A Lonely Journey: Support for Refugee Writers

By | August 7, 2015 at 9:40 am | No comments | Blog | Tags: , ,

PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile Program works to provide solidarity and support for writers who have been forced to leave countries in which their freedom of expression was not protected. This support includes helping these writers find legal representation when they arrive in Canada, attending refugee hearings, and writing letters of support. Below is one journalist’s account of what PEN Canada’s support meant to him during this trying time.

A Lonely Journey

As a journalist from the Middle East I landed in Canada about five years ago. I claimed asylum and sought protection in Canada against the death threats I was facing in my country, and for that I went through the process that would grant people like me refugee status.

When someone like me comes to this country from thousands of miles away, it is not only our profession and country we leave behind, but also our families and friends. It can be a very lonely journey. Any support from someone in Canada – whether a few good words, a support letter or an invitation to events and conferences – is heartwarming and proof that all is not lost. The same way, when a claimant goes to his or her refugee hearing the support of a Canadian writer can give by showing up at the hearing, standing behind him/her, boosts the morale of the refugee in this decisive hour.

I encourage Canadian writers and journalists to stand by writers and journalists who are forced to flee their countries and come to Canada for the kind of peace and security that is enjoyed by everyone here. It may take a few hours of your time to accompany a refugee to their hearing, but to the refugee it means the start of a new life and the comfort of knowing that someone values the risks they have taken for freedom of speech in their home country.

If you would like to provide support to a writer as they submit a claim for refugee status, please contact queries@pencanada.ca. More information on PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile Program can be found here.

Photo Credit: Marke1996

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