Highs and lows for town’s asylum seekers

Former members, youth workers and volunteers from previous Wigan Council group Rafiki

Former members, youth workers and volunteers from previous Wigan Council group Rafiki

People from across the world who have made Wigan borough their home have spoken of their experiences of prejudice.

They were talking to back this week’s UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination whose theme this year was to challenge discrimination suffered by refugees and migrants.

Fatima Younis

Fatima Younis

The former asylum seekers who came to Wigan when they were young people have spoken of their good and bad experiences to highlight the issue of racism.

They met through a council youth group and have pledged their support to Wigan Council’s #BelieveImOnlyHuman campaign which challenges prejudice based on race, religion, sexuality, mental health and physical disability, age and gender.

The number of hate crimes and incidents recorded by Greater Manchester Police in Wigan borough has increased in recent years with 499 recorded in 2016 compared to 234 in 2013.

Koray Korbay, aged 28 is a former asylum seeker and is now a café owner and lives in Whelley.

I came to Wigan in 2001. I knew three words of English: sorry, again and donkey. It wasn’t helpful!

Younis Younis

He said: “I came to Wigan when I was 15. I couldn’t speak a word of English. I started high school and it was very hard. I found I was constantly smiling because I wanted people to like me.

“I have experienced some racism here and I can’t say anything except that racist people need to get a grip! If people go to the hospitals, the cafes, get a taxi they will see that often those people who are working hard are from different countries.

“I took a while to get where I am today with my café. I work hard, over 70 hours a week. This is what it takes to succeed.”

Fahad Hamad came to Wigan from Iraq in 2007 and is currently studying accountancy at university. He said: “I couldn’t speak a word of English. I started school and on my first day I hated it so much I wanted to kill myself.

“To people in Wigan I would say try to put yourself in the other person’s situation. I didn’t choose to come here. My country was destroyed because of a dictator.

“A lot of the news about asylum seekers here is rubbish. We do not want to cause trouble but people are fooled by the media.”

Younis Younis, aged 24, lives in Marsh Green and came to Wigan from Eritrea.

He said: “I came to Wigan in 2001. I knew three words of English: sorry, again and donkey. It wasn’t helpful!

“I didn’t have any issues in Wigan. I never felt unwelcome. Wigan is a nice place compared to other places.”

Fatima Younis, 25, originally comes from Eritrea and has lived in Wigan since she was 15. She studied sociology at university and now works for a rail company.

She said: “It’s funny as if you said to me now, at 25, pick yourself up and go and live in a new country, I don’t think I’d be so relaxed about it!

“It’s a big thing. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know anybody except my three brothers. Some people come here without anybody. It’s very isolating.

“To people who have always lived in the UK I would say, be tolerant. Be open minded. As much as there are differences between people there are also so many similarities.”

To pledge your support for the campaign visit: www.wigan.gov.uk/believe