What do singers Rita Ora and Jamie Cullum, architect Richard Rogers and author and actor Ben Elton have in common? They all have “refugenes” – they are either refugees themselves or have family members who were forced to leave their countries.
They took part of Refugenes, a short film launched today by the charity Help Refugees as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the number of people in Britain who are from refugee backgrounds and to highlight how they contribute to modern society and culture.
In the video, Ora, Cullum, Rogers and Elton join other prominent popular culture figures, such as Bella and Esther Freud, Noisettes’ frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa, singer Yasmin Kadi and model and blogger Naomi Shimada in discussing their own refugee origins and how these roots helped shape who they are today.
These people have all risen to the top of their fields, but each has a personal story or family history involving displacement from lands that were no longer safe due to war or tyranny – a fate shared by some 8.6 million people worldwide in 2015 alone.
The campaign is also encouraging the public to share their own #Refugenes stories in order to paint a fuller picture of who are Britain’s refugees and how they have contributed to the society we live in today.
Refugenes sets these stories against the backdrop of the current refugee crisis, which reached cataclysmic proportions in 2015 with the escalation of the Syrian civil war and unrest in the Middle East and Africa caused by the rise of ISIS. Since then over one million people have sought refuge in Europe.
The charity Help Refugees was created in the autumn 2015 in response to the needs of refugees in the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais. It has now grown into one of the leading humanitarian organisations dealing with the refugee crisis in Europe, having helped nearly half a million people with both basic amenities and quests for resettlement.