Friday, 19 June 2009

Action from 10 Ways - Minding our Language

On an individual level, supporters and regular Citizens alike are changing their language to better reflect the situation. Using ‘sanctuary’ instead of ‘asylum’ throws off the negative connotations that have all too long been attributed to refugees and those seeking sanctuary. By challenging the use of the word ‘asylum’ you also challenge the perceptions people hold. One person we spoke to has even put a ‘swear-box’ in the living room of their shared house, and challenged his housemates to mind their language, too!

Rory Thompson, a Management Consultant and English graduate from Surrey, said:
"It is a point of personal pride that the United Kingdom has a long and noble history of according sanctuary to persons at risk of persecution, and as citizens it is imperative that we command the government to continue to do so, and that we change our neighbour's attitudes towards sanctuary every day."

Fiona is a PR Executive for a high profile PR company in London, though she was brought up in Jersey.
“Sanctuary is an essential right of every human being, and it doesn't mean 'making an exception', 'going out of your way' or 'dealing with something unpleasant'. We all seek sanctuary every day - in a quiet moment away from work, in the daily yoga lesson, in the friendly one to one with your GP. Even having a cuppa with a friend.

To use 'asylum' implies being taken away and looked after because we can't look after ourselves. That we're being hidden, segregated and cut off from 'normal' activities because we are in some way a non member of society, but we take refuge from crime, injustice and illness, from persecution, unfair fines and citizens advice, we are seeking sanctuary from those elements of modern life that seek to harm us.”

Gabi Fattal, an aviation solicitor from London, said:
“I pledge my support for the campaign to replace use of the word "asylum" with the term, "sanctuary". I believe this is an important issue as the term "asylum" has come to have certain negative connotations in the media and in the public's view that may obstruct the real purpose of securing a better life for people fleeing persecution. Every human must have a right to justice and we are fortunate in Britain that we can use our democratic rights and duties to help improve the lives of others. I personally pledge to use the term "sanctuary" when discussing these important issues in the future.”

Jonathan, Financial Consultant from London:
"I believe there is a general misconception over the real reasons people seek sanctuary in the UK, which is compounded by negative associations in the media and certain political spheres. We appear to have lost sight of what is at the heart of this and that is people seeking a place of safety from the very real dangers of persecution in their home countries. The UK acts as a vital place of safety and sanctuary for people in unimaginable circumstances and I think that message is being lost, we should be proud of the real difference we can make to those in desperate need."

Laura Wathen, Investment Banker in London:
"I endorse attempts to clarify the English language and appreciate the problems, confusion and unfair assumptions that surround the term 'asylum seeker'. Britain has a proud history of granting sanctuary and I support efforts to safeguard it"

Steve Fleming, PhD Neuroscience student:
"Sometimes you don't appreciate the conations of commonly used phrases such as 'asylum seeker'. Unconsciously or otherwise though the term 'asylum' is associated with a stereotype of mental health problems given its historical usage. I will ensure that I use the term "person seeking sanctuary" and I will support a change in language by encouraging others to do so too."

Sophie Faber, Fast Stream Civil Servant:
“In a country where the BNP can win votes and seats by manipulating common misconceptions of the word 'asylum seeker' we have to do all we can to make sure these views aren't propagated. People who come to the UK to seek sanctuary must be fairly recognised and given the help they need to flee persecution. I am committed to never using the term 'asylum seeker', but instead 'person seeking sanctuary'"

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