Interview with Mahsa Rahbari, 25 years old, Iran
Why did you come to the City of Sanctuary launch?
I have been working as a volunteer receptionist at RETAS for about 5 months which is where I found out about the event. I am originally from Iran and study for an access course in art at Leeds College of Art. I managed to have an art exhibition at RETAS and was invited to this launch event where I would also be able to exhibit my art and help out with the organising of the event.
Why is City of Sanctuary important to you?
I am actually an asylum seeker from Iran. I have lived in the UK for a year and 9 months. I think Leeds has been welcoming towards me but could do more to improve how asylum seekers are made to feel. It is an important issue for many asylum seekers. They often have a lot of problems and need peace, space and to feel welcomed. I think support would help them calm down and feel at peace.
Were you made to feel welcome when you arrived in the UK?
Applying for asylum was a strange process. You don’t have any good feelings and are made to feel bad and unwelcome. At RETAS, they are nice and welcoming which made me feel better. They support me. I improved my English, my skills and am more confident.
What do you think people in Leeds can do to help make asylum seekers feel more welcome?
Many people do not know anything about asylum seekers and refugees and I think they can inform themselves. This is very important to combat negative press. They can also help others to stop thinking asylum seekers are bad people all the time who are criminals or only here for money.