Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials

Figure 1: Article from British Tabloid “The Sun” (12 Jan 2008)

THE majority of Brits believe asylum seekers and immigrants are taking advantage of the Human Rights Act. (The Sun) In a government poll of 1,965 people, 57 per cent agreed that too many people, mostly asylum seekers and other `foreigners`, take advantage of the Act, while 40 per cent agreed it has caused more problems than it has solved. One in 10 also believe criminals and lawyers are taking advantage of the Act. The report presents the findings from the Human Rights Insight Project which was conducted by the Department for Constitutional Affairs - now the Ministry of Justice from December 2004 to May 2006. Respect The research also says people believe there is a lack of shared values in Britain. A total of 56 per cent agreed that “this country lacks a shared sense of rights and responsibilities” and 94 per cent agreed that “we need to treat each other with more respect”. The report says the concept of having a law that deals with human rights in Britain is also overwhelmingly popular. It states: “In general we may conclude that most people support the concept of both human rights and the Human Rights Act, but see some problems with how the legislation currently operates.” In November, Justice Secretary Jack Straw defended the Act, which has been blamed for preventing dangerous criminals being deported.


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials
Figure 2: Thanks For My Life Free From Terror: A Real Asylum Seeker Terror in her war-torn land drove Selima to flee Somalia without her young children four years ago. "Men forced their way into our house and fired bullets and they raped my aunt. Five or six men raping one woman," says Selima, 27, quietly. "My uncle was killed. Afterwards, my mother said: 'Don't worry, at least you didn't get killed.' I think it would have been better to die." As a girl, Selima had thought her life was mapped out for her. "I knew nothing about politics," she says. "My friends and I were more interested in nail polish and what names we were going to give our children." But when she was 15, a bloody civil war broke out. Her brother was shot dead. "We became used to death," she says. "People got killed in front of you all the time." She married at 19. Her first son, Hussan, was born in 1996, and Hussein followed in 1998. But in 1999, after her husband was beaten and escaped to Ethiopia, her mother persuaded her to flee. She says: "It was agonising leaving my family but I believe I would have been killed if I stayed." In 2000 she arrived in Britain via Ethiopia and moved into a cousin's flat in North London. She says: "I was lucky because I spoke a little English and I had an She address, which meant I could get food vouchers, which were £38 a week.” terribly, but then a visit to Southampton changed her life. "I thought it was a really beautiful and peaceful place," she says: "I was suddenly filled with an ambition to achieve something.” She turned to Refugee Action and the National Asylum Support Service and was offered a studio flat in Southampton. Last July, she was granted indefinite leave to stay here. She has found part-time work and is waiting for her British passport, which will enable her to bring her children over. "I will be a mother again," she says, her eyes lighting up. "Many British people think all asylum-seekers just want to be here to get things for free. They don't see the real people behind this image or hear the stories like mine.

studied full-time, learning English and computer studies. She missed her family


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials
"I am grateful to Britain for the chances it has given me and for a life away from terror."


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials
Figure 3: "All night we wait in tents for the day to come. This place is very dangerous, bandits attack us at night. I am showing the frightened faces of the children in our camp." Binti Aden Denle, aged 12, from Ethiopia


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials

Figure 4: "My painting is about my `Karen` people (from Burma) who had to run away from our homes to find safety in Thailand." Saw Mae Da Eh, aged 15


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials
Figure 5: "I lived in Kismayo until the fighting became very bad. Then I left with my mother, brothers and sisters. We had to pay to go on this boat with many, many other people. At night we were cold with the wind and during the day we were burnt by the sun." Said Abdi Said, aged 14, from Somalia


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials
Figure 6: Refugees in Japan
(From It is a little known fact that more than 300 refugees ask for protection each year in Japan.

What happens to them once they arrive here? The reality is quite far from the new life they dreamed of. When they arrive, they don't understand, speak, read or write the complex Japanese language - let alone comprehend Japanese laws. They have nothing to give them a sense of security: no homes, jobs or friends to depend on. In such isolation and uncertainty, refugees have to survive while waiting for their refugee status to be granted. It usually takes a half year minimum, with some cases taking more than 5 years.


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials
Figure 7: Story of a Man From Burma (JAR - Japan Association for Refugees)
Eighteen years ago, I left my country to protect myself from persecution. I was in danger for my life because of my pro-democratic activity, protesting the oppressive military government of Burma. In the early days, the desperate struggle with my family to survive in Japan seemed endless, without any hope. I felt desolate. Not knowing anything about asylum application procedures, I was suddenly arrested by the immigration authorities, in front of my little daughter's eyes on January 3, 2003. We were separated for one year and 9 months. While detained, I came to know about JAR. Thanks to the support of JAR staff and lawyers in applying for asylum, I was finally approved for Status of Residence in Japan. Living in Japan has never been my goal, but the approval of legal status to stay did give us hope for the future. I am most grateful to those who supported me and my family.


Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials
Figure 8: Eri`s Opinion
It was a TV program about the horrible refugee conditions in Rwanda, which I saw in high school, that brought me into this work. Throughout my studies I learned about refugees around the world, I especially became aware of refugees living in the shadows in Japan. I can't forget one incident: A refugee, one of our clients, was taken away to detention in front of me. I felt powerless, and broke down in tears. The cries of refugees still ring in my ears: "I'm forbidden to work!" "No one can solve my problems!" "I have no clue what to do or how to live here!" In these painful moments I have been fueled with outrage and determination to seek a way to improve the lives of refugees. Furthermore, I have been encouraged greatly by refugees' enormous resilience where I would have already given up. My dream is to see everybody in the world live their own lives, having the right to decide their own fate in any setting. Living in Japan, I feel a responsibility toward refugees who are living right here. I think the first significant step forward is not to ignore the sufferings of refugees, but to take action, making small changes around us. Refugee assistance is so worthwhile I am willing to dedicate my life to it.

Eri Ishikawa 10

Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials
Figure 9: Refugee Film Festival ( In celebration of World Refugee Day on 20th June 2008, UNHCR and Japan for UNHCR proudly present the 3rd Annual Tokyo Refugee Film Festival.

Message from Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador: “Film is an important medium to introduce the many aspects of the lives and circumstances of refugees across the world, and through this entertainment vehicle, create better awareness and understanding.” [ Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador ] 11

Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Reading Materials