Posted on Leave a comment

The Culture and Heritage that Refugees Leave Behind

Culture of RefugeesReading Time: 2 minutes

 

Culture of Refugees

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

When refugees are forced to flee their countries for their safety, they are also forced to leave behind their homes, jobs and many of their personal possessions. But what is sometimes overlooked, is the loss of the unique culture and heritage of their home country. Sometimes this can lead to cultural bereavement, where in addition to other traumas that refugees face, they must grieve the loss of their native culture.

Researchers from Georgetown University interviewed refugees to find out what it was that they missed most about their former lives. This research highlighted the rich and unique culture that once connected the communities that these refugees came from. For example, one Palestinian man spoke about how he missed sharing Friday evenings with his neighbours, where they would ‘get together and chat, and their stories wouldn’t stop until the middle of the night’.

It is understandable that some refugees may experience a culture shock when arriving in countries such as the UK, where interactions between neighbours tend to be briefer and bonds less strong. Other refugees from Syria spoke about frequenting the markets in Damascus where Syrian food, handmade crafts and jewellery are sold or drinking coffee whilst listening to storytellers and poets who, prior to the conflict, would recount ancient tales in local cafes.

These are just some examples of the cultural heritage that refugees have often been forced to leave behind.

When refugees arrive in their new host country, there is often a strong pressure to conform to this country’s culture at the expense of maintaining their own traditions that have always been integral to their lives.

Researchers have described two processes of integration when refugees (and migrants in general) begin living in a new country: assimilation and acculturation.

Assimilation is when a minority group gradually and eventually loses all the cultural markers that set them apart as an individual group, instead of adopting the culture of a larger group. This integration process is often associated with poorer mental health and psychological well-being and lower self-esteem.

In contrast, acculturation is thought to be a more positive process in which a minority group is able to maintain their cultural traditions and co-exist with the dominant culture.

This is why it is important to celebrate and be respectful of refugee’s cultural traditions and heritage. Many refugees seek to share their home country’s culture using music, food and fashion, and you can show your support for this by supporting refugee-led businesses. For example, Anqa Collective is an online marketplace where you can shop for clothes and other products that have been made by refugees and are often inspired by the culture of their home countries. Similarly, Migrateful is a charity that provides cooking classes (currently online) that are led by refugees so they can share and celebrate their culture through cuisine.

Overall, it should not be overlooked that culture is an important part of all of our identities, and when refugees are living and integrating into a new host culture, they can enrich this society by bringing various parts of their heritage with them.

Posted on Leave a comment

4 Ways to Support the Refugee Crisis in Yemen

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

 

The situation in Yemen has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with various threats to the safety, security and well-being of the population hitting Yemen all at once.

Firstly, a five-year long war has caused the deaths of over 12,000 civilians and extensive damage to infrastructure including roads and hospitals. Yemen was then hit with the fastest growing cholera outbreak that has ever been recorded, and a famine which has put 8 million Yemenis at risk of starvation.

On top of all this, coronavirus has reached Yemen, and as a result of airstrikes (enabled by supplies to Saudi Arabia from the UK and US) only half of Yemen’s 3,500 medical facilities are fully functioning.

With different areas of Yemen being controlled by different parties, it is difficult to get a picture of how Yemen has truly been affected by the disease or trace those who have been infected. For example, whilst the Yemen government has declared 900 Covid-19 cases, rebels have said that only 4 cases have been detected in their territory. As a result of this ‘perfect storm’ of disasters, more than 80% of Yemen’s population is currently in need of emergency aid.

However, there are many organizations that are currently working in Yemen to provide emergency life-saving aid right now. You can show your support by donating to their Yemen crisis appeals, which are linked in this article.

1. The International Committee of the Red Cross

Working to deliver food, clean water, medical assistance and essential household items such as blankets and soap to those in Yemen. In 2019, they provided more than 5 million Yemenis with clean water, and 650,000 Yemeni people with food aid. The link to support the Red Cross can be found here.

2. Oxfam

Providing agricultural assistance, clean water and sanitation services to those in Yemen. They provide families with food vouchers and have developed cash for work programs to simultaneously provide food assistance and to support local businesses.

