The 300,000 refugees in the UK have the right to work, the cornerstone of building a new life in a new country and culture. But the path to finding meaningful employment and rebuilding a life is heavily obstructed. A new documentary released today for Refugee Week (w/c 19 June) tracks the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of five refugees starting a new life in the UK, revealing the people behind the numbers.
The film has been commissioned by leading refugee employment charity Breaking Barriers which supports refugees into meaningful employment, it is a collaboration with a refugee cast and crew and Postcard Productions. The twenty-five minute film is available to stream here: www.breaking-barriers.co.uk/my-refugee-life
In the film, Gulsom, a human rights lawyer, talks about her rapid escape from Afghanistan when the Taliban took hold. Gulsom arrived in the UK with nothing but the clothes on her back. As Gulsom prepares for her first day as a paralegal in a London-based law firm, she describes excitement and how she is feeling, “…hope because I have been through a really dark situation and now I am seeing light and the future.”
Recent and heavily politicised data, headlines and policies tell little of the people behind the numbers: people navigating a new country, culture and community. The film takes a ‘behind closed doors’ approach as refugees Bahaa, Bahadury, Gulsom, Joel and Zarith navigate temporary accommodation, employment, love, family and education. From explaining how it feels to never expect to hug a parent again, to seeing a future where it’s safe to be who you are, the film provides a raw and personal insight into the lives of the five.
The cast worked with a trainee crew of refugees and award-winning production company, Postcard Productions, to tell their stories; together they inspire compassion and challenge misconceptions about the lives and ambitions of refugees in the UK.
Zozan, a Kurdish journalist from Turkey, was the producer in the trainee crew and explains, “As refugees, I believe that it is crucial for us to be in charge of our own stories. Our experiences are diverse, complex, and unique, and it is essential that we have the agency to shape and share our narratives. Working alongside the director Sam Forsdike, I learned a great deal about the filmmaking process, including pre-production, production, and post-production. I hope to continue my journey in the film industry.”
Matt Powell, chief executive, Breaking Barriers, adds, “At Breaking Barriers we see first-hand the very many challenges that refugees face as they strive to find purpose, work and financial stability in the UK. Yet, the public mostly only hear worrying headlines and controversial political rhetoric. To show the people hidden by the numbers, we collaborated with Postcard Productions and recruited a cast and crew of refugees to go behind closed doors and see the reality of life as a refugee in the UK.
“The stories in My (Refugee) Life reveal the talents and passions of the cast as they look to build meaningful and fulfilling lives through work, education and community.”
Refugees are four times more likely to be unemployed than UK-born and other migrant groups* . My (Refugee) Life shows how individuals want to work and contribute to society, and yet are held back by factors outside of their control. Breaking Barriers works with refugees to help them navigate the UK job market, build new skills and find jobs that have meaning and purpose.