Asylum seekers and refugees fighting to overcome loneliness and isolation after being settled in Leeds bravely shared their personal stories at an event inspired by Jo Cox MP.
A long way from homes they have fled, often in terror, in search of a better life or temporary sanctuary, asylum seekers and refugees can feel desperate as they grapple with a new language and culture, and not knowing where to turn to for emotional and practical help.
Today’s event held by the Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service at Shine Harehills gave a voice to those individuals in order to raise awareness of how communities, and not just government, can help the destitute become active members of society and not feel overcome by loneliness in a new country.
Labour councillor for Kirkstall, Fiona Venner, is the chief executive of the Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service and hosted the event.
She said: “A lot of what we do is problem solving because of an unforgiving system but often there are underlying issues of asylum seekers and refugees feeling lost and so we try to connect them with opportunities to talk to people.”
Asylum seekers told of their own struggles, of how they were learning to speak English to better connect with people around them, whilst trying to deal emotionally with the reasons for leaving their home countries, living off government benefits of £36 a week, and how where they are temporarily housed can affect their ability to adapt.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, who co-chairs the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, said the spotlight on refugee and asylum seeker communities honoured the legacy of the murdered Batley and Spen MP.
“It now falls on the shoulders of all of us to take forward these issues,” she said. “The solution is within all of us.”
She urged communities to reach out to the vulnerable and said learning English was key to alleviating loneliness among asylum seekers and refugees.