» Not all responses to refugees are negative / photo: Haeferl, via Wikimedia Commons

FNOC: Featured Names On Campus – I am a student and a refugee: Here is my perspective on the European Refugee ‘Crisis’

In September, the university formally announced their pledge to provide 20 scholarships to refugee students looking to start higher education within the United Kingdom. This announcement came after a heightened media focus on the movement of refugees into Europe this summer triggered by war and unrest in Syria and surrounding nations. Many European nations have committed to provide refuge to refugees and the university’s announcement was one that reflects a positive response to the movement of refugees into the United Kingdom. This announcement has also resonated with students who are refugees, for example, Tamana Kuar Gulati, a second year student and Afghan refugee. Hoping to combat negative perceptions and response to refugees within Europe and bring an awareness to the existence of refugees within our student communities she shares her story with us.

I don’t remember much about why we left or what it was like, but a memory I do have is the constant panic and fear on my parent’s faces. There was always an atmosphere of weariness.

Upon being sent to Coventry after constantly being moved around, I was able to start reception. I arrived on the first day wearing a navy blue jumper, as it was the closest match to the school uniform and the best we could afford at the time. Despite our circumstances, I was always required by my parents to look presentable to set a good impression. The first interaction I had with a pupil was an uncomfortable one. They spoke to me in English and I tried talking in Farsi and Punjabi, inevitably feeling terrible when they didn’t understand. My mother always supported my brother and I throughout our education as much as she could. She would try to learn English from cartoons and then practice with us at home. Every day she would take my little brother and I to the library and allow us to spend hours learning to read. Because of this I progressed quite quickly in terms of my reading ability and I remember being able to move up the bookshelf the fastest in my class. In year five I had the reading age of 15 years old and my parents were so proud of me.

…a memory I do have is the constant panic and fear on my parent’s faces. There was always an atmosphere of weariness.

At one point during primary school a visitor called an ‘Asylum Seeker’ came in to speak to the students. He spoke to us about his life and asked the students if they knew what an Asylum Seeker or a Refugee was. I remember thinking that I knew the answer and that I was in fact was a Refugee. However, I didn’t answer.

When our case was approved, my parents were so relieved. My mother always tells the story of the time the postman came to the door with a thick brown parcel; she almost gave him a hug because she had sensed what was in it. I remember them crying but I know that it was one of the happiest moments for my family. I told my friends at school but they didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about, as they were surprised at the fact that I wasn’t born in Walsgrave Hospital like the rest of them.

When I asked my parents why we came to the UK, they replied, “We didn’t really have a choice. We knew we needed to get out and the UK had the possibility of a future for us, and a future for you and your brother”.

I think that was the moment I started to embrace where I was from, where I am now and what I have accomplished along the way. My name is Tamana Kaur Gulati, I was born in Afghanistan, I came to the U.K. when I was 4 years old and I was a refugee.

Looking at the life I live, I am amazed at how far we have come as a family. My parents, despite having received no education, have worked very hard to set up two small businesses and make a name for themselves. They have encouraged both my brother and I to work honestly and every day they continue to support me throughout my degree and my job.

So my view on the ‘Refugee Crisis’ is that when we stop thinking of refugees as a ‘crisis’ to deal with or as a ‘swarm’, that’s when we can start helping them. We shouldn’t need a picture of a dead child washed up on a shore to help us realise the fact that Refugees are humans. They are people that need our help to provide an opportunity for them. Refugees are people who will contribute to the economy when they can. Refugees will become the next lawyers and doctors and bankers if we allow them to be. Refugees aren’t here because they want to claim benefits and take houses and cause problems. Refugees are here because they need to be. Not a single person wants to leave their home, their country, and risk their life unless they have no other choice.

Comments (1)

  • Mr.Chris Baldock

    Dear Tamana,
    As you asked for comments and your story reflects your parents suffering probably similar to our parents in The Second World War I wondered how you saw the responsibility of the educated Afghanis in rebuilding Afghanistan when the conditions improve there.?

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