Tom Vickers’ book is academic and therefore expensively out of the reach of most readers, but it includes important lessons we need to hear. I must admit I started by glancing at the contents and then jumping to the conclusions. I am an activist rather than an academic so I wanted to know what the implications were and what I needed to do about them. My first thought was that perhaps I needed to read the rest of the book. The book comments about refugees’ experience of volunteering, and how this has not always resulted in beneficial outcomes. Tom also highlights the impact of meeting immediate needs, and how this predicates against working on long-term changes. I feel we certainly see that in our work with Leeds Refugee Forum. Understandably, it is difficult to be concerned about policy and strategy when you do not know where you are going to sleep, or where your next meal is coming from.
Tom goes on to suggest that refugee support agencies and practitioners, like ourselves, need to connect refugee causes with other oppressed groups to decrease isolation and increase available resources. I would also say that this could help to reduce prejudice against asylum seekers.
I have struggled to read the rest of the book; however I am still looking at particular chapters. It comes from a Marxist perspective that I have little experience of. I found myself watching a television programme about Karl Marx as an economist in order to try and understand some of the concepts behind the early chapters of this book.
It may be a difficult read but I believe sometimes we need to stretch our thinking and consider how we work. It poses questions as to whether organizations like ours are helping asylum seekers and refugees to change the world, or only helping them to cope with being oppressed.