Guardian journalist John Harris has written a hard hitting article about the appalling housing conditions in which many people who are seeking asylum are forced to live. His piece helps to demonstrate why companies such as G4S and Serco, which also run detention centres, should not be given contracts for asylum housing in the UK.
John also visited the RAPAR office and spoke to some of our members who have been forced into destitution by the asylum system.
Read his article here - the interviews at RAPAR are covered in the final part of the article.
RAPAR is to team up with film-maker Jason Wingard and producer Hannah Stevenson to screen In Another Life, an acclaimed feature film which tells the story of refugees who lived in the Calais camp known as "The Jungle".
Screenings are currently taking place around the country. Details can be found here along with a trailer of the film.
We wanted people in the UK to think differently about refugees and the refugee crisis. In the British press, we were being shown pictures of people clambering on to trucks and journalists were using words like swarm that de-humanised individuals and created fear and mistrust. It turned thousands of individual stories in to one mass problem and promoting inequality and inciting racism.
Jason Wingard, the director, did not believe what he was being told and wanted to find out the truth. He had seen documentaries about the jungle encampment, but due to the amount of news coverage, they seemed to be washing over people. He felt a story where the audience was forced to stay with one person’s journey for 90 minutes might resonate better with an audience.
We wanted people to put themselves in a refugee’s shoes and consider what would they do if they were forced to leave their home. What would they expect if the tables were turned?
The film was shot in 3 stages. The first stage was to take 2 actors out to Calais and to film them in the Calais jungle. Whilst there, we made friends with refugees in the camp and listened to their stories. We filmed as much as we could but we had to film in more of a documentary fashion.
The second stage was to build a set on an anti fracking camp so we had more time to cover longer scenes and the third stage was to complete the film back in Calais just before the camp was demolished.
During the time between the first and second shoot, Mima, a refugee from Ethiopia that we had filmed with, managed to cross to the UK and was granted asylum. Mima risked his life boarding a train, clinging to the undercarriage in the station to remain undetected by police then as the whistle blew, quickly scrambled on to the roof, avoiding the live electrical wires overhead and accessing through an over head safety door. Mima joined us on the second leg of the shoot and became one of our central characters.
Mima’s story is just one of the many we heard while on the camp. We were committed to producing a film with integrity and to tell a truthful account of people’s experiences. The central characters are fictional but everything that happens to them in the film can be tracked back to the true accounts we either witnessed or were told while in the camp.
Mima was a journalist in his own country. He was arrested and tortured by the authorities. He experienced enormous emotional trauma on his journey to the UK and has since started to get his life back on track.
Having undergone unfathomable emotional distress; refugees or displaced people then have to start all over again in a new country. Starting over can be as much of a trauma as the journey itself.
The work that RAPAR do is essential to enable people to begin again.
Basic human rights, such as bank accounts, legal advice, housing information and access to work are essential to enable displaced people to contribute equally in a reciprocal way to UK society.
In Another Life shows the first stage of the Adnan’s journey. The second, equally challenging stage is embracing and enhancing a new culture once asylum has been granted. People need to be empowered so they can start their life again.