This evening I went to the fringe event “Refugee Tales”, which was chaired by Shami Chakrabarti. Refugee Tales is an outreach project of Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group inspired by the experiences of men held in immigration detention and the work of the group in over 20 years of visiting.
Refugee tales walks in solidarity with refugees, asylum seekers, and immigration detainees. Taking Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as the starting point, established writers tell a series of tales en route.
The campaign calls for the introduction of a 28-day time limit on immigration detention, since the UK is the only country in Europe that detains people indefinitely.
Rachel Holmes, a writer who grew up in apartheid South Africa (and the author of biographies of Eleanor Marx and James Barry) read her tale, The Barrister’s Tale. The tale reveals the outrageousness of the questions that the Home Office ask refugees to answer.
David Herd, a poet and one of the editors of the Refugee Tales, said that this was a campaign that could be won. Members of the public were mostly not aware of the unlimited detention and appalled by it when they found out. It was also something that some Tory MPs were not happy with.
If there is interest, it might be possible to organise a virtual tale telling; the campaign use established actors to read the tales.