The Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre was begun in Coventry around year 2000. Back then it helped settle refugees fleeing war in the Balkans. Today it’s at the forefront of helping settle refugees 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 centre’s weekly men’s activity group.
Beneath a giant banner Refugees Welcome Here, signed by people in Coventry, CRMC’s volunteers and advisers give information, support, education and advice to asylum seekers, migrants and refugees.
Upon arrival, a friendly volunteer named Richard introduced me to CRMC staff and other volunteers and took me around the centre.
In addition to volunteering at CRMC Richard’s household befriends newcomer refugee families, helping them settle into the local area.
At the Men’s Group I saw asylum seekers, refugees and CRMC staff interacting and socialising 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 said that the centre helped him make progress settling and rebuilding his 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.