Shot in peoples’ homes, these intimate portraits and their accompanying captions show how refugees and their hosts in Britain have learned to live together – and how both have benefitted from the arrangement. From a Syrian teenager who found a new home in Epsom, to a 72-year-old Eritrean saved from a life on the streets by a Birmingham couple, the collection shows acts of compassion – but also the human face of a refugee crisis so often portrayed in negative stereotypes.
These refugees have brought warmth and happiness to their new homes, say the hosts involved in the project. “Even after everything he has been through he is such a gentle soul and such a lovely, positive person,” says Shoshana of Faraj, a devout young Muslim forced to flee Aleppo and now living with her and her family in Cambridge.
“The most lovely, surprising thing that happened is that we became friends,” says Emily Reynolds, on her experience of hosting Areej from Sudan.
“The enduring impression this project has left on me is the way in which the lives of both the hosts and the refugees are positively enriched by the experience of living with each other,” says Aubrey Wade, the photographer who shot the images. “It really is win-win.”
Great British Welcome is now on show in central London, put into the public space via an outdoor exhibition system developed by Wade’s agency, Panos Pictures, and Studio Hardie. But it is part of a larger series called No Stranger Place, which shows refugees and their host families across Europe, and which was developed and photographed by Wade in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
“More than two years after the drowning of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, thousands of people have come together to bridge cultural divides and language barriers, embracing compassion, hope and humanity – even as some European governments continue to build obstacles,” says UNHCR of the project. “Their generosity is an example to the world.”
Great British Welcome is on show until 16 March, 2018 in the courtyard of St Martin-the-Fields, London www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/event/great-british-welcome-exhibition-unhcr-panos-pictures/ BJP previously published an interview with Aubrey Wade in 2016 looking at his project No Stranger Thing, from which Great British Welcome evolved https://www.1854.photography/2016/12/wade-no-stranger/