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Refugee Week
Near Neighbours
West Midlands

Supporting Refugee Week 2020

“I imagine a future where people are united and living together in peace regardless of their faith, ethnicity, race and diversity.“

Shaz Akhtar 2 Black Country Near Neighbours Coordinator

Blog by Shaz Akhtar - TCT’s Black Country Near Neighbours Coordinator

This week is World Refugee week (14 - 21st June 2020).

The theme this year is ‘Imagine’.

Imagine something you can’t currently see:

I imagine a future where people are united and living together in peace, regardless of their faith, ethnicity, race and diversity.

There are some simple acts you can do to participate in Refugee week this year.

1. Imagine

2. Watch a film

3. Read a book about Exile

4. Tell a joke - Jokes bring us together, and remind us what we have in common.

5. Take a tour (virtual)

6. Thank your climate justice hero

7. Share a song

8. Join the refugee week movement on www.refugeeweek.org.uk

What is it like to be a refugee?

I was able to talk recently to sister Espoir Njae. She wanted to share her experience living as a refugee in the West Midlands. She wants others to understand what it is like. Here is her story in her own words:

Why I had to move . . .

I am from Cameroon and I made the difficult decision to move because of my sexuality. In Cameroon you get punished for same sex relationships - its 5 years imprisonment and you also get a fine too. The community themselves are very sensitive about this. If you are suspected to be queer, you are arrested, beaten and burned to death and no one cares. Being queer is a taboo in the community. I made the difficult decision to leave because my partner was beaten to death because of her sexuality. I had no choice but to leave everything behind for my own safety, because I had every right to be who I am.

I came to the UK by air. I was unaware of the death of my partner at the time. I was in a strange place but had this overwhelming emotion of happiness because I knew UK was a safe country and I can be accepted for who I am and move on with my life. I went through police checks and interviews at the airport in an open office. Everything was so confusing and didn’t feel safe disclosing my sexuality at that time. I was transferred to a prison and kept there for two days and later transferred to detention centre for 8 days.

I was bailed out by a friend and settled in Stoke-On-Trent. I couldn’t be open about my feelings with the fear of being kicked out. I tried to get a stay in the country but it was refused. I couldn’t work because when you are an asylum seeker you can’t.

In Cameroon, I managed a bank. I would love to be independent and be able to work here and use my skills. Currently I am still waiting for them to approve my stay and living in the West Midlands. Here I have met an amazing LGBT+ community who are supporting me. I am working with many community activists, where my voice is being heard. I continue to raise awareness of what is happening in Cameroon and the LGBT+ community here.

I do hope that I successfully get a leave to remain and I can live openly and support other LGBT+ community at large. My dream is to become the voice of LGBT+ and the community at large and one day we will be free. I want the world to recognise us as human beings and let us live in peace amongst them. I am proud for who I am and the change I will become for the LGBT+ and the community.

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Espoir Njei from Cameroon