Refugee Week 2013 – celebrating our shared history

Last updated June 20, 2013Blog post
Refugee Week 2013 - Celebrating the UK's proud history of supporting refugees

This Refugee Week, we’ve been celebrating the role that refugees have played in British history and heritage.

Even though a recent poll found that 94% of those asked thought young people should learn about refugees’ role in British history, their contribution is often hidden.  No-one seems to know exactly how long refugees have been coming to the UK to seek safety, what they were fleeing from, or how they’ve contributed to our heritage.

We think the UK’s proud tradition of helping victims of persecution should be shouted from the roof tops.  So we were very excited to see this new timeline, produced by Refugee Week.

From third century tribes-people to victims of twenty-first century unrest, there are thousands of stories of sanctuary here.  Here are a few we think you should look at:

  •  Back in 208 AD, northern tribes-people fleeing unrest in what’s now modern day Scotland found refuge in northern England.
  • In the 17th century, thousands of Huguenot (French Protestant) refugees escaped persecution in France to come to Britain, where they made a huge contribution to our design and textiles industry.
  • We’re rightfully taught about the plight of Jewish refugees during the Second World War.  But did you know some Jewish refugees found safety in the UK as far back as 1656?
  •  In the 1980s, many refugees fleeing persecution in Vietnam were given sanctuary in the UK.  Refugee Action was set up to help them settle in to UK communities.
  •  In the 1990s, refugees from conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo found temporary refuge in Britain.  Refugee Action ran reception centres for these arrivals, meeting them at the airport and making sure they found a safe place to stay.  We still meet some refugees at the airport today, when they arrived in Britain through the Gateway Protection Programme.

Check out the timeline yourself, and see what you can learn about refugees in the UK.  If you’re a refugee, or your family were refugees, you can even add your own story!  And if you have any questions, feel free to tweet us or visit Refugee Week to find out more.