- oD 50.50
About Jennifer Allsopp
Jennifer Allsopp is a regular contributor and commissioning editor at openDemocracy 50.50. She has worked on a number of research projects at the universities of Exeter, Birmingham and Oxford including on asylum appeals, poverty and youth migration. She has also worked with a range of refugee and migrant organisations. She is a PhD candidate at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention and Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford.
Articles by Jennifer Allsopp
Greek election 2015
Charlie Hebdo attack
Yemen - easy to get wrong
No to TTIP
Meteoric rise of Islamic State
"Ok, now give me youthful enthusiasm!"
We all beam up at the camera as the local journalist takes photos of us preparing banners for Refugee Week; balloons, laughter and colourful paint. ‘Maybe we could paint ‘Refugee Week' on one of your faces?' The irony kills me; reluctant for a foreign face to appear in relation with this issue unless they are a criminal or footballer, a pretty white face is a lovely stage. For one day only it will be me, the lucky one to be branded with the colourful stamp of ‘refugee' while I hold a balloon next to me to represent a whole sub-population of faceless individuals. And why is this the case? Firstly, for many misguided people my face seems to fit the image of community in a way that of a foreigner does not. Furthermore, refugees themselves are often reluctant to come forward in the public eye and challenge this, and who can blame them given the public backlash these issues often face: it is a vicious circle...
Rosemary and Zrinka have raised some extremely important questions - not only ‘who cares for who', but what makes us care, and how we choose to express it. I would like to try and shed some light on the second two questions in light of my experience campaigning on asylum issues.
It seems to be a question of proximity, both in terms of coming into contact with the issues and our ability to act. People are more willing to deal with refugee and asylum issues when it is a question of isolated acts of human kindness; we find it easier to perceive an asylum seeker as a charity case than a dignified human being with ‘political baggage'. The same difficulty is encountered with many other social issues, especially homelessness: however complicated the problem is, a small donation is a concrete step towards a simple (and deserving) end, whilst interacting with the system is an up-hill struggle which rarely boasts such direct rewards.
On Monday night I left Oxford Town Hall after a Refugee Week event totally distressed by the stories I had heard; Margerie and Innocent Empi, two refugees from Uganda and the DRC, journalists Melanie McFadyean and Melissa Benn, and Tariq Ali had all spoken about how we treat those seeking asylum in the UK. I was angry, ashamed and driven to act. I thought, if only everyone had heard what I have heard tonight; if only everyone could feel what I am feeling...
‘I love spring fruits.'
‘Yeah me too, but I miss fresh fruit here, and plantain!'
‘Ah, OK, you're in for a treat - see here, just left of the Co-op, up the street outside Salvation Army, the best plantain you'll get outside Jamaica, innit. Tell her I sent you.'
The man winks up at me, marking a thick X on the map which he has penned of Bletchley Town Centre. It sits next to a poem we have written together, juxtaposing our different visions of spring to reveal an assortment of diverse experiences and creative minds. We are three Oxford University students and four detainees in Campsfield House from Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan and Jamaica, and this is our shared experience of spring: