Thursday, June 19, 2008

Told you we could change the world!

Do you remember Meltem Avcil?
(See my posts here and here.)

Meltem personified the evil and inhuman practice prevalent in this country of treating vulnerable refugee children like unsolicited junk mail.

Yet Meltem was one of the lucky ones, comparatively speaking.
In spite of the appalling horrors she was forced to endure at the hands of uncaring politicians and bureaucrats, her case was widely publicised.

This week I received an email from PAIH, who had championed Meltem's case.

I am writing to you because you supported the campaign for Meltem Avcil to stay in the UK with her mum after the Home Office tried to deport her IN November 2007. I just want you to know that Meltem Avcil has now got indefinite leave to remain and is living in Newcastle with her mum. Meltem says she is dead grateful for all the help she got from you and from people in Doncaster, the UK and elsewhere. She is living in Newcastle with her mum and they are quite happy there. She is now at school in year 9 and is glad to be back at school although she misses Doncaster.

Thanks again for your help. If you would like to donate money to our campaigns or humanitarian work please go to – thanks!

Now, let me ask you a question.

Do you honestly believe that without the huge amount of public pressure brought to bear on the authorities Meltem would still be here?

You did that!

All of you who signed petitions, sent emails, publicised her plight on your blogs ...

We're privileged to have this power.
A small amount of time, effort and focus from us can actually save lives.

Knowing this, can we possibly justify NOT speaking out and acting when we hear of a case like Meltem's?

For an inspiring example of just how much difference ordinary people - people like you and me - can make, please watch this video.
It may make you cry.
It certainly left me in bits.
But our tears will help no one.

Watch and cry by all means ...
And then work out just what you can do to make a difference.

See here for the full Guardian article with more inspiring examples.

And here are just a few facts and figures:

There are between 283,500 and 450,000 failed asylum seekers in the UK.

At least 26,000 failed asylum seekers are destitute, living on Red Cross food parcels.
23,430 new claims for asylum were lodged in 2007 and 73% were refused.

Last year, 13,595 failed asylum seekers including their dependents were deported.

During 2006, 3,500 adults and 1,300 children were detained in dawn raids.

Around 27,000 people are put in detention centres every year.

There have been at least 12 suicides in detention centres.

The UK takes 3% of the worldwide refugee population and ranks 14th in the EU for the number of asylum applications

No one monitors what happens to people who are returned.


Unknown said...

you know this is such a huge and complex issue - and having seen the impact of asylum seekers in SA recently, I find myself confronted with so my questions. Here, as you probably know the millions of refugees - political and economic - suddenly found themselves the victims of the most rampant and violent xenophobia. The cry went out from local people, why are these people here, why has our government let them in, they steal our jobs, our homes... When I posted about it, responses indicated that people all around the world were noticing incidents of xenophobia in their own countries - France, Italy, the UK, the US.
I am not sure I know what the answer is to the plight of these people - I know many of those here would like nothing more than to go home - only home is not safe. But then again, it seems nowhere is really safe for them. Where, I wonder, does one start to put this right? That, I think is the question that lies at the heart of all this.
If this sounds like an entirely analytical response, it's not meant to - it's just that I've spent the past few weeks thinking so hard about this situation - mostly from an SA perspective, admittedly, but also because I provided refuge for two refugees during the violence. Makes one really sit up and think.

Unknown said...

Good to see that messages do get to the right people. We don't put up with it when this happens in other countries so why on earth should we stand by and do nothing when it is happening on our doorstep.

Unknown said...

That is good news Debi and the article in the Guardian makes for thoughtful reading. These people are a good counter to all the negative comments that you hear people make: racist and xenophobic. It's good to know that there are people who care and are willing to help!

Debi said...

Ab Van - it seems to me to be both complex and yet so simple at the same time. The bottom line always seems to be fear and the need to search for scapegoats. Some things you just KNOW are wrong and cases like Meltem's fall into this category.

Minx - I hear in the news that Cornwall isn't immune from xenophobia either, but right-thinking (and feeling) people are making their voices heard there too.

Cailleach - the chips are down and the battle lines are drawn. We can choose which side we're on and then do something about it. Meltem's case proves we're not powerless to effect change.