Following the tragic murders of disabled asylum seeker, Kamil Ahmad, two years ago, and refugee Bijan Ebrahimi five years ago, activists, researchers and policy-makers will join together at an event in Bristol this week to build a stronger movement for justice.
The event, ‘Honouring Kamil and Bijan: Disability and Migration’, takes place on Friday 29 June as part of the Bristol Refugee Festival 2018 and has been organised by PhD student from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, Rebecca Yeo.
Friday's event begins at City Hall, hosted by Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, with the unveiling of a mural, entitled ‘Sorry’ - designed by artist Andrew Bolton, bringing together the contributions of disabled asylum seekers, including Kamil. The mural serves as a memorial in honour of Kamil and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees failed by the system.
There will then be a procession and an event at ‘We the Curious’ to discuss the ongoing challenges faced by disabled asylum seekers and refugees in Bristol and around the UK.
Improving responses for disabled asylum seekers
Kamil was a disabled Kurdish man who came to Britain seeking sanctuary having been imprisoned and tortured in Iraq. Bijan was also disabled, from Iran. As part of Rebecca's research into the causes and possible solutions to the injustice experienced by disabled asylum seekers, her PhD is shaped in part by what she learned from Kamil. She reflected on this in The Guardian in 2017.
Attendees will come from all over the country to hear disabled asylum seekers speak about their experiences and to explore the root causes of the current problem, the policies and practices that divide us, and ways to create real alternatives.
Rebecca explained: “It appears that policies are often tested on asylum seekers before being brought to the wider population. When rights were taken away from disabled asylum seekers in 1999, there was little response from the disability movement. More than a decade later, similar policies were extended to disabled citizens. If we had responded more strongly in 1999, perhaps we would be in a very different position today.”
Dr Aurelien Mondon, Rebecca's supervisor and also Deputy Head of the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, added: "Working with Rebecca Yeo in the past few years has been invaluable for me. She has demonstrated time and again that her PhD is a part of a much bigger project towards justice and has dedicated huge amounts of time and energy to address directly and practically what she has demonstrated in her research is a blatant injustice.
"While she is an outstanding academic, her work has also very real impact in the most positive sense of the term and the event on the 29th of June is a perfect example of what academia can and should help with."
The event starts at 2.30pm in Bristol City Hall, where a reproduction of a mural made by Kamil and other disabled asylum seekers will be unveiled. Following the event this will join a rotating display of public art in City Hall. For further information see the Disability and Migration Facebook page.
A procession will then lead to We the Curious for talks, discussions, food and music.
Support for the event comes from a diverse range of organisations and individuals, including asylum organisations, disability movement, trade unions, Bristol City Council and the University of Bath.