Refugees share encounters with MPs - Refugee Council
June 21, 2007

Refugees share encounters with MPs

The contribution made by refugees to communities across the UK was recognised by senior parliamentarians at an event at the House of Commons to mark Refugee Week.

Refugee Week is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities.  The event in Westminster was organised by the Refugee Council, the UK’s leading refugee charity, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, a cross-party group of MPs and Peers who work on refugee issues.

The idea was to promote ‘encounters’ between refugees and their political representatives – and to learn from each other.  The parliamentarians were impressed by the refugees who included sportsmen, community volunteers, businessmen and musicians.  They provided a much-needed antidote to the negative stories about asylum seekers and refugees in the media. 

But it was also nice to see the refugees’ response to encountering MPs.  Many of them had never been to Parliament before and were spellbound as their expert tour guide regaled them with stories of the famous events that had taken place there.  They even laughed at his joke about the architect missing off a Welsh emblem on the rather nationalistic ceiling of Central Lobby because he didn’t want a leek in his roof…

Temba Moyo, chair of Refugee Voice Wales, met his local MP and former Cabinet Minister Alun Michael. “It was great – I got the opportunity to talk to him face to face about the issues that asylum seekers and refugees are facing, and he is going to take some of the issues up on my behalf.”  That’s Temba with Alun and me in the photo. 

One of the refugees was met by Parliament’s youngest MP, Lib Dem Jo Swinson.  He told us afterwards that he was so surprised at her age that he could not believe that she was actually an MP and thought he was talking to the MP’s assistant!  He didn’t let on of course – and his secret’s safe with us…