Having never really got to grips with geography or modern studies at school, I must admit I questioned the Council’s wisdom in approaching me but as the focus of this year’s event is Home and what it means to refugees now making a life in Glasgow, I thought I would at least be able to contribute to this having lived in the fair city for 20 years now. 20 years? How the hell did that happen?
Myself, John Byrne and a few other folks who I didn’t have the opportunity to meet were invited to ‘interview’ a few refugees who now live in Glasgow and are making a new home here, leaving behind an unimaginable troubled past in the country they had to flee. The interviews were recorded and I believe can be found on YouTube and various other places on the internet.
It was a quite unique experience to take part in. I visited a couple of women in their flats in Glasgow and they proceeded to give me their own personal account of what life had been like for them since arriving here. Despite the fact that they may have no possessions to speak of, have family remaining in their home country and an uncertain future, these women were both extremely positive about and extremely appreciative of their current position. What they wanted out of life was by the standards of the West modest but their appreciation of it apparent. They were both studying or planning to study, with high profile jobs or achievements already behind them, and with plans of work helping future refugees in their sights.
Having somewhat disappointingly been warned of Glasgow being ‘racist and dangerous’ before they arrived here they happily have both had a very positive experience settling in, finding the city’s people to be consistently helpful, approachable, supportive and sympathetic to their position. The media does have a lot to answer for in my opinion prolonging negative coverage of supposed racist attitudes in Scotland, and the UK for that matter, but the accounts of these 2 women would support the fact that Glasgow is a wonderfully welcoming city and one that they now happily see as home.
It’s only too easy to just have a rough awareness of these issues, gradually borne through media and third party experience, but I must admit that to actually take part in something has made the whole reality of the situation much more tangible and digestible to me.
If you fancy taking part, going along to one of the many events or just reading a bit more to find out the background of many of our country’s refugees take a look at the Refugee Week Events list and Simple Acts campaign.