Refugee week 2024

It is a tough time for refugees and people seeking sanctuary in the UK and around the world, with growing anti-immigration sentiment, mounting hostility and a rise in social isolation, poverty, poor mental health and financial insecurity amongst migrants. There has been a 239% increase in the number of households requiring homelessness support from local authorities after being evicted from Home Office asylum support accommodation in the two years to September 2023. Many individuals and families are forced to navigate complex bureaucratic processes and inadequate resources, exacerbating their vulnerability to homelessness.

This refugee week, I reflect on how different things could have been for my family if we hadn’t received the support we did in the 1990s.

I have a personal connection with this day. My family left Somalia when I was around four years old. We were one of the lucky families to get support to move to the United Kingdom. However, our future was uncertain once we got here and had to navigate the UK’s complicated immigration system.

I remember getting on an escalator at the airport for the first time and feeling amazed! I just wanted to keep going up and down. Fortunately, our family had some relatives who had settled here in the 1980s and helped us a lot. Thinking back, I don’t know what we would have done without them and the community that supported us. Unfortunately, many migrants end up in areas or neighbourhoods that do not accept them or make them feel welcome. Despite these challenges, I adjusted fairly quickly. After a couple of months, I was accepted into a local school and started to learn English. A buddy at school helped me settle in. However, there were many difficult moments, like missing my family back in Somalia and feeling very different in my school environment.

The theme of refugee week is home and the word home can hold a lot of emotion in it. It took me and my family a long time to start to feel like the UK was our home. For me home is a feeling and often it is wherever my close family are. The smell of my mum’s malawax (Somali pancakes) in the morning or the sound of laughter as we drink shaax (Somali tea) together and catch up often with the smell of ginger, cinnamon and cardamon wafting around the house always brings me joy. What is a Home to you?

Having a safe place to call home is a fundamental human right. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about homelessness and the experiences of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. People are always going to need a helping hand and support. An estimated 2.4 million refugees around the world will need resettlement in 2024, a 20 per cent increase from 2023. We need to change our systems and processes to better protect refugees and people seeking sanctuary.


Call to action:

  • Contact your local MP
  • Educate yourself. Take Refugee Action quiz as a starting point
  • Volunteer at local organisations, check out Praxis or refugee council
  • If you work in housing and homelessness join the pan-London migrant frontline network for frontline staff working in homelessness

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