Lucy Popescu

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Posts Tagged ‘Comma Press’

Book review – REFUGEE TALES Volume II

Posted by lucypopescu on October 23, 2017

The United Kingdom is the only country in Europe to indefinitely detain asylum seekers. A person seeking refuge here can be incarcerated for months or even years. Refugee Tales II seeks to make this shocking fact more widely known through sharing the stories of those who have been victims of this inhumane treatment. Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, twelve writers listen to and retell refugees’ stories, preserving their anonymity.

One of the most moving accounts in the collection is “The Abandoned Person’s Tale” as told to Olivia Laing. A student protester from an unnamed country arrives in England in the
1990s. He unwittingly buys a stolen plasma television from an acquaintance, is then arrested for receiving stolen goods and imprisoned. On his release, he is threatened with deportation.
Years go by in which he is living in limbo – he is not allowed to work – and his case goes to trial seventeen times. Two-and-a-half decades are stolen from this man: “That is what detention is: a thief of talent, of energy, of time”.

Some of the stories explore the “hostile environment” created in 2012 by Theresa May to counter “illegal migration”. Often, asylum seekers have no option but to enter the country with a false passport, in a freezer truck or under the belly of a lorry, in order to reach safety. In “The Mother’s Tale” as told to Marina Warner, a priest muses on what a “hostile environment”
really means and concludes: “It means sweeping up all kinds of people, branding them with the same stigma, regardless of their contribution, their humanity”. The mother in the story lives in constant fear of her partner being deported and does not go out alone any more: “I am afraid”, she says, “all the time.”

The Immigration Act of 2016 forces more and more desperate people into destitution. As Rachel Holmes perceptively observes in “The Barristers Tale”, “Waiting indefinitely to be removed imminently. It’s like Beckett and Orwell met for a bender on Bloomsday in the Kafka’s Head”. Read and weep for the plights of these people who have fled one hell to find themselves in another. All profits from the book go to Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group and Kent Refugees Help.

Originally published by the TLS


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Speed reading – books about migration

Posted by lucypopescu on November 26, 2016


Migrant Women's voicesMigrant Women’s Voices pays tribute to the numerous female migrants who contributed to the reconstruction effort post World War II and those who joined the British workforce in the following decades. Based on the oral histories of seventy-four migrant women (collected between 1992 and 2012) Linda McDowell charts how Britain was transformed into a multi-cultural society. The testimonies demonstrate “the huge commitment made to Britain, to its economy and to its population by ‘ordinary’ women… who made the decision to move across national borders and make a life elsewhere.”

In Refugee Tales, poets and novelists, including Ali Smith, Patience Agbabi and Marina Lewycka, retell the stories of refugees who have experienced Britain’s appalling policy of indefinite immigration detention. Inspired by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, these accounts are told from the perspectives of a lawyer, unaccompanied minor and a deportee, among others. This impressive anthology illustrates the limbo often endured by those seeking a safe sanctuary. British citizens enjoy the basic human right not to be detained without charge for more than 14 days, while asylum seekers can be detained for years before being granted leave to remain.the-immigrant-handbook

Caroline Smith’s haunting poetry collection is inspired by her experiences as an asylum caseworker for a London MP. Many of her characters’ fates are uncertain: Every week for seven years Dr Khan has walked to Hounslow’s immigration reporting centre. Arjan Mehta has spent seventeen years phoning the Home Office waiting for a response to his application:


He is now forty.

The sealed-up phone box

long out of service,

the black cradle

within its sepulchre,

silent as an obsidian urn.


Originally published by The Tablet



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