If you’re reading this blog, chances are we agree on one thing: 2016 was a pretty shit year. As a pro-immigration Brit, I assumed Brexit would be the low point. But by November, the US elections made the dishonest (on both sides) Brexit campaign seem like rational debate. And if you weren’t a fan of 2016, the last few weeks feel like all the awfulness of last year compressed into a nightmarish start to Donald Trump’s presidency.
My sense of despair hit an all-time low when an article I wrote for this blog about young male refugees was attacked by white supremacists (let’s call the Alt-Right by their real name). Curiosity led me to delve into an online rabbit warren of rabid hate – vicious attacks on migrants, Muslims, Jews, Africans and white women who keep non-white company – and I began to wonder if this is really where our society is heading.
The women’s march on London stopped me in my tracks. 100,000 joyous men and women standing in solidarity with refugees and migrants, in solidarity with women and in solidarity with the LGBT community. Banners championing love over hate.
A few days later I join thousands outside the Prime Minister’s residence in London to protest an executive order of President Trump that is tantamount to a Muslim ban and cuts refugee admissions to the US by more than half. The mood is determined, united and even upbeat. I help myself to a ‘Ban Trump’ cookie.
2017 is about taking courage and inspiration from the people who enrich our lives, not drowning our sorrows because of those who make it worse. We don’t need to fight fire with fire as Trump would have us believe. We need to fight fire with positive action. And so far, it’s working.
Human rights and refugee charities have seen a spike in donations since the executive order came into effect. Lawyers and protesters are fighting for the rights of detained refugees in airports across the US. Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from Trump’s advisory council after 200,000 people deleted the app. Over 1.8 million people signed a petition to prevent Donald Trump making a state visit to the United Kingdom. Actor Kal Penn raised $850,000 for the International Rescue Committee through this tweet:
So to get through 2017 I’m going to focus on positive voices and take action to show my support for migrants and refugees. For those of you who want to join me, but aren’t sure how, I’ve put together some ideas and links to small initiatives making a big difference:
Keep up to date with migration news and what is happening in the field across Europe.
This Facebook group connects refugees with people around the world who ‘can offer friendship, direct aid and support.’
In just one year this group has facilitated 19,500 mobile phone top ups, enabling donors to keep refugees in contact with their loved ones.
A poignant comedy about the Calais Jungle with a cast of refugee and non-refugee actors, Borderline is a wonderful example of what can be achieved through theatre workshops, music and friendship.
Take part in a national day of action on 20th February 2017 to celebrate the contribution of migrants to the UK.
Raise money for the Khora cooperative foundation that supports refugees in Athens by joining these intrepid cyclists for a week non-competitive cycling.
Supporting refugees is easier than you might think
Google the refugee support group in your area. Set aside some time to meet up with a new arrival. Help them learn your language – you don’t have to be a teacher to have a chat. Can your company offer internships to refugees in need of boosting their CVs? Repair the bicycle that’s filling up your shed and donate it, because two underground tickets in London cost more than an asylum seeker’s daily support. Set up a football team with friends – sport crosses linguistic and cultural barriers.
In the words of John Oliver: fuck you 2016.
Let 2017 be the year we stand up to those who scapegoat migrants for the ills in our society. We can all find our own way to contribute, be it through protest, donations or simply inviting someone into our homes for a cup of tea. Make 2017 the year that #LoveTrumpsHate.
Women’s March Rome, 21 January 2017. Photo by Rachel Moland.