Advertisement
Politics

Changemakers 2022: Refugees and asylum seekers

These are the Changemakers that dedicate time to protecting refugees and asylum seekers.

Each year The Big Issue celebrates its Changemakers, the people and campaigns that are doing all they can to make positive change in society. We want to thank them for everything they do and direct others to see their invaluable work.

There are roughly 20.7 million refugees worldwide, people who are escaping conflicts and natural disasters in search of a better life. With thousands attempting to across the Channel, we know just how important it is to help those seeking refuge feel safe and welcome.

These are the Changemakers that dedicate time to protecting refugees and asylum seekers.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work. With each subscription we invest every penny back into supporting the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you'll never miss the weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

NEMI Teas 

NEMI Teas makes tea with a difference. Not only does it aim to ensure its whole output is plastic free, from teabags, to packaging, but the team make a point of hiring and supporting refugees in the UK with employment opportunities. Fresh from a win at the recent Social Enterprise Awards 2021, where the organisation was given the prize for the best Environmental Social Enterprise, founder Pranav Chopra gives us the lowdown. 

How do you make a positive difference in the world? 

We provide employment to refugees to give them local work experience and job readiness skills to enter the UK workforce and help them integrate into broader society. At the same time, our products have been designed to have the most minimal impact on the planet. The tea we source is Organic, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance-certified. Our pyramid tea bags are also 100 per cent plastic free and biodegradable.

Advertisement
Advertisement

What inspired you to form your company and how did it start? 

NEMI began at a refugee supper club. We heard first-hand about what it was like to be a refugee in the UK. Despite their right to work, they were struggling to find jobs due to a lack of local experience. In response, we set up an organisation that solely employs refugees. We give them job readiness skills to enter the UK workforce and help them integrate into society. 

What is the biggest issue everyone should know about at the moment? 

Of the 65 million refugees worldwide who have been displaced due to conflict or persecution, the UK has accepted approximately 133,000 (UNHCR). Nearly one-fifth of the refugees living here are unemployed, and nearly 20 per cent arrive alone without any friends or family.  

What is one thing anyone can do to make a positive difference? 

Consumers hold a lot of power with their purchasing decisions. So every time you buy something, ask if it is made from sustainable materials, is it being produced ethically, and is it creating a positive social impact? That way, more brands will have to follow suit and it will become the norm for brands to be sustainable, ethical and make a positive difference. 

Today For Tomorrow

Join our Today For Tomorrow campaign

The Big Issue’s Today for Tomorrow Campaign aims to tackle the climate crisis, poverty and pandemics with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. Support the Bill and email your MP today!

Khalida Popal 

When Kabul was taken by the Taliban, Khalida Popal campaigned for the Afghan women’s football team and their families to be evacuated to the UK. Former player Popal was born in Afghanistan and left in 2011 after receiving death threats. The 34-year-old, who is director of the Afghan team, lives in Denmark where she campaigns for women’s rights and equality in sport. The team landed in the UK on November 18, 2021.

That day Popal tweeted: “Now, time to get as much support as possible to help them in their resettlement process. 130 people made it safe. Thanks to everyone.”

Popal is also founder and director of Girl Power, an organisation aiming to “use sport and education as tools to empower, connect and unify women and girls from all cultures and social backgrounds”. 

Rainbow Migration 

This group rebranded as Rainbow Migration in May 2021 after 28 years as the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group. It supports LGBTQ+ people through the asylum and immigration system and lobbies the government, urging it to “focus on creating a kind and compassionate asylum system, rather than on causing further distress to people who are only looking for a place to live in safety and dignity”.

Rainbow Migration wrote an open letter to the government in August over the safety of LGBTQ+ Afghans when the Taliban took power. In November, when at least 27 people drowned in the English channel, the charity co-signed a letter calling for the government to resettle at least 10,000 refugees each year and reinstate the Dubs Agreement.  

Article continues below

Detention action 

This year has seen a resurgence in hostile environment immigration policies as the Nationality and Borders Bill makes its way through Parliament. Detention Action work with people in detention centres, due to be deported, by supporting them and connecting them with legal representation. 

On the most recent flight to Jamaica, the organisation worked to help detainees due to be deported. Just four of an original 50 people ended up being deported on the flight. 

The Borders Bill would also allow the government to process asylum seekers trying to enter the UK in a third country – as Australia has done by sending immigrants to Papua New Guinea. 

Detention Action are leading the fight against this, pointing not only to the expense of the Australian system, but to its fundamental inhumanity. 

Glasgow No Evictions Network 

People with experiences of the asylum system and their allies in Glasgow are part of a grassroots campaign called No Evictions Network. In May 2021, protesters from the group surrounded a Border Force van on Kenmure Street, Glasgow to try and prevent immigration officers from removing two Muslim men from the neighbourhood.

The campaign supports people in asylum accommodation against evictions and supports them with phone top-ups, internet access and legal support. The pandemic has been a challenging time for the organisation as most communication has had to happen virtually. 

Advertisement

Support your local vendor

Want to buy a copy of the magazine? We have over 1,200 Big Issue vendors in the UK. Each vendor buys a copy of the mag for £1.50 and sells it for £3, keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor and support them today!

Recommended for you

Read All
Five ways the cost of living is rising - and how to get help if you’re struggling
Cost of living crisis

Five ways the cost of living is rising - and how to get help if you’re struggling

Boris Johnson has joined TikTok - and it is not going very well
Social media

Boris Johnson has joined TikTok - and it is not going very well

Explained: Will the government's Energy Bill deliver the green transition needed?
Energy Bill

Explained: Will the government's Energy Bill deliver the green transition needed?

What we know about the new laws the government wants to introduce
Politics

What we know about the new laws the government wants to introduce

Most Popular

Read All
The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who
1.

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on
2.

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals
3.

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week
4.

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.