A WEEK of events celebrating the contributions refugees make to society will be held in Oxford – starting with a football match.
Refugee Week 2009 will see hundreds of events locally, and around the country, aimed at countering fear, ignorance and negative stereotypes of refugees.
Oxford has been involved in the week-long festival of arts, cultural and educational events since it started 10 years ago.
Events this year will kick off with a football tournament organised by Student Action for Refugees in the grounds behind St Catherine’s College, Manor Road, at 11am tomorrow.
Asylum Welcome director Matt Holman said: “Refugee Week this year is all about different pasts and shared futures.
“To me it is an opportunity for people to get past all the hype and the negative imagery and really get down and meet people on an individual basis.
“The football tournament, for example, is about playing football, nothing deep and meaningful, just getting to meet people you might not otherwise meet without any of the baggage of being a refugee brought into it.”
Events in the city include two sessions organised by women’s group BK Luwo offering women the chance to learn skills such as knitting, embroidery and sewing, on Tuesday and Thursday, an open day at Refugee Resource on Tuesday offering information about the work the charity does, and a performance of the play Asylum Dialogues at Oxford Town Hall on Wednesday.
One of the main events of the week, by invitation only due to lack of space, is the result of a project by established poets working with refugee writers settled in the city.
The workshops were organised by Asylum Welcome in conjunction with Oxford Brookes University and poems from the book produced as a result of that work, See How I Land: Oxford Poets and Exiled Writers, will be read at the Vaults Cafe on Thursday.
Refugee women will also get the chance to be trained in emergency first aid, and there will be a community day at New Road Baptist Church, Bonn Square, next Saturday.
Two films with a focus on immigration will be screened at the Ultimate Picture Palace next Saturday, and Sunday, and a service addressing the plight of refugees will be held at St Columba’s United Reformed Church, Alfred Street, next Sunday.
Mr Holman said: “Oxford is a very multi-cultural area with a lot of different cultures living here.
“But how much they mix is a bit of an issue.
“We have always had a good tradition of welcoming people and this is a chance to celebrate the contribution of refugees to the life of Oxford, and the life of the world.”
More information is available from asylum-welcome.org