The ‘I am a Refugee’ campaign celebrates the contribution refugees have made, and continue to make, to life in the UK. It reminds the public that those who are given sanctuary give so much back in return. By illustrating the diversity of the refugee population, the array of experiences they have had, and the dedication, creativity, skills and knowledge that they bring to the UK, this powerful visual campaign helps to create a positive and balanced debate on refugee issues. The campaign launched on 20th June 2016 for World Refugee Day, part of Refugee Week 2016. The campaign has three elements:
Ambassadors’ Plaques on Buildings
To launch the ‘I am a Refugee’ campaign, during Refugee Week 2016 nine plaques were placed on buildings across the UK where selected refugees have worked or studied. The plaques were inspired by the English Heritage blue plaques that recognise notable men and women who have lived and worked in the UK. Building on this idea, we wanted to recognise and celebrate refugee contributions.
The nine plaques included:
You can view the plaques in the Gallery
A further 47 plaques were displayed in a striking art exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral in London from 20th to 20th July 2016.
Canon Pastor Tricia Hillas of St Paul’s Cathedral said:
“We are deeply honoured to be able to host this important exhibition which invites us to listen to the stories and celebrate the achievements of those who have entered the UK as refugees; our friends and neighbours, brothers and sisters who, through their unique contributions, enhance our society and our lives. Barbara Brown Taylor says a command runs through the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures like the refrain of a hymn. Its gist is: ‘You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt’. Former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs has said that in the Hebrew Bible there is one verse which speaks of loving your neighbour as oneself but in 36 places we are commanded to love the stranger. Sachs explains: ‘the supreme challenge is to see God’s image in the one who is not in our image…only then can we see past our own reflections to the God we did not make up’ Now is the time to reach out to one another, to truly see one another, to recognise our common humanity and to remind ourselves that we are incomplete without one another.”
This website provides a forum to view all the plaques digitally and read more information about the participants. The website also contains information about refugee issues and creates a platform for all refugees to tell their stories and celebrate their contribution to the UK. Refugees can create their own plaques using the ‘Create Your Plaque’ function. Members of the public who support the campaign and welcome refugees can also create a plaque to show their support. Go to ‘Create Your Plaque’.
The UK has a long and proud history of providing safety and refuge to people fleeing violence and persecution. Refugees who have made the UK their home have made significant contributions to the arts, science, sports, commerce, industry and social care, as well as the communities they live in. Each has a unique story to tell. In light of the ongoing global ‘refugee crisis’ the campaign is needed now more than ever. It acts as a powerful reminder that the men, women and children who have sought safety in the UK have shaped our society, culture and history and demonstrates that when refugees are welcomed they are able to thrive and contribute.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is an independent national charity established in 1967. Since its inception, JCWI has promoted justice and fairness in immigration, nationality and asylum law and policy. JCWI also actively lobbies and campaigns for changes in law and practice. The organisation's overarching objective is to ensure immigrants and refugees are treated fairly by promoting their human, economic and civil rights within an international human rights framework.