One of the truly disheartening things about being displaced is that you start to believe that you will never find a place to settle and resume normal life. Most people in the UK have an image of a refugee living in squalid camps and dependand on handouts from benevolent charities. And for the most part its a pretty accurate image for many thousands of people fleeing the Syrian War.
However there is also many, many refugees who struggle with the stigma of displacement even after they moved on from the camps and have found a place to settle. Over the past few years I have witnessed within my own family what the desolation of a seemingly hopeless situation can have – right to the point where they stop hoping for the best and settle for the adequate, and then in many cases, the inadequate.
In 2011 the neighbourhood where my sister’s house was in Duma was flatten in a bombing raid forcing Suzan and her family to seek sanctuary in nearby Damascus. Twelve lived in a four roomed apartment for nearly three years paying hugely inflated rents as landlords cashed in on a crisis few believed would last longer than a few months. Amid the chaos created by seven adults and five children Suzan still managed to commandeer a room of her own. The building she had lost in Duma had, in recent years, enabled her to have her own room after she moved to an upstairs apartment with her son’s family, and she wasn’t about to give up her newfound independence that easily.
Suzan told me, “Even though there were many of us living in that house in Damascus I must have my own room. In it I have my own bed – just me sleep in it. I have my own cupboard and table – just put my things on it. All of it just for me. It was small but I was happy there because it was for me. From that time  until now I have lived in seven houses. Now I don’t care if I have a room or not, I just want to stay.”
I take for granted having my own space. For the briefest of times I was homeless and had to live out of a suitcase and on the kindness of others, but I always believed that I would find a safe space again. For many Syrian refugees coming to the UK and finding a safe space is a hope they cling to. More often than not it is less than adequate. Some have even said the refugee camps offer better living conditions (The Refugee Diaries, BBC3).
As we approach the 6th Anniversary of the Syrian War where 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced, providing a safe space for 20,000 people over 5 years across the entirety of Britain is a drop in the ocean. But it is a start and we can help.
If you have property to let, money to spare, or time to give check out Bicester Refugee Support and help a Syrian family find a safe space.
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