Every year on 20 June, World Refugee Day is celebrated all over the world, and around this date is Refugee Week, a British initiative that highlights the contribution made by these immigrants who live in the United Kingdom. This year, the Truth Commission makes a special contribution.
Founded in 2017 as a “temporary and non-judicial mechanism of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Relief and Non-Repetition”, the Truth Commission aims to find out the truth of what happened during the Colombian armed conflict.
The search for this truth goes hand in hand with the efforts to shed a light on “the violations and offences committed during the conflict” and to offer “a comprehensive explanation of its complexity to the entire society”.
In line with these goals, the representatives of the organisation in the United Kingdom is running a project from 14 to 20 June as part of the Refugee Week, but which will run until the end of October.
Peter Drury, representative of this chapter of the Commission, explains that three podcast chapters will be launched including conversations with four Colombian women who have faced exile and who will tell their stories.
This is part of the listening work that the Commission has been carrying out, public events to which exiles have been invited to talk about their experiences.
For the Commission it is essential that the extent of Colombian exile is known inside and outside Colombia and that exile is recognised as one of the violations that occurred during the internal conflict.
At the same time, they are promoting a filter initiative on Instagram and Facebook. “The idea is to invite people – whether refugees or not – to take a photo of themselves using a special filter. When you blink, the background changes and the person appears as if they were an exile,” he explains.
What they want to emphasize is that exile is something that could happen to anyone in a blink of an eye. “Leaving the country is not a voluntary decision. In order to save themselves, people need to leave [their country]. This change of life plan can happen to anyone for political, but also economic reasons, among others”, states Drury.
The idea, he explains, is to try to tackle the preconceptions that exist against refugees, behaviours that are promoted in various countries and that seem to criminalise the asylum seeker.
The initiative, open to everyone, whether they are exiles or not, whatever their nationality, is “more of an exercise in which those who participate put themselves in the shoes of a refugee, through a photo or video on social networks”.
The Truth Commission in the UK decided to take part in the Refugee Week because it is a week that seeks to raise public awareness of what asylum and refuge are, to show the challenges faced by refugees or people living in exile when arriving in an unknown country.
On the whole, this week is a programme of artistic, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrate the contributions of refugees in the UK and promotes a better understanding of the reasons why people seek refuge.
“The [Refugee] Week is a festival that seeks to celebrate the endurance and creativity of refugees”, concludes Drury who also clarifies that the project they are involved in is driven by people who support the work of the Truth Commission in the UK, a country where they also live.
To participate in the initiative
Immediately your Instagram or Facebook app will open and show your face. As soon as the effect loads, the word “Blink” will appear on the screen.
- Blink in front of the screen. When you do, you will hear sad, emotional music; your surroundings will change to an anonymous crowd with their backs to you; your face will change and you will look haggard, hollow-eyed. If you blink again, you will return to your normal self and the background and music will disappear.
- Take a photo using the filter and tag it @CommissionTruthUK/I.
- If you want to make a video expressing what the word exile means to you, press and hold the photo button.
- After making your photo or video, go to the top right option marked with two letters ‘A’ and add the following text: “Exile changes your life in the blink of an eye”.
- You can share the image or video on your social networks and/or with your friends. In this way, you can also help to make visible the consequences of the violence that forces people into exile.