Refugees have trauma but contribute positively to Yorkshire and the UK - Dr Abdul Bary Malik

The issue of refugees is on the agenda again in Britain and politicians are once again trying to use this for their political gains.

The saddest thing is that our Government is taking extreme steps to tackle this issue. They are ignoring international conventions of human rights and forcing poor refugees to

move to Rwanda. The irony is that the Home Secretary responsible of these policies is the daughter of a refugee who had to leave Uganda and settle in UK.

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I am writing this as a person who became a refugee twice in my life. The first time I was forced to leave my beloved country of birth, Kenya, because of the violence against “non-Africans”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel. Picture: PA.Home Secretary Priti Patel. Picture: PA.
Home Secretary Priti Patel. Picture: PA.

I was forced to leave all my toys of childhood, my belongings and my friends and move to Pakistan.

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The second time I was forced to leave Pakistan because of extreme religious persecution against minority communities. This time I left all my friends of teen years and all belongings that I could not carry with me.

On both occasions I had to rebuild my life and find a house to settle in new country.

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These experiences have left scar on my life and I have always missed my beloved country of birth and my missed childhood days. When I see my many friends who were born and brought up in their towns and cities in UK I feel that they are so blessed that they have at least remained in their homes and not been forced to leave.

In 2003 I was fortunate to have been granted a Fellowship by the Sir Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and I was very fortunate that I had an honour of travelling back to East Africa to do some research inter-communal relations.

When I flew to my town of birth, Kisumu, I went through emotional roller-coaster. All sweet memories of my childhood came gushing back. I moved back to when we all lived in peace, there was no discrimination against anyone, we were all one.

We all celebrated all religious and cultural festivities together. I started remembering the days when monkeys used to snatch our school bags and climb on trees, we had to throw something towards them for them to throw our school bags at us.

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In the evenings hippos used to walk out of Lake Victoria and come to residential areas. We had to use strong torch light to scare them.

I tried to find my childhood friends but I could not because they had all migrated to other parts of the world.

No one wants to leave their home and move to strange countries. Unfortunately political and religious persecution and wars are a main cause of forcing innocent people to migrate and become refugees. Refugees have to go through hardship to escape wars, persecution and torture.

I have been working with refugees for a few years supporting them to settle in UK. The majority want to move back to their homelands once the situation improves. Some are highly educated and qualified people but due to many barriers are willing to find unskilled jobs. Many have lost their loved ones, many have physical injuries and mental scars. Despite all the hurdles, the majority don’t want to rely on state benefits.

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They all want to work and earn money legally and make a contribution to their host country.

Throughout history people were forced to migrate. At one time refugees from European countries were forced to flee wars and move to the Middle East and South East Asia. Over the past 40 years a large number of refugees have been forced to leave their homes and move to Europe from Vietnam, the Middle East, Africa, Balkan States, South East Asia and Eastern Europe due to wars and persecution. Historically the UK, Germany and other European countries have been welcoming refugees from abroad with open hearts. They have supported them to settle in their countries.

In the UK, refugees have settled quickly and made contributions in the health and business sectors. Many have started their own businesses and are even employing people. Places like Bradford have welcomed refugees for more than a century.

It has helped to create a society where people from different countries, of different colours, different shapes, different cultures and faiths and different languages have lived like good neighbours. It has become like a bouquet of flowers with different fragrances and different colours contributing to the beauty

of the city.

I humbly request readers to please remove any misconceptions about refugees and show respect.

- Dr Abdul Bary Malik MBE is a community activist based in Bradford.