Our website in currently undergoing a reshuffle to highlight the last 4 years of our films, events, and stories. If you subscribe to receive notifications you may experience an unusual number of emails in the coming months. Everything will return to normal in 2020.
By late 2017, Trump administration officials were discussing targeting migrant families. A memo leaked to major US publications discussed the possibility of targeting parents of migrant families and treating their children as unaccompanied and subsequently transferred to the government’s Department of Health and Human Services custody.
In early 2018, the news was riddled with images of children who had been apparently mistreated and in some instances photographed in cages causing a stir and an outcry coming mainly from humanitarian organisations, which called the “zero tolerance” policy implemented in the spring of 2018 inhumane and unconscionable.
To tackle the growing criticism that was dominating the front page of major US news outlets, President Donald Trump signed an executive order in June 2018 to end the so-called “zero tolerance” policy. But, despite the action taken, humanitarian advocates and governmental agencies agree that adult migrants continue to be separated from their children for increasingly vague reasons.
In fact, the American Immigration Council reports that 65% of children are still being removed from their parents’ care because of allegations of crime history or gang affiliation. What is important to understand is that these claims and allegations are very difficult to corroborate and therefore there’s no evidence-based justification for these actions.
The Trump administration defended the controversial choice of implementing the “zero tolerance” policy saying that the situation at the border is both a security and humanitarian issue, comments that are perfectly in line with President Trump boastful claims on the 2016 Presidential Election campaign trail of restoring “law and order” in the United States. However, this administration seems oblivious to the trauma that tearing families apart can cause, leading some to speculate that these incentive policies had been implemented to deliberately inflict harm on children to send a strong message to people thinking about coming to the United States to seek asylum. That’s when things got too far, and an already critical situation escalated to something more troubling.
In this climate of uncertainty and fear, at the height of the “zero tolerance” policy craze, we meet Yazmin Juárez, a migrant woman who was reportedly fleeing an abusive situation at home in Guatemala when she decided to step over the border line to enter the US.
Yazmin was carrying with her a little baby girl named Mariee. They were trying to escape a situation in their own home country that Yazmin refers to as “dangerous to their own lives”. They approached the border thinking that that same fear that had driven them to the “land of the free” was finally in the rear-view mirror.
Little did they know that the nightmare had only just begun.
Yazmin and her 19-month-old daughter Mariee were sent to the intermediate step before being admitted to the Texas facility. This intermediate step consisted of sharing a room with 20 people, and there they reportedly spent several days in a room named “la hieliera”, or “the ice box”, a room without comforts. They slept on a cold, concrete floor.
After finally entering the Texas facility and being examined by a nurse who found both Yazmin and her daughter to be “perfectly healthy”, Yazmin started noticing that there were many sick children around her. Yazmin was concerned. One of the kids, who was about the same age as her daughter, was described by Yazmin as “constantly sleepy” and “having a runny nose”.
Not long after that, Mariee began feeling ill. A few sporadic sneezes and a bad cough, followed by a “runny nose”, were the first red flags. She immediately took her daughter to a physician, despite hearing stories of how the offices were always closed or not properly functional. The physician’s assistant diagnosed Mariee with a respiratory infection, gave her medicine and told her to follow up in six months.
The very next day, Mariee’s condition worsened. She was running a fever, followed by diarrhea and vomiting. Terrified, Yazmin took her back to the clinic. She waited in line for what felt like years. A different physician told her that Mariee was nursing a bad ear infection. She gave her antibiotics. Yazmin left with a strange, sickly feeling in her stomach. She knew something worse was happening. She went back to the clinic several times. Twice she was denied access, the rest of the times she waited in line from dawn until almost dark. That feeling in the pit of her stomach wasn’t gone. In 10 days, Mariee had lost 8% of her body weight, and she was still coughing and vomiting constantly.
After a week, she finally got an appointment with a real doctor. The doctor prescribed her a cocktail of medicines Yazmin had never heard of, but she felt reassured. That aching feeling in her stomach mitigated by a doctor spouting medical terms she had never heard before. Unfortunately, Mariee’s condition was impervious to the doctor’s reassuring words.
Once out of the detention centre, having got clearance to enter the US, Yazmin found out that in the Texas facility they had declared her daughter as “medically cleared”. She looked at her poor child. She didn’t look medically cleared. Yazmin flew to New Jersey to her mother’s house. On their flight there, Mariee was having difficulties breathing.
Mariee was taken to a hospital where Yazmin describes seeing her daughter being “poked and prodded” with needles, and eventually strapped to a ventilator to help her breathe. Mariee was surrounded by wires that reminded Yazmin of what she saw when she approached the border and gave her a strong feeling of inaccessibility. She felt incapable of doing the only thing she wanted: touching her daughter, holding her tight just to remind her little angel, and herself at the same time, that “todo estara bien, amor”.
