Refugee Week 2021 runs from 14 to 21 June and World Refugee Day is on 20 June. It was founded in 1998 to celebrate the contribution, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Throughout the week, there are a range of activities to bring refugee and non-refugee communities together including art, cultural, sporting and educational events as well as campaigning activities.
The national launch event on Monday 14 June is in collaboration with Coventry City of Culture and can be joined online. The theme for this year’s event is ‘we cannot walk alone’ (a quote from Martin Luther King) and is “is an invitation to extend your hand to someone new. Someone who is outside your current circle, has had an experience you haven’t, or is fighting for a cause you aren’t yet involved in”.
Small, simple acts in support of refugees
Refugee Week is promoting a number of simple acts whereby individuals or groups can undertake small acts in support of refugees or to raise their own awareness. These include watching films (available here), reading books, having conversations with refugees, or with non-refugees about what it might be like to be a refugee, and singing.
Hear Me Out, a charity that takes music into detention centres, is inviting choirs everywhere to learn, sing and film ‘Never Give Up’, a powerful track written in the Dover immigration removal centre. Hear Me Out will make a film from all the contributions and anyone can take part in singing over the course of the week and upload on social media with the hashtag #SimpleActs and #ShareaSong.
As part of the Great Get Together, the Jo Cox Foundation is promoting the Great Walk Together on 20 June where refugees and non-refugees can walk together in friendship and post their walks and photos using the hashtags #WeCannotWalkAlone and #MoreinCommon.
Because of lockdown, in-person events have been difficult to organise this year and many are online. This has however meant that the reach can be extended beyond local areas. In Wakefield (from 7 June) there is an exhibition at the Art House of artwork produced under lockdown and will include work from Studio of Sanctuary, an artistic and creative project between refugees and asylum seekers and the wider community.
In Bradford, as part of the Intercultured Festival, Bradford Cathedral steps will host a one-day art installation of shoes on 20 June. Visitors to the exhibition can donate a pair of shoes which will go to refugee charities later. There is also a ceremony on the steps at 5pm with poetry, prayers and messages of solidarity.
On 19 June (11am – 3pm) the city hosts a Virtual Reality Showcase event in which immersive technology, using VR headsets, will enable participants ‘partake’ in cultural events from many nations. As numbers are limited please contact to make a booking: [email protected].
Refugee Week is also time for campaigning and action. It is a good time to write to your MP or Home Secretary Priti Patel to seek a more humane and compassionate approach to providing asylum in the UK.