MigrantVoice on refuge

Grace Davies
9 June 2008

Asylum is a subject that is rarely out of the headlines in Britain. Immigration, a constant topic of debate in Westminster. But increasingly, a space for informed, open debate of the relevant issues has been squeezed out by widening divisions leading to a "toxic stand-off".

At openDemocracy we believe that debate changes minds, changes policy and ultimately leads to change in practice. With this as our goal, we will be running an editorial project, MigrantVoice on refuge to bring unheard voices, new ideas and testimony of the lived experiences of refugees in Britain to the attention of our readership and into the public debate during Refugee Week (16-22 June 2008).

In preparation for this project, and through interviews and testimonies gathered from refugees and asylum seekers, campaigners and advocacy specialists in the field over the past weeks, it became clear that we could only scratch the surface of the huge range of obstacles, barriers to integration, and everyday struggles for survival facing often traumatised and persecuted people on arrival in the UK. It was also obvious that the huge contribution to local and regional communities of a wide spectrum of skilled, creative, enthusiastic and educated people goes largely unnoticed, and definitively under-reported.

In this multiauthored blog, we hope to bring unheard voices to the forefront of the debate, and to create a space of discussion of the relevant issues surrounding asylum in the UK today. Wide-ranging topics of education, the right to work, legal aid, integration, health, the intersection with migration, destitution, coverage in the media and the attitude of politicians along with an analysis of the concept of asylum or sanctuary itself raise useful questions for those on all sides, for both the givers and receivers of asylum.

This is a particularly useful time to hold an open discussion, as the Independent Asylum Commission, following 18 months of research and public opinion gathering publishes its findings over the summer. Have your say on openDemocracy, hear from those directly affected by the system, and be part of a vital debate.

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