Not Silenced, Just Preferably Unheard

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by Ffion Wyn Evans, Participation Manager

”There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” Arundhati Roy

Yesterday morning I sat listening to a fellow community worker reflect on how her Sudanese community in West London would vote. ‘’I tell them to vote. I don’t tell them how to vote…I say ‘you make that choice yourself, but make sure you give yourself a choice’’.

As a women’s advocate, an activist and champion of minority groups she is proudly outspoken. Having been in the UK over 12 years she is far too familiar with the ‘outsider’ experience, the struggle it brings- to find your feet, regain a purpose, build a community and participate in public life.

She says that women in her community feel especially isolated- removed from public life and consequently unmoved to vote. Like Migrants Organise through our voter registration and organising work, she supports people who are deliberately unheard, silenced in a debate that actively points the finger like a schoolyard bully.

She tells me about a woman who had finally made her first trip to the polling station last year. ‘’She got to the polling station and didn’t know what to do. She panicked and crossed all the boxes.’’

If we are committed to changing this then we must be serious in the support we provide. Political education and encouragement to take active roles in communities is a positive step in breaking down barriers; community led peer-support is vital. In the lead up to the referendum, community groups have been supporting their members to polling stations:  sending reminder messages and running voter registration drives.  During last month’s local elections, community groups like the Congo Great Lakes Initiative provided support for people to complete voter registration forms whilst travelling on a bus trip to Cambridge.

The debate

The debate surrounding our participation in the EU has quite simply been toxic for migrant and refugee communities. It has put immigration central to all society’s ills, ignoring the various and powerful reasons people come here and the huge contribution they play in our diverse communities.

Ultimately the constant bombardment, dehumanising noise and hateful shouting is felt more profoundly and personally by refugees, asylum seekers and migrants themselves.  Recently my colleague supported a young homeless Eritrean man off the streets, into more secure accommodation – through these cases, I see the human consequence of this hateful talk. Support, resource, love, kindness and compassion is taken away from the people that need it the most.

Historic day

Right now, up and down the country people are heading to their polling stations.

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Whatever tomorrow brings- we fear the debate will further isolate many of our members, the very people who we should be welcoming with open arms.

Yesterday, at the beautiful vigil held in Trafalgar Square for Jo Cox MP,  I held hands with a stranger and promised to #LoveLikeJo. To love like Jo would mean showing compassion and understanding for people on the other side of the debate, whilst also fighting (lovingly) to create our spaces to re-write this narrative. 

I know there are thousands of us, millions of us, that feel the same. Migrants Organise is inundated with volunteers wanting to give their time to lobby, campaign, organise, volunteer, donate and fundraise for people who have come to make a new, safer life here in the UK. Only together can we build power to create a culture of acceptance, love and empathy.


Migrants Organise is looking for migrant and refugee leaders and community groups to join our new movement. Join us on this journey or play your role in the movement that builds the power of migrants and refugees to address the issues that affect them and celebrates their contribution. Email for more info

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