Friday, 31 August 2012

Mayoral Reception for Refugees

Ethiopian Refugees and Brighton in Exile at Mayoral Reception
 Brighton Voices in Exile, based at St Mary Magdalen's, Brighton report:
Representatives from a unique refugee community in Brighton & Hove attended a reception at the Mayor’s Parlour on earlier this summer to mark the fact that they can now apply for British citizenship.

In 2006, Brighton & Hove City Council decided to accept 79 people from Ethiopia, including infants and children, as part of a humanitarian effort to provide a safe haven for a group of refugees, most from the Oromo ethnic group, who had been forced to leave Ethiopia for political reasons.

The council was approached by the United Nations as part of a Refugee Resettlement Programme and decided to help the group as a one-off gesture. The families were living in a large refugee camp in Kenya and some were in hiding. Arrangements were made for them to enter the UK before they left Kenya.

Around 20 of the former refugees attended the event, together with some of those that helped them, including a representative from the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Since coming to Brighton & Hove, the refugees have studied English and many have found work in the city. Members of the Oromo group have formed a community association to provide opportunities to socialise with each other and with the host community. By setting up a group like this, the traumatic effects of their past experiences and the isolation of settling in a new country have been lessened for the refugee families. With the help of specialist teaching staff many of the children have done well at school and have progressed on to further study.

Councillor Anne Meadows, mayor of Brighton & Hove and Councillor Bill Randall, leader of the council, welcomed the group.

Councillor Randall said: “The refugees have shared experiences that thankfully most of us will never go through. In fear of their lives because of their ethnicity or their political views, they were forced to flee their homeland. The city is proud to have offered them a safe place to stay, a welcome into our community and the opportunity of a new start.”

Brighton Voices In Exile has played a vital role in supporting the community with their Citizenship applications to the Home Office. In 2011, Brighton Voices In Exile became regulated by the Office Of Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) to give immigration advice. Our first officially funded legal project was that of supporting the Oromo Community to apply for British Citizenship. Brighton & Hove City Council and the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration funded Brighton Voices In Exile to run the project.

Zilla Bowell, the UK Border Agency’s Director of Asylum, said: “The UK has a proud tradition of offering protection to those who need it. The Gateway Protection Programme demonstrates the Government’s commitment to supporting the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR’s) global effort to provide lasting solutions to the plight of refugees and sharing the refugee burden. Nationally, we have committed to resettle a total of 750 refugees in 2012/13.”

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