The Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre was founded in Coventry around year 2000. Back then it helped settle the refugees fleeing war in the Balkans. Today its at the forefront of helping to settle the refugees and asylum seekers fleeing the Syrian conflict and the turmoil in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Dean John introduced me to CMRC’s director Sabir Zazai, by copying us both into an email exchange. Sabir and his colleague Dimitri then arranged for me to visit the centre on Tuesday afternoon so that I could experience the men’s activity group.
Beneath a giant ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ banner, signed by people in Coventry, CRMC’s volunteers and advisers give information, support, education and advice to Coventry’s asylum seekers, migrants and refugees.
Upon arrival, a friendly volunteer named Richard introduced me to CRMC staff and other volunteers and then took me around the centre.
In addition to volunteering at CRMC Richard’s household befriends newcomer refugee families, and helps them to settle into the local area.
At the Men’s Group asylum seekers, refugees and CRMC staff interacted and socialised through activities such as table tennis, pool, table football, darts, art and clay modelling.
Before too long I met with director Sabir Zazai. Sabir told me that he was once a refugee and had been trafficked into Britain from Afghanistan ten years earlier. Sabir explained how the centre helped him make progress settling and rebuilding a new life in Coventry.
I thought Sabir looked familiar and he pointed out that his face is on display on the Friargate hoardings and so is one of the first things I’d have seen when arriving at and leaving Coventry train station!
For the montage I was given CRMC’s Annual Report and I was sent to meet Leon at Belgrade Theatre. I was told that Leon is working on a production using stories from the men at CRMC’s Men’s Group.