But everything did not turn out fine. Marie succumbed to a collapsed lung from a respiratory infection and died on May 10th, 2018.
And, along with her, a piece of Yazmin’s heart stopped beating forever.
Nicola Clothier is CEO of Accurity GmbH, a Swiss based employment service provider. Nicola has an Honours degree in English Literature from Stirling University and more than 20 years’ experience in Swiss employment, and personnel leasing up to executive level throughout Europe.
“Child Migrant Stories are a brilliant starting point for discussions around migration, refugees, welcoming and belonging in the classroom” (Teacher)
The Child Migrant Stories teaching resources have been developed with and for educators for use in classrooms, heritage sites and other informal learning spaces across the UK.
How to use the resources
Each resource relates to four (10-20 minute) films.
They include resources that outline specific activities for KS2 – KS5 pupils, with links to the National Curriculum, and for adult ESOL learners, high entry-level and above. Please press below to be taken straight to the resources:
Join us for the event Seeking Sanctuary: Refugees and Migrants Welcome at QMUL (Queen Mary University of London)
On Thursday February 23rd 6 – 8. 30 pm.
At Peston Lecture Theatre, QMUL Graduate Centre, Mile End Road (entrance via Bancroft Road), London E1 4NS
This event is particularly important given the present political crises and the recent government’s backtracking on accepting child migrants under the Lord Dub’s ruling.
Book your free tickets through Eventbrite:
A chance to:
– learn about experiences of child refugees and migrants coming to East London through films, memoir and music
– explore what the university and others are doing, and could do, to support refugees and how to get involved
6pm: Film Screenings
i) Passing Tides – story of Linh Vu who escaped Vietnam by boat followed by a reading from her father’s biography, A Catholic with Confucian Tendencies
ii) Ugwumpiti – story of Maurice Nwokeji who survived the Biafran civil war before joining his parents in East London
7pm: QMUL’s support for refugees today
Panel discussion including:
Emma Williams, Chief Executive of STAR (Student Action for Refugees) on University of Sanctuary initiatives and other work of STAR including the campaign on family reunification
Lizzy Pollard, Advice and Counselling Student Services, QMUL on financial support for asylum seeker and refugee students
Raneem Kalsoum, QMUL Syria Solidarity Society
Followed by a wine reception and refreshments with music by One Jah featuring music of Maurice Nwokeji inspired by his childhood in Biafra.
This event is also supported by CritiQues ‘Home for Refugee Children’ initiative and HSSCF ‘Child Migrants Welcome’ initiative
The films on childmigrantstories.com were funded by the Centre for Public Engagement
A moving documentary of the story of Maurice Nwokeji from Biafra
As I watch a group of orphans in Aleppo on my TV screen appealing to the world to save them Maurice’s words ring in my ears. “But no. it’s happening now. There are kids like me in Syria, in Somalia. We haven’t learnt anything.”
Maurice knows what it is like to experience war, to be continually bombed and to scavenge for food. He was caught up in the Nigerian Civil War, better known as the Biafran War between 1967 and 1970. Ugwumpiti, the title Maurice chose for his film, is the word the children invented for the mixture of corn flour, powdered milk and water that the Red Cross provided, ‘the most beautiful food that has ever been.’ Thousands of children queued each day from morning till night, some of them dying in the line. One day Maurice won the singing competition held for the children so was able, with his younger brother, to lick the remains out of the massive oil drum.
Maurice’s story of how he survived the war, how his parents, in the UK, eventually tracked him down and arranged for him and his brother to join them in Hackney, is peppered with surprising, often amusing anecdotes. He talks about how he and his brother got knocked down by a taxi as they were not used to traffic; how they stole food from the fridge at night and stuffed it under their mattresses because they could not believe they would have food the next day; how they stuffed chocolate under the car seat because they did not want to tell their parents that it tasted too sweet. “I much preferred roasted rat,” Maurice laughed.
For the film Maurice returned to the house he lived in as a child in Hackney, “This is my England’ and he returned to Benthall Juniors where he went to school. An assembly of children were spellbound as Maurice told his story about coming, “to this very school” and as he sang several of the music tracks, inspired by his childhood, that are featured in the film.
Ugwumpiti, was recently launched at the Child Migrant Stories event at the V&A Museum of Childhood, part of the Being Human Festival. There was a great response.
‘Maurice’s heart told the story well.’
People readily linked Maurice’s experience with what is happening today.
‘Then is now. Does our society really care? And is that reflected in government policy?”
