Understanding why people seek sanctuary

Simone is a volunteer mentor on our Time Together project, which supports refugees and asylum seekers to settle into the UK. To mark Refugee Week, he writes about the importance of understanding why people seek sanctuary. 

Freedom, achievement and self-realization. That is what the people we are told to call “asylum seekers” are looking for, and we ought to think no less of them.

I have spent the greatest part of my life in Italy, but I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for the many trips I took abroad, free as a citizen of Europe in the 21st century to move around the Union without limits. At the age of 15 I took my first big challenge and went to learn English in cold and rainy Ireland. I got sick and cried but that made me who I am, it gave me courage.

In 2012 I found love in Kragujevac, Serbia, and followed her to Bucharest, Romania, where I took my BA. These three years gave me responsibility and independence. I studied, volunteered and travelled in a country that soon became my second home. I built a solid network of friendships - so solid I know there will always be someone ready to help me in moments of need. Then came the third adventure, the decision to move to the UK to do my Masters in Birmingham. And guess what? I have family here too now.

Long story made short, of course; but my point is, there is nothing more valuable than community. I have learned that broadening my perspective, knowing and accepting difference, makes one happier and fulfilled more than anything else. Let us be true to ourselves, realize how important our family and community are to us, and offer what is in our power to give to those who ask for help, whatever their origins. Labels and classifications we attach to human beings prevent us from seeking to know them; we pretend we always know enough about people, be it the street beggar, the drug addict or the refugee.

Let us not pretend we know everything there is to know about “asylum seekers”; let us ask them to tell their stories when we meet them, let us help them overcome the fear and insecurity which has brought them so far to seek help. Let us try to help them realize their dream life, let us ask for help from others if we feel we are not prepared. But never let us refuse to listen.  We will grow more confident of ourselves, build friendship, and, who knows, maybe we will find help ourselves overcoming some difficulties. Every human being is a resource: let us nurture everyone’s potential and so enrich our own lives.

If you’d like to know more about our Time Together project, take a look here