The United Nations adopted the ‘International Convention onthe Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of TheirFamilies’ on the 18th December 1990. To celebrate the 10th anniversary in 2000 the General Assembly declared the 18th December International Migrant Day.
This year’s message from Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, was to: "...make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike. We owe this to the millions of migrants who, through their courage, vitality and dreams, help make our societies more prosperous, resilient and diverse."
To mark the day the recently re-formed Leeds No Borders group, led by Kate and Manuel, organized an open mic at Wharf Chambers: an evening of short films, poetry, sharing stories and music where everyone was invited to perform. There was even dinner, a delicious vegetarian meal of pumpkin curry, rice and dahl.
The night started with a screening of a short film about the migrant situation at the Calais Border on the other side of the English Channel. It showed the terrible situations of migrants in Calais, living in single layer tents that offer no protections against the bitter cold of the Channel. The film was followed with a short talk by Kamel from Syria who just last October, after crossing Europe, was living in Calais in those same conditions, identifying many of the people showed in the film as his friends. A film to make us not forget that there are people living in appalling conditions in an internal border of two of the richest countries in Europe, a reality of life that many of us would think impossible right on our doorstep.
Leeds No Borders did not forget all those migrants imprisoned inside the several detention centers around the country. There was a table with Christmas cards, on which everyone was welcomed to write a message which would then be delivered to those who had to spend Christmas in detention centers. On the laptop people could read about the campaign to stop the deportation of Florence, who has been living in Leeds since 2002, and how to help campaign to stop her deportation to Zimbabwe. Happily she was not deported, but is still detained in Yarl's Wood women's detention center.
The event itself continued with people performing and a special mention must go to the Women Asylum Seeker Choir, who delighted the audience with poems, spoken word and some great acapela performances. Each of their pieces aims at raising awareness of the situation of migrants, as in the poem ‘Brown Envelope’ with its powerful imagery of waiting daily for a piece of paper that will decide the future.
It was an extraordinarily successful night with many of those attending saying that it was the first time that they had properly danced since arriving in Leeds. So successful that it will become a regular event held at Wharf Chambers, the next one on Tuesday 28th January. More details on their event Facebook page. A highly recommended social to add to the diary.
Leeds No Borders meet regularly and their next meeting is Tuesday 9th January.
Read more about them on their blog and Facebook page:
Check out the social media response to International Migrant Day at #IAmAMigrant