Do tell others about Ugwumpiti. Why not arrange a screening alongside a Q&A with Maurice and others. Or better still invite his band, One Jah, to give a live performance of some of the music featured in the film inspired by his childhood.
Watch Ugwumpiti on the Child Migrant Stories website on https://childmigrantstories.com/portfolio/maurice-okechukwu-nwokeji/
Or on YouTube Ugwumpiti – Maurice’s Story
Former child migrants, friends, family, neighbours and the general public gathered at the V&A Museum of Childhood on November 19th for a series of films screenings, talks and performances about Child Migrant Stories as part of the national Being Human Festival. The programme of music, intercultural games, films and music by refugee and other artists attracted over 2,000 people.
The first film to be shown was Child Migrant Stories – Voices Past and Present, featuring 18 of the child migrants who came to East London under the age of 18 from 1930 to the present day. From Bangladesh to Bethnal Green, from the Caribbean to Clapton and from Somalia to Stamford Hill. People held their breath as Marie talked about the separation from her family during civil war in Rwanda. But they laughed when Heather, from Jamaica, recounted how she was told she would turn white when she went to England.
One ten year old girl said she enjoyed the film and learnt ‘that many refugees suffered abuse and racism at school.” She wanted, “to know more about all the kids stories. I was very engaged!”
The daughter of Nurul Giani wrote, “Very empowering and emotional for us as a family to hear.”
Other people commented:
“The film is fabulous.”
“Great humanity, warm and moving.”
“Increased my understanding and made me appreciate difficulties for new arrivals in a strange country.”
“It gives a friendly face or multiple faces to a topic that is often treated via a negative angle.”
Then we showed Passing Tides, the story of Linh Vu who escaped Vietnam by boat with her father. People gasped as they watched Linh, on screen, draw the small boat with 50 people crammed inside. This was followed by a Q&A session with Linh and a reading by Tina Puryear, co-author of Linh’s father’s recent autobiography, A Catholic with Confucian Tendencies.
People appreciated the film’s, “authenticity of emotions” and learnt about, “The process of refugee rescue and transition.” Several people thought it was, “fantastic to have the actual person in the film present at the showing and seeing/hearing their thoughts. It is wonderful how people survive and GROW.” They thought, “the reading from the autobiography really added to the perspectives.”
Ugwumpiti, the story of Maurice Nwokeji who was caught up in the Biafran war, was screened next. People were horrified to hear about Maurice’s experience of war but laughed at how, when he joined his parents in the UK and they offered him chocolate as a treat, he hated it. “Far too sweet. I much preferred roasted rat. ” One person felt that, “Maurice’s heart told the story well.” Another that, “Stories have to be told as part of the healing process.” Many people made the link between historical and contemporary migration. ”Then is now. Does our society really care? And is that reflected in government policy?”
The last film, Life is a Destiny, is about how Argun Imamzade rescued his family’s photographic album from his bombed out house in Cyprus in the 1960s. People loved the discussion between Argun and his grandchildren on film about what they would rescue if they had to leave home in a hurry. His oldest grandchild recounts how she would seize her mobile phone. Her grandfather looks puzzled but his granddaughter has a point. Her photographs would be stored on her phone and she would use it to make sure other family members were safe.
There were many ideas on what else the project could do – more research; more videos; more in depth stories; more talks; exhibitions; one minute films shot by migrants of their daily lives; social media for teenagers to talk about migration; films used as a resource for education, inspiration and projects for schools, NGOS, Unicef, Save the Children – the list was endless.This all needs resources, of course, and present funding has come to an end.
We retired upstairs to the hall to hear Maurice’s rousing reggae band, One Jah. Maurice thanked people for hearing his story, something he has always yearned to tell. He played music inspired by his childhood, hiding in foxholes to escape the bombs and scavenging for snakes and lizards. He and his younger brother would not have survived if the Red Cross had not provided them with one bowl of food a day, what the children named Ugwumpiti, the title he chose for his film.
What is a migrant? An immigrant? An expat?
What am I? I was born in the UK to English parents, and in 1990, when I was five years old, we moved to California. I remember being friends with the children of local British families for a time, and then when I went to school, I made friends with my American classmates. Eventually I picked up the local accent, so my new friends would stop asking me to “say something in English” on the playground. My sisters and I must have changed subtly, slowly, immeasurably over the next decade or so; I will never forget, in the car park of a pub on the outskirts of Leeds, hearing my grandad’s friend remark, “It’s a shame you’ve all become American.”
Is it? And did we? We immigrated, we assimilated, we naturalised as citizens… all before I understood what any of that really meant. I went to university in California, began my career in San Francisco, and then in 2013, having lived 23 of my 28 years in the United States, I moved to London.
