World Refugee Day & Week

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Totes and Tamsin 1 boy on bike Dunkirk Refugee Camp image from Tamsin Koumis Refugee Week (20-26 June) begins today, on World Refugee Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. We’re marking this at the Museum with a roundtable on 22 June followed by a choir performance by Migrant artists Mutual aid (MaMa). We also have free, family craft sessions about Refugee Week And here, in our blog, we are pleased to hear from Tamsin Koumis, of the Totes and Tamsin 'We Welcome You' project, whose bags are sold to raise funds for migrants and refugees in the UK. Filled inside with inspiring and challenging resources and information, the bags are printed on the outside with this strong message of solidarity and compassion: ‘We Welcome You’, which is apt for this year's theme of 'Welcome' for Refugee Week. We use the bags in the Museum in our Introduction to Human Rights sessions and we are very pleased to hear from Tamsin in this special blog, as she writes about her work as a volunteer, welcoming migrants and refugees from many different places to London - the work which led her to volunteer in Dunkirk Refugee Camp.... "Tamsin, Totes, Ben and Megan volunteer at Dunkirk Refugee Camp. Day to day, we have been busy linking people who have legal questions with those who can help them. "Dunkirk Refugee Camp used to be a horrible muddy camp in a wood. A few months ago, a new camp was built, with clean showers, toilets and no mud! Now people can think about their future more easily. Dunkirk Refugee Camp image from Tamsin Koumis Dunkirk Refugee Camp image from Tamsin Koumis "Because the people living in the camp have not yet asked for protection from France, they are not yet protected by the rules of the country. Most people in the camp want to come to the UK - because they have family and friends in the UK, they speak the language, and because they think they will be safe in the UK. They are hoping to ask the UK government to protect them - and you are only allowed to ask one country in Europe to be your protector. "We help all sorts of people - families; teenage boys who are on their own; and people who have been hurt by the police, or locked up for too long without food and water. We are hoping to be able to reunite some of these people with their families in the UK. Others, we hope, will receive compensation for being hurt in France. Others will understand a bit better the situation they are in, so that they can make a good decision about what to do next. You need lawyers to help you understand what rules can be used to help you out of a difficult situation. "As well as this, we have been researching and collecting basic information about rights and about protection or ‘asylum’. For example, we made and gave out flyers in many different languages about what to do if you are arrested. It is written in the law in France that if you ask for a lawyer and for a phone call to your family, you are able to have these while in prison. But many people do not know that they have to ask for one first, so they don't get these things. Dunkirk Refugee Camp image from Tamsin Koumis Dunkirk Refugee Camp image from Tamsin Koumis "The laws are very different in France to the countries where most people are from. By helping them to understand the laws here, we can help them to be protected by these laws. "Unfortunately, some of the people on camp are victims of racism - sometimes they experience violence. We help them to report what has happened. "Lots of the people living in our camp are fleeing war. We want to help them to be able to find the best way to be safe and protected, using the laws that we have in France and the U.K." Information on our Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in Our Community: A Refugee Week Roundtable and our free, family workshops to mark Refugee Week. To contact Tamsin Koumis, or for more information on Totes and Tamsin, email: we.welcome.you.uk@gmail.com.