26 / 08 / 21
By Sorcha Connell
The government announced a new scheme last week for up to 20,000 Afghans to be welcomed to the UK, as the Taliban has moved quickly through the country and rescue missions are being mobilised before the deadline.
What is life like for a refugee once they arrive? Hagir Ahmed, the Refugees and Asylum Seekers Officer for the United Nations Association, is responsible for the physical and mental health wellbeing of over 3000 people across the London region. Hagir functions as an interpreter, health advocate, community and human rights activist, working tirelessly to support those under her care.
During the pandemic, she has seen a dramatic increase in mental health and depression amongst the refugees and asylum seekers, due to the confined conditions and lockdown restrictions. Families, the elderly, singles and children are housed in various temporary accommodations, and some only receive £8 a week to provide beyond their basic needs for things like shoes, medicine, sanitary & baby items. Some are homeless.
Social and health living activities are therefore hard to come by. Especially for those families with young children, the four walls of a hostel can feel stifling and hopeless. Hagir strongly feels assumptions about refugees and asylum seekers need to be addressed.
“The narrative about refugees I would like to change is that they are sub-human and just looking to take advantage of the benefits system. Many are educated professionals and talented hard-working people, driven out of their countries due to war natural disasters and persecution, often lucky to escape with their lives.”
The London Interfaith Fun Run this Bank Holiday Monday, organised by The Faith & Belief Forum & Maccabi GB, caught the eye of Hagir. Creating a ‘summer festival vibe’, the event at StoneX Stadium in Barnet is an amazing opportunity to send a message to London, and the UK – faith and belief can be on the side of friendship and community regardless of difference and division.
Hagir said “I was inspired by the interfaith fun run as a chance for the refugees and asylum seekers to have the opportunity to participate and engage, while socialising with positive people from all religions cultural backgrounds”.
Joining the interfaith fun run will be refugees seeking asylum from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, the Sudan, Kuwait, Algeria, Libya, Yemen & Mauritania. All runners will be under 30 years old, with the youngest just 14. Despite coming from various cultural backgrounds, many have bonded due to mutual life experiences, and so up to 50 refugees housed locally will also attend to cheer on the runners.
The refugees from the UN London region will be joining over 30 participating charities, such as Faith for the Climate, Hope Not Hate, Muslimah Sports Association, Solutions Not Sides, Student Christian Movement, Faiths Women UK, CitySikhs and many more in a Charity Fair on the day.
Alongside those participating in the 1km, 5km and 10km routes, there will also be performances by musicians, storytellers and dancers, a prayer and reflection space, International food court, kids play areas and an ‘Interfaith Zone’ with facilitated dialogue activities.
The interfaith fun run is the brainchild of David Dangoor CBE, chair of Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London’s Council on Faith:
“We hope it will inspire many of those who form the beautiful social tapestry of our great capital city, be they young or old, whatever their ethnic group or faith, to join together in strengthening the bonds that can help make London a strong and welcoming community of diversity.”
For Hagir, this is a great way for the refugees under her care to experience something positive with the local community and each other.
“The least we can do is to let them have their dignity and the opportunity to integrate as members of the community, and contribute constructively to society. They wish to be treated how anyone would like to be treated – with compassion, love and respect.”
Find out more about the Interfaith Fun Run here >>
You can support all of the participating charities by donating directly:
Text IFR£5 or IFR£10 to 70143