What am I? In some ways, I feel like an immigrant: it took me a full week when I arrived in London to figure out where to buy coat hangers; I don’t speak like the people around me; I’ve never seen an episode of Eastenders. But in other ways, I do feel I’ve “returned”: dark chocolate digestives are no longer a special treat to unpack from a relative’s suitcase; I can now see my extended family more than once every year or two; and there’s just something about being back in England that feels right.
What am I? I was never fully American, and I’m no longer fully British. But I have passports that say I’m a citizen of both countries. Is there a word for what I am now? I don’t claim the “expatriate” label, with all its colonial baggage
“Repatriate” isn’t quite right either (not that I’ve ever heard anyone call themselves that). What the hell am I? https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/13/white-people-expats-immigrants-migration
When I stumbled across the term Third Culture Kid, I was surprised, relieved, and deeply moved to learn that there were others out there like me, people who slipped through the cracks of traditional definitions, who couldn’t easily answer the question “where are you from?”
If this is ringing a bell for you, there are all kinds of resources out there for our community: start with David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken’s book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds.
They write: “A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background, other TCKs.”
The world is full of stories like mine, and yet so many of us go about our lives in isolation, thinking there can’t possibly be anyone else who understands our experience. As a theatre maker, I want to tell these stories, to share them with other third culture kids who rarely see themselves represented on stage, and to give mainstream audiences a peek into our cross-cultural lives.
Since 2014, I have been working with a team of fellow cultural hybrids in London to create Home Is Where… a verbatim theatre project with music, movement, and multimedia. We’ve interviewed dozens of third culture kids, and writer Guleraana Mir is weaving together their true stories with a fictional narrative inspired by our post-Brexit political landscape. Our cast of five actors will take on the role of a resistance movement in a futuristic dystopia, using an innovative headphone verbatim technique to tell real-life TCK stories from the interviews.
Alongside the performance at Rich Mix on 2 September, we’ve partnered with HOPE not hate to offer a free and inclusive workshop before the show, using theatre games to explore the themes of the play: identity, culture, and belonging. This is one of many events in a national Weekend of HOPE, part of the #MoreInCommon campaign.
Even if you’re nowhere near London, you can listen to the stories in our Online Oral History Library, which holds short audio clips from the 30+ third culture kids we’ve interviewed.
These are stories of incredible journeys, difficult transitions, identity crises, daring adventures, teenage rebellions, hilarious misunderstandings, horizon expansions, international friendship, and above all common humanity.
“I hate that question, ‘where are you from,’ because I was born somewhere, but actually all the other countries where I’ve lived are part of who I am.” Valerie Teller
“I just belong to this world, that’s my nationality. I’m global.” Ria Ulleri
“We have the same experience. We talk about it and it’s such a relief. To hear that your experience is not unique, and other people have felt this same way their whole lives. And so you belong in your not-belonging.” Aslam Husain
Working on Home Is Where… has brought me into a community of people whose stories span the globe, people who look different and speak different languages, who have had vastly different experiences from mine, and yet we find so much common ground. We all see the world through a wide lens, we don’t always know which team we’re cheering for at the Olympics, we have friends and family in every time zone. We feel at home in airports and train stations… and with each other. You are welcome to join us.
Amy Clare Tasker is the artistic director of Amy Clare Tasker Performance Lab, the theatre company creating Home Is Where…
You can read more about the project and creative team at http://www.amyclaretasker.com/hyphenated
Who would have thought that the Daily Mail would support the UK accepting 3,000 unaccompanied children from across Europe. Will the Government listen?
Just 18 votes made the difference blast night between the UK refusing and accepting 3000 unaccompanied vulnerable child refugees. The government narrowly defeated a cross-party amendment to the immigration bill, tabled by Lord Alf Dubs in the House of Lords. Dubs knows the importance of the issue. He came to the UK through Kindertransport, the government backed programme that brought over 10,000 child refugees from Europe in the run up to the second world war.
The government argued that accepting 3000 of these vulnerable children, would encourage families to send children on ahead of them. But it takes a teenage refugee from Syria, who met Cooper and Dubs for an event outside parliament, to make the salient point: “Most of the children in the camps do have their families and parents with them but those stranded around Europe and in Calais are very vulnerable because other people could do something to them. That is the fundamental difference between the children in Europe and those in the camps.”
10,000 of these children have already gone missing according to the EU’s Criminal Intelligence Agency. Many are feared to have fallen into the hands of criminal gangs.
Read more about this on http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/25/tories-Lord Dubs, himseldfvote-against-accepting-3000-child-refugees?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=168928&subid=492575&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2