Illustration is an effective way to convey a number of important messages about the 'refugee crisis'. I worry that refugees have been dehumanised, demonised and are regarded as a growing problem.
I decided to use reportage illustration to highlight the day to day challenges refugees face and to provide an introduction to the individual narratives of those who I have met living in France, Cardiff and London.
In June 2017 I visited Calais in France to see for myself how refugees were living. This is the area where the French government had previously dismantled 'the jungle' and then dispersed refugees all over the country. Since then many refugees have travelled back to Calais and are now living in the woods.
I linked up with a wonderful charity called 'Help Refugees'. They connected me with refugees they were supporting. I was only in Calais for 3 days but it was quite the eye opener. I was not expecting many of the refugees to be so young, many are aged 15-17 and had travelled across Africa or from the Middle East, without their family. They seemed very dependent on the hot meals, clothes and support provided by 'Help Refugees' volunteers.
What I found really upsetting was observing the attitude and conduct of the local French police. Armed with CS spray and adopting, at times, an aggressive attitude, they prevented food from being distributed and created a really unpleasant atmosphere.
The refugees resilience impressed me but what I found overwhelming was the dedication, commitment and compassion of the volunteers. Young people from around the world who have travelled to Calais and unpaid, are working 12 hour days to provide the refugees with every support.
These drawings (below) were created at the Oasis Refugee Centre in Cardiff and Alyth Synagogue in London. The Oasis Refugee Centre, founded in 2008, supports and provides services to help refugees and migrants today. This includes a daily lunch for hundreds of people that have come from all over the world. Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mali, Congo, Eritrea and Syria to name but a few.
Alyth Synagogue has a monthly refugee gathering providing food and relaxation in a safe environment. Ever since the establishment of the synagogue, the Rabbis, members of the congregation and volunteers have been helping with the needs of refugees. From the 1930s all the way through to the present day. Nazi Germany, Hungary, Bosnia, Syria. It seems there has been a refugee problem everyday of every year.
There are so many stories and things I could talk about but I just hope that these drawings will speak for themselves and help empower a community of people, who perhaps don't have a voice.