After Calais – Report from Dundee Students Event


Last week, Dundee student SWAN held an event where we shared our thoughts and experiences of our recent trip to Calais.  We had 3 main speakers, with plenty of time for Q&A, in what was liberating and insightful event.

It truly felt fantastic to unburden ourselves, as since our return from Calais, all five of us from the Dundee group required a significant amount of time to reflect and digest what we had experienced and bore witness to whilst there. I think I can speak for all of us when I say it was profound and life changing event and it was no surprise to me that before we had even met up again post-trip, 4 of our party had already made plans to return to Calais at various junctures through the summer. During these repeat journeys we will be linking up with Care4Calais, Social Work First and, hopefully, Social Work Without Borders. Fundraising is well under way and donations are coming in fast. We are also making links in our community in the North East, with early conversation held with Dundee Refugee Support.

On the night of the event, one of group, Amy Kenyon, kindly volunteered to host and then illustrate our experiences through a wonderful presentation [attached].

She was followed by a senior lecturer of architecture at UoD, Dr Husam Al Waer. Husam is a Syrian national and he has been living in Dundee since 2008. Husam spoke passionately about Syria, his home town and family and not a soul in the room could fail to be moved by his descriptions of the human effect of war that he described so bravely.

Lastly, Dr Ian Barron from the Dundee University Social Work department spoke about trauma exposure, the consequences for children and the routes to recovery, in what was both a relevant and insightful presentation.

We have plans to put on the event again, with the same speakers and perhaps the addition of one; as it was felt there was a lot more that could have been said and discussed about the political atmosphere and nature of the debate around immigration and refugees, especially in light of the heartbreaking death of Jo Cox, only days earlier. A lecture theatre will be book in late September, early October and this will hopefully be timetabled for the incoming first year social work students and opened up across SWAN and the University. We look forward to welcoming all comers. 

We believe the time is NOW to make a positive case for ‘Refugees Welcome’ in line with the core principles of our profession, namely: empowerment, integrity and social justice. Refugees are stateless, not hopeless; capable, not culpable. We reject the xenophobic posturing of the right in this debate and seek all progressive forces within our profession to unite. David Cameron thinks the sight of refugees attempting to board trucks at Calais is “unacceptable”, we say the only unacceptability in this whole situation is the lack of support and provision from the central government for people living in horrendous conditions only miles from our shorelines.


Dundee Students

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