Saturday, November 10, 2007
Refugee and asylum seeker journalists speak out
On Saturday I gave a speech at the union's first ever conference for asylum seeker and refugee members. It was a vibrant event with terrible stories of people forced to flee their countries as a result of threats to their life resulting from their work as journalists but also stories of the nightmare many faced trying to gain the right to stay in the UK.
Among journalists from Iraq, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Iran, Congo, Nigeria, Algeria, Yemen and Cameroon the stories were much the same - years spent waiting to find out if they would be deported back to countries from which they were forced to flee.
The union has been doing a lot of work to help support such journalists through practical solidarity, training, help with compiling information for legal cases and so on. The conference which was also addressed by President Michelle Stanistreet and IFJ President Jim Boumelha was about how we can build on that work - and many good suggestions came forward.
I'm really proud the NUJ was the first UK union and probably first union in the International Federation of Journalists to actually change its rules to enable asylum seeker journalists to join as members.