Above all though, they are an opportunity to celebrate: to celebrate the contributions refugees and the forcibly displaced make to their host communities; to celebrate the people they are, the gifts they bring, the joy and hope they somehow mange to cling on to.
Those of you who have been following this blog will know that over the last two years, St Chad's Sanctuary has been a place I have grown to love and value; above all because of the amazing students I teach. Students who are so much more than just statistics. Students whose stories deserve to be heard.
I feel hugely privileged that they have been willing to share parts of their stories with me. It feels almost like a duty to make sure others hear them too. Here then (anonymised), are some of their words:
I come from Eritrea. I was born in Eritrea in 1993 and I grow up in Eritrea. My family are still in Eritrea, I have 2 sisters and 5 brothers. In March 2015 I am coming to the UK. At this time I live in Birmingham.
I can speak about Eritrea. Eritrea is found in the East of Africa. Its not very big, It is a small country and also it is a beautiful country, to me. Still now and for ever, I love it because its my country. But in Eritrea the government is not good, it’s a dictatorship and that’s why I’m here.
I started my journey from my village and it took nine months. First I was going to Ethiopia after that I went to Sudan. In Sudan I lived for five months in Khartoum. After that in December 2014 I went to Libya. In Libya I was kept for 50 days. After that I came by the Mediterranean to Europe.
When I came to the UK my English was little and I couldn't understand what the people say But at this time I can speak a little. That means that when I start to come to the Sanctuary I start to communicate with people.
I am 20 years old. I have been four months in the UK. I’m married. I don’t have any children. And I have 4 sisters and 3 brothers. I really love this country.
I was born in Sudan in Darfur but I lived all my life in Khartoum. We have different cultures in Sudan and many languages. Also I speak 2 languages, my mother language and Arabic. My mother language is called Ful. I want to talk about the government in my country. The government is very, very bad. If you are not working or you do not have money you cannot get any medicines if you get ill. In my country the land for agriculture is available.
I did not find any difficulty to come in UK. I come from my country by land but I am very, very sad because my husband could not find rest. He was working all the year to bring me here. He stays in Sudan. When I came to the UK I didn’t know anyone and also I did not understand anything when the people are talking. I come in winter. The weather was very cold. I am very sad because I miss my family and my friends.
More to follow...