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  • Writer's pictureSarah Taal

Soapbox shawarma at IKON

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

The 2 June 2019 Migrant Festival Ikon Gallery.

Poem read by Gimbi Cham.

The Girl in the white dress

flowers on her arms

She looks stressed and confused

Your application has been refused

My Solicitor has given you all my answers

Come and sign in once every week

You are leaving your accommodation today

Oh where do i go?

Detension centre













The Home office.

You, me and those who came before, notes read by Sarah Taal.

Migrants baobab advocated with last year came from 42 countries, mostly Africa, Middle East and Asia. A mix of 199 refugees, refused refugees, documented and undocumented women with 147 children and a few partners. We believe that change can only happen when people directly effected by injustice are leading. Knowledge is power.

The advocacy idea is an old one, settled migrants and local people wanting social change help newly arrived people from abroad, tell them about how the system is, help them navigate it- we focus on immigration, health and housing, prioritising protection and status.

Some Refugee women fled violence, some left the inertia of statelessness or refugee camps, sex or domestic servitude experiences are expected, if coming over land women transited though difficult places, sometimes worse than their place of origin. We help women who suffered violence get support from more specialist agencies, Rsvp, Crasac, women’s aid. Some women were already in the Uk and the politics back home changed, government coup, or there maybe honour violence threats after a marriage breakdown so women cant return.

There lives are normalised here, numbered, interviewed, statemented, given asylum support, too often left in grotty accommodation, with bed bugs, cockroaches, mice. Decisions can take a long time, some delayed because of third country removal directions, but a number of women do get refugee status. Then they experience british poverty while finding their feet.

When women seeking protection are refused they become re-traumatised often over and over, evicted from their accommodation, left destitute, they have to find new evidence to represent their cases, relive the past, try to documented their existence. We assist them with casework, and link them to places to give a home, money, being supported by women who experienced destitution alleviates anxiety and depression. They are often exploited and abused when destitute.

We value partnership, we work with many orgs plugging the gaps together, but it still feels like a leaky bucket.

Women are studious, skilled, or keen to get skills. Baobab Women are a mix of things that change over time, human rights activist, journalist, carer, interpreter, manager, mother, one member is now a traffic warden which I regularly tease her about- it’s a step up though. Women are Strong talented individuals who all want to live and work. We support the lift the ban campaign but it doesn’t go far enough.

We raise awareness that the immigration system is not fair. The interview judgements, rules for protection, reasons to remain are a matter of chance, getting a good rep helps but it’s not all that. Anti deportations recently started a local campaign network and migrants organise, docs not cops, there are constantly groups working to challenge the situation with many of the same faces attending.

Migration has changed a lot in the uk since we invited people here to live and work from the Colonies. But the treatment/ perception of all newly arrived people remains excluding.

Do human rights exist? Should people need a right to live? We play into a system that discriminates, legitimising it’s existence, it should be broken. advocacy is essential because if we left people with the institutional racism & immigration law, that differentiates those with a particular nationality, people would die. Women we know have died as it is. Most survive and thrive in time, after many lost years.

We must working together more, to challenge what we believe, what good we think we do, and question if it really makes a difference. Learn from the past and stay inspired in the present. Have some fun and laugh.

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