Oxfam is also currently working to educate communities about the spread of Covid-19 and how they can protect themselves from the virus. The link to support Oxfam can be found here.

3. Save the Children

Working to combat the effects of the famine in Yemen by treating malnourished children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. They also provide psychosocial assistance to help young people cope with the humanitarian disasters they have witnessed.

Additionally, as a result of up to 75% of schools being destroyed by airstrikes in some areas of Yemen, Save the Children are running temporary learning programs so that children don’t miss out on an education. The link to support Save the Children can be found here.

4. The International Rescue Committee

As well as providing food, medical aid and improving access to education for Yemeni children, The International Rescue Committee are calling for a ceasefire between parties involved in the Yemen Civil War so that aid can be effectively delivered to those who require it. The link to support the IRC can be found here.

This is just a snapshot of the substantial efforts being carried out by humanitarian organisations in Yemen. At Sona Circle, our work involves supporting refugees living in the UK to find employment opportunities and share their stories.

We believe that refugees from around the world, who have experienced trauma and disaster, like that currently occurring in Yemen, deserve the dignity to participate in paid employment in their host countries.

If you would like to support the work that we do, you can visit our website at www.sonacircle.com and donate to the Sona Circle refugee employment fund, where 100% of donations go directly to creating employment opportunities for refugees.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Global Connectivity and Today’s Refugees

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

In the past, refugees have often been perceived as isolated individuals, struggling to become fully integrated and to understand the culture of their host country.

Although refugees still face various barriers to integration, globalisation and developments in technology have given refugees more agency to integrate themselves into new societies.

This is a great development for refugees (integration is linked to better mental health amongst refugees) which also have an array of benefits for their host communities.

Access to technology and social media is unique to refugees of this century, in fact, a recent study by GSMA found that as many as two-thirds of refugees in Jordan, Rwanda and Uganda are regular mobile phone users.

Not only does this allow refugees to connect globally and provide support for one another, but researchers from the Erasmus University Rotterdam found that access to technology has also been shown to improve refugees’ language skills and cultural understanding of their host country.

Additionally, research from City University of London has shown that refugees use social networking sites to search for jobs, housing and to understand practical issues within their host countries. This means that now more than ever, refugees are able to have greater control over their ability to integrate themselves, interact with those in their community, and develop an understanding of their host culture.

Living in a more globally connected world also means that there are more pre-migration cultural similarities between refugees and western host countries.

One example of this is refugee style and fashion, which has been illustrated by the “Sneakers Like Jay-Z’s” art exhibition by photographers Frédéric Delangle and Ambroise Tézenas. This exhibition was inspired by a refugee from Afghanistan who, when selecting a pair of shoes from a donation bank in Paris, asked if there were any trainers that were “not too ugly, more like Jay-Z’s”. This exhibition was great for showcasing both refugees’ awareness of western trends and their motivation to become integrated through their appearance.

One 24 year old refugee from Chad explained that he chose a particular coat because it made him feel “on equal footing with everyone else. When you come to someone’s country, I think it’s only natural to adapt to the way they live there”.

However, it is not only the nature of refugees that has changed as a result of greater global connectivity. There has also been a change in the aims and targets of western companies who are often looking to develop their business into new markets.

Refugees are increasingly becoming desirable candidates due to their greater awareness of diverse cultural customs, foreign country markets and their language skills.

On top of this, refugees are often highly skilled and qualified professionals who could bring a range of other skills to their workplace. Therefore, not only have globalisation and technological advancements brought about a change in the nature of refugees, but it has also created a demand in the West for international links, which refugees are perfectly positioned to provide.

It is however, important to remember that just because today’s refugees have access to technology that makes it easier for them to integrate, they still require support from their host countries in order to do this effectively.

Refugees will be unable to assimilate and contribute their valuable skills, if not given the opportunities to do so.

That’s where we come in. Sona Circle Recruitment connects the skilled and dependable refugee workforce with local employment opportunities.

If you’d like to get involved, please visit the Sona Circle website (www.sonacircle.com) where you can read more about our refugee employment programmes. You can also make a donation to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly towards supporting refugee employment in the UK.