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Refugees and UK Parliament

Written by Jaspreet Singh – Volunteer at ACAA

The Afghanistan and Central Asian Association recently hosted an event on the 13th of November 2017, titled Parliament Week – Refugees and UK Parliament. The event took place in Committee Room 15 in the Palace of Westminster. The meeting was attended by over 50 people, including guest speakers, MPs, a Shadow Minister, and members of the Afghan Embassy and Refugee Council. The event was held to discuss the relationship between refugees and Parliament, which included current UK policies concerning refugee placement and aid, as well as the future developments which are required.

Dr. Nooralhaq Nasimi and Rabia Nasimi, who served as the Chair of the event, opened the evening by speaking about the ACAA and the organization’s aim to help refugees integrate themselves into British society. Dr. Nasimi also told his own personal story as a refugee, which was truly inspiring.

The event was split into three parts, with the first section being addressed by Baroness Lister of Burtersett, who lead the conversation on what the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and the House Lords was achieving for refugee aid. The second section discussed various refugee stories, lead by Patrick Page, a caseworker in public law at Duncan Lewis. One of the beneficiaries who had been learning English in the mentoring program at the ACAA since the age of six also spoke, detailing her experience as a refugee and how much the organization has inspired and helped her. Now fully grown, she has continued the work of the ACAA by volunteering at the organization herself, and providing the same English language support that she received. The last section of the event addressed past, current, and future refugee support and was lead by a number of speakers. Dr. Elif Cetin, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the University of Cambridge, discussed the refugee crisis in Europe. This was then followed by a perspective on faith groups and their effect on UK policy, which was led by Dr. Sara Silvestri, a Senior Lecturer at the University of London. The last topic was on the importance of refugee family reunions, led by Melanie Teff, Senior Humanitarian Advocacy and Policy Adviser. The event rounded out with a Q&A for the speakers, following a closing statement from Dr. Nasimi.

Overall the event was a huge success, with many subjects being discussed by the guests and the speakers that were present. There were many positive comments and feedback from the guests and volunteers. Here is just one of the many we received:

“The event was informative with keynote speakers discussing matters revolving around detention, family reunions and the way the EU has responded to the great humanitarian challenge of the recent refugee crisis. All headed by Dr Nasimi who shed light on the positive and inspirational impact refugees and migrants can have upon the country they moved to. ACAA did an impeccable job hosting the event, once again demonstrating the pioneering work they do to facilitate inclusion within the UK.” – Nazrin Ysmailova (Legal Affairs Intern at ACAA)

The event helped to bridge the divide that is often created between members of Parliament, organizations and the public, by bringing members of each together to discuss what is important in terms refugees and refugee aid. Not only did the guests enjoy the event, but the speakers as well believed that the event was important to bring the necessary questions to the frontlines of Parliament. Dr. Cetin and Patrick Page, two of the speakers who were present at the event had very positive comments about the evening:

“I am very pleased that I had the chance to participate in such a thought provoking panel on ‘Refugees and the UK Parliament.’ Thanks to the ACAA for organizing it.”- Dr. Cetin

“It was a real privilege to speak at ACAA’s Parliament Week discussion. At a time when urgent refugee issues are so often politicized, it was hugely refreshing to see academics, volunteers, professionals, and politicians coming together in a collaborative and constructive way. I came away inspired and with much to reflect on. Thank you ACAA!”- Patrick Page

The organisational process was a long one, with many volunteers contributing countless hours to make the event the success that it was on Monday. Working together with MP Vicky Foxcroft and MP Heidi Alexander to book the room in Parliament which hosted the event. Thank you to the speakers, the guests, and the volunteers for enabling an event that will hopefully put us one step closer to discussing more about what can be done for refugees. Also a huge thank you to MP Vicki Foxcroft and MP Heidi Alexander for helping us to book the room within Parliament! We couldn’t have done it without you all!

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