In 1999 I was working as the Race Development Officer for the Norfolk and Norwich Racial Equality Council (NNREC). This was during the war in Kosovo when Norfolk accepted lots of refugees from Kosovo and surrounding countries. Along with charities and other organisations we went to two hotels in Great Yarmouth who were paid a lot of money by the government to house the refugees as we had received information that they were not being treated as they should have been. On entry we discovered quite a harrowing situation. The people were incredibly distressed, it was an awful situation to see but I felt very happy that I could help them. We took extra food, clothing and basic essentials. It is something which will stay with me forever. Seeing those poor people traumatised by war in their own country and then to be treated so badly in a country which was supposed to be helping them.
I also worked alongside the Race Equality Officer at the time who had fled from Sudan, she worked for the government there but had to flee because her family, friends and colleagues were killed, she witnessed her husband being tortured, he was killed also, it was really shocking to hear. She was a lovely lady who worked very hard in England but eventually did go back home once things were much calmer. When I was at high school, my best friend’s parents were from Chile. They had fled Chile in the 1970s due to the political tension. I remember being told about their friends who had gone missing so they came to England as refugees. They were both very educated people and contributed hugely to British society, one working in finance and the other in nursing and they raised a family here.
Having traced my family tree, I found that my ancestors were German economic refugees in the nineteenth century. They were fleeing famine and poverty and sought new opportunities in the Port of London. Without Britain accepting refugees at this time, I would not be here now!