Refugee Week 2023: Editor's Letter

Refugee Week 2023: Editor's Letter

In partnership withRefugee Week
To celebrate Refugee Week 2023, we've collated a series of pieces from the archives that explore themes of compassion, resilience and resistance.

In 1997, Tony Blair won the General election in a landslide victory, bringing to an end almost 20 years of Conservative rule in Britain. It was a win built on many things, but hope was the beating heart of it. Hope for a better future. For a different tomorrow. That things can – as the adopted Labour campaign theme by D:Ream famously promised – only get better. Much of the British media estate, particularly red tops and far-reaching publications owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, aligned with Blair’s vision.

However, it would not be long before the famously fickle establishment would turn on him. In 1997, net migration to the UK was around 50,000 people. In 1998 it almost trebled, and has not been under 100,000 people since. The furore around this increase, spurred on by headline after headline about ‘bogus asylum seekers,’ set the stage for the vast expansion of the detention estate and the steady expansion of border control obligations across apparatus of Government, down through businesses, and onto individuals. Despite the opening of new detention centres and reams of new anti-migrant legislation the papers still weren’t happy.

Speaking to Sir Stephen Wall, who was head of the Cabinet Office’s European secretariat between 2000-04 shortly after 2001 election, Blair purportedly said that “immigration will lose me the next election.” That threat to his power was so strong that he ignored reports he himself commissioned, which debunked many of the myths around ‘scrounger migrants’ coming here to drain our resources, and indeed the views of his own cabinet members, to fight a war on those seeking safety and sanctuary.

This act of cowardice set the stage for the horrors of the Hostile Environment and everything that has come since. There is perhaps some symmetry in the fact that the same political moment that brought this pain and denigration in 1998 also birthed Refugee Week, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.

The festival is the world’s largest arts and culture event celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Founded in the UK, it is held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20th June. This year is no different with the event running from 19th-25th June.

At Huck we have a long and proud history of reporting on, telling the stories of and uplifting the voices of people trapped within the machinations of border regimes here and across the world. This year, for Refugee Week, we’re proud to run a series of articles from our vault centring on this year's theme of compassion.

Compassion can look like many things. It can be sympathetic and empathetic to a person's particular situation – and in articles exposing the realities of journeying for safety, or what it looks like to rebuild one's life, we hope to tap into that. To utilise the stories and voices of those at the centre of the debate to allow you, our readers, more of an insight and connection to those often monstered and othered by a hostile press.

But at Huck we believe that compassion must go further than just sympathy. It must look like action. That’s why we’ve included articles that look at groups of people organising along the Channel to help those in peril on the dangerous crossing, or reports from those fighting to shut down detention camps or roll back draconian legislation.

We hope the series of pieces we’ve curated sparks joy, hope, empathy, anger and impetus to join the struggle. To help support those seeking the safety so many of us take for granted every day and to roll back the actions of successive governments, helping put humanity back at the centre of our society.