow. I would be naive to think that the doubtful, stressful, “is this actually any good at all” days are now behind us, in fact they are only truly beginning. But as we venture into the unknown, the displaced yet powerful community in South East Asia taught me a lesson that I will hold close whenever things seem unreachable: To do great things, all we need is hope.