We are VOICES is a brand-new podcast series produced by refugees and people seeking asylum, launching today (Thursday 17 June) during Refugee Week. It shares the first-hand stories of life in the UK and the issues faced by people seeking asylum here.
In the six-part series, listeners will meet Diamond from Iraq, Niloha from Venezuela and Alvina from Zimbabwe. They are amongst 12 refugees who have become podcast producers shaping every element of the series – from the topics to the sound design, scripting and interviewing.
The podcast series will bring listeners into the lives of people seeking asylum and spotlight the challenges they face – from loneliness to integration, family and home life, the right to be able to work, and mental health.
The first episode is being launched as part of the British Red Cross new Every Refugee Matters campaign. The charity is asking people to show their support for a kinder and more compassionate way to support people seeking asylum, by signing their Every Refugee Matters pledge.
Diamond kicks off the series with a huge laugh that is in contrast to the harrowing experience of fleeing her home and the loneliness she has faced since arriving in the UK. After witnessing people in her community were disappearing, with no trace or explanation, her family decided it was time to pack their life into a backpack and leave.
She says: “It was the last resort for me and my brother. I’d hear bombs, you’d feel the floor shaking and then all of a sudden everything goes down.”
But the turmoil didn’t stop when she reached the UK. Diamond describes how hard it has been to rebuild her life here – loneliness, isolation and the impact of the asylum process have increased her vulnerability. It took over ten years for Diamond to come through this period of depression and feel like herself again. In her own words, “I was dead, but now I am alive.”
Through a series of remote workshops the 12 refugees and people seeking asylum involved have learnt about creative storytelling, scripting, interviewing and sound design. As new audio producers they’ve developed the creative skills to tell their own stories.
Producing the podcast didn’t come without its challenges for the group, especially considering most of them are living in asylum accommodation and on just £5 a day. Alongside the difficulties of learning to use microphones remotely at home, the group were also managing Home Office appointments, parenting, poor wifi and producing the podcast without laptops.
The series has been produced by the VOICES network – an independent group that brings together refugees to speak up for change – in partnership with the British Red Cross, and supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.
The trailblazing team of refugee podcast producers worked alongside senior audio producer, Bridey Addison-Child.
Niloha in Wrexham, a Venezuelan doctor who was forced to flee her home after being shot at for giving medical assistance to protestors, said, “We didn’t want to remain unheard. We just want to let people know what we’ve been through.”
“You feel loneliness and desperate for a place to call home. Once you are in that place, that has given you refuge, then it feels like home.”
Zain in Leicester, who spent over ten years waiting for a decision on his asylum application after applying as a child, said of making the podcast, “We asked Bridey, ‘what is it you want us to do?’, Bridey was like, ‘No, you tell us what you want to do’. It’s alien for us to have that much power.”
Latest research reveals two-in-three women and children that the UK would accept as refugees now could be turned away under the Government’s proposed changes, equating to half of people currently accepted as refugees each year, all despite two-in-three Britons (64%) believing the UK should protect refugees fleeing war and persecution.
Zoë Abrams, Executive Director at the British Red Cross says, “Refugees and those seeking asylum are people just like you and me; except unlike them, we have not been forced to leave our homes behind and risk our lives to take dangerous journeys as an absolute last resort to find safety.
“The government has announced they will overhaul the asylum system this year. As they do so we urge them to listen to the voices of refugees living in the UK, and use this opportunity to create a more compassionate way of treating people seeking refuge here.
“As the largest provider of support to refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK, we believe every refugee matters. Refugees may have experienced the worst things in life, but together we can show the very best of humankind. This Refugee Week join us, as we launch our Every Refugee Matters campaign, and stand up to say – we need a kinder and more compassionate way to support refugees.”
Visit everyrefugeematters.redcross.org.uk to pledge your support”.
Funding raised by players of People’s Postcode supports the VOICES Network and British Red Cross in their work supporting refugees in the UK.
Laura Chow, Head of Charities, at People’s Postcode Lottery said: “I’m so pleased that our players are supporting the vital work of the British Red Cross with refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK. It’s really exciting to launch this new podcast – a platform for the people we’re supporting to speak out about the challenges they face in their own words.”
“At People’s Postcode Lottery we believe in the importance of community. Refugees and people seeking asylum are a part of our communities up and down this country, and our players are helping to shape a kinder and more compassionate approach to welcoming them. We’re passionate about supporting people who have experienced some of the worst things in life to rebuild their lives and contribute to our communities.”