Refugee Week 2022, celebrating the human ability to start again

Refugee Week 2022 artwork "Healing" by artist Nima Javan.

Inspired by this year’s theme of healing, IOM hosted two events to mark Refugee Week 2022 and celebrate with partners and people from asylum seeker and refugee backgrounds the human ability to start again.

Healing means recovering from a painful experience or situation so that we can continue to live. No-one understands this better than those who have lost their homes and had to build new lives from scratch.

On 24th of June, IOM in collaboration with partners Talent Beyond Boundaries and Fragomen hosted “Refugee Week Living Library”, an event bringing together nearly fifty people from different backgrounds. In a safe and welcoming space, everyone listened to a group of participants in talent mobility schemes who have just recently arrived in the UK, sharing the stories of their journeys driven by hope.

“Lifting people out of displacement and ensuring their right to be safe as well as the right to live a life of dignity must remain a priority for all of us”. 
Tauhid Pasha, IOM UK Head of Office

Healing happens in different forms, one of which is through music. Music has the power to break down social, cultural and psychological barriers and to unite people from all walks of life. 

On 26th of June, as part of the Singing Our Lives project, a concert took place at the Union Chapel, bringing together nearly 500 people from asylum seeker and refugee backgrounds and from local UK communities to sing together and listen to music from all around the world.

Enver Solomon, CEO of Refugee Council, highlighted in his opening remarks that “no one chooses to become a refugee” and that “it is not illegal to be a refugee”, also stressing that “refugees are welcome in this country”.

The event was presented by BBC’s Jumoké Fashola and included performances by members of the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, Mind & Soul, Mixed Up Chorus, Music Connects, Sing For Freedom Choir, United Strings of Europe, Thames Opera Company and Write to Life.

The final part of the concert featured an emotional performance of “Under the Same Sun”, a song inspired by the theme of “healing” that was collectively composed by people who are survivors of torture together with people from UK local communities.

“We are survivors of torture; we lost everything, we don’t have families here, but this choir is our family. We struggle to find the confidence to associate with the community. For us, this choir is our integration in the community: it helps us boost our confidence, to rebuild our life.”
Yonas, Singing Our Lives participant

Holly Jones is co-director of Together Productions: “Over the years, I have been inspired by how quickly the Singing Our Lives project became its own powerful & supportive community. Our work includes those who are marginalised or excluded, such as displaced people and those seeking sanctuary, people facing mental health challenges, the elderly, the financially disadvantaged and socially excluded. Singing together is an incredible way to build community, improve mental health and build empathy.”

Singing Our Lives, now in its sixth year, is produced by Together Productions in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the United Kingdom and Union Chapel, with generous support from the Arts Council England.


Read the stories of the people behind the Singing Our Lives project.

Photo credits: Rachel Cherry


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