Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Bristol praised by UN Ambassador for role in supporting refugees

Wednesday April 3, 2019

'Bristol is a model of good practice for cities to copy all around the world'

Ambassador Mohamed Affey who is a Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa region with his team from United Nations in Bristol

Bristol has been praised for its international role in dealing with refugees by the United Nations.

A UN Ambassador visited the city on Tuesday, April 2, as part of a trip to the UK.

Ambassador Mohamed Affey, who is a Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, region met members of the Somali diaspora in both Easton and City Hall.

In the resettlement and support of refugees he calls Bristol a ‘model of good practice for cities to copy all around the world.’

Bristol is a ‘city of sanctuary’ for refugees and is increasingly being recognised on the international stage. Since 2001, the proportion of the population who are not White British has increased from 12% to 22% of the total population. The largest migration has been from the Somali community who have fled war-torn Somalia for life in the city.

Special Envoy Mohammed Affey works with the countries that sit within the Horn of Africa which alongside Somalia includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea,and Djibouti. A Somalian himself, he travels to cities across Africa and Europe looking at issues of refugees.

He was first alerted to Bristol’s role when Mayor Marvin Rees hosted the Global Parliament of Mayors in Bristol in October 2018. Members of his team who were present were impressed with the role that Bristol was playing in supporting refugees.

Ambassador Affey said: “I wanted to come to Bristol because I have heard of the role that the Mayor has played in bringing cities together to discuss these issues. As part of the Global Compact scheme, which is looking at the role cities can play in supporting refugees, Bristol is leading the way. It was important for me to come and visit.”

The Global Compact scheme recognises that refugees tend to flee to cities, and is challenging the role that nations sometimes play. Bristol itself is playing a key role internationally in this, and is one of the Mayor’s key objectives.

UN Ambassador Mohamed Affey who is a Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa region with Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees (Image: UN Ambassdor)

The visit took him to see the Mayor and some key members of the Somali community at City Hall, followed by a visit to ACH community organisation at Easton Business Centre.

He added: “It was great to have an opportunity to talk to residents of Bristol, and amazing to see how much of an enabling environment for Somali refugees it is. I even went to a market called Little Mogadishu.

“In particular it was encouraging to see the role that business is playing. Somali people are great entrepreneurs and to see this thriving made me happy,” he added.

Many members of the Somali community who have been displaced are still playing a role in the situation back in Somalia.

Ambassador Affey explained: “They are starting to return with key skills acquired to help rebuild. Bristol Somalis have played an active role in lots of situations within the country. Understanding about infrastructure, governance, and law.

In an era of Brexit and a negative reaction to refugees, asylum seekers, and migration in some quarters, Ambassador Affey insists that the refugee crisis should be of concern for all of humanity. He said: “There needs to be global responsibility. It is an issue that affects all humanity. These people are human beings. Nobody chooses to be a refugee, and seeking sanctuary in the UK has been very positive for many.

“The people fleeing for their lives are assets, and with a nurturing environment like Bristol they can prosper.”

The assumption that refugees come with little skill, and drain rather than contribute to resources was firmly challenged by Ambassador Affey. He said: “Many of these people are highly skilled. They are people of means who have lost everything. They are politicians, doctors, teachers, community leaders in Somalia and they are forced to flee with nothing.”

This level of upheaval and disruption is not always factored in, he said. ”Many people have a huge upheaval in their lives. Somali people in particular have experienced more terror and horror than most people. The anguish and pain is hard.

“So, on arrival, it is all the more important to give them space to reflect and to grow. And this is something I see in abundance in Bristol. Businesses are thriving, people are going to university, taking up positions in politics and leadership, which is very encouraging.” he added.

Supporting the mental health of Somali people in Bristol is becoming a burning issue. The community by its own admission does not always find it easy to be open and communicate concerns, and equally there is a lack of cultural understanding from some of the health services. A conference led by Bristol Somali Voice at Easton Community Centre on Thursday, April 4, will explore this.

For Ambassador Affey, following his visit to Bristol he will return home with good news. He said: “I will go back to the Horn of Africa with a positive story about Bristol, and its role in integrating refugees.

“The mayor of the city has real passion about making Bristol a place that is welcoming to all. For Bristol the integration of refugees into the mainstream society can only be a good thing.”

Bristol Somali Voice is holding a meeting to discuss the need for understanding of Somali culture in the health services, with particular emphasis on mental health within the Somali community, on Thursday, April 4 at 9.30am. Members of the public are invited to attend.


Click here