70 years of the 1951 Refugee Convention

By Lauren Tavriger
Executive Assistant, Best for Britain

In 2015, four years after the civil war broke out in her native Syria, 17-year-old Yusra Mardini left her home in the outskirts of Damascus to seek safety in Europe.

After traveling to neighbouring Turkey, Mardini and her sister Sarah, along with 18 other refugees, boarded a dinghy and headed to the Greek island of Lesbos. Fifteen minutes into their voyage, the engine failed, and Yusra, alongside Sarah, climbed into the open sea and swam, with brief breaks, for three hours, pulling the boat along with ropes. Upon arriving — miraculously — on land, the sisters marched on foot to Germany, settling finally in Hamburg.

A year later, Mardini would be in Rio de Janeiro, competing in the 100m freestyle and butterfly for the Refugee Olympic Team. This year, in Tokyo, she is carrying the flag.

Mardini is a reminder of all of the things a refugee, migrant, or asylum seeker can bring to a country. British society has been built by men and women, born elsewhere, who have made powerful contributions to our daily life, from painter Lucien Freud, to author Judith Kerr, and musician M.I.A.

But while these are undeniably stories of success, and tales of hope, a refugee’s life should not be measured by their ability to compete in the Olympic Games, or publish our favourite children’s books, or release a top ten single.

A person who arrives in a new country — by any means — and works a job and pays their taxes, is just as much a story of success and hope as someone whose achievements are acknowledged in public life.

The average migrant will contribute £53K more than they take out in public services and benefits over their time spent in the UK.

And many Britons today, who were born here, and have lived here all their lives, are indeed the product of refugees... including the person writing this.

So, as today marks 70 years since the 1951 Refugee Convention was signed, which outlined the rights of refugees, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them, we must celebrate the valuable contributions that refugees, migrants and asylum seekers make to our society every single day, in a multitude of ways.

We are citizens of the world.

Not citizens of nowhere.

Lauren Tavriger
Executive Assistant, Best for Britain