Refugee Week 2013: Destitution and homelessness are grim reality of many asylum seekers, say campaigners

By Oliver Rhodes

Destitution and homelessness are just two of the grim realities that many asylum seekers face, according to Manchester campaigners ahead of Refugee Week.

A Manchester-based arts development organisation is orchestrating two major events to celebrate Refugee Week, which runs June 17-23.

Community Arts North West (CAN) is supporting Heart’s Core’s multi-arts performance and another musical collaboration between Royal North College of Music (RNCM) and internationally-flavoured musicians.

CAN creative producer Katherine Rogers believes the asylum issue is a controversial political topic and insists many refugees live in poverty.

“The British public is pretty tolerant, but the impression is asylum seekers and refugees get privileges – this isn’t true,” she said.

“They are not allowed to work and their access to benefits is extremely limited with many living on as little as £5 a day.

“If their asylum claim is refused, many are forced into destitution and homelessness – women are particularly vulnerable in this process.”

Directed by award-winning playwright and poet Cheryl Martin, Heart’s Core consists of 40 refugee women and they will perform at Z-Arts Centre on June 15.

The group also received funding from Manchester City Council, Arts Council England, Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales and the Network for Social Change.

“Heart’s Core gives women participants the chance to speak their own truth and share stories of joy, hardship and exceptional courage,” Ms Rogers added.

There is Kurdish singing, Persian percussion, African Gospel and Manchester rap playing under the banner of Manchester International Roots Orchestra in the second performance.

The musical concoction, which includes the rhyming skills of Manchester artist My Name Is B, will be heard at the RNCM on June 22.

Refugee Council are hosting events across the country and advocacy manager Lisa Doyle believes embracing refugees and their values is essential.

“We see Refugee Week is an important time to raise awareness of refugee issues and the contribution that refugees make to the UK,” she said.

“Refugee Week events provide an opportunity to bring communities together and promote a wider understanding of the lives and experiences of refugees.”

Picture courtesy of Deadly Sirus, with thanks.

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