London: Great British Welcome exhibition shows refugee-hosting as 'win-win'


Charles and Catherine have been hosting Hussein, 19, from Ethiopia, since October 2016. Hussein said he had an extremely difficult journey fleeing his home, but hopes to move forward with his life in the UK. © UNHCR/Aubrey Wade

Charles and Catherine have been hosting Hussein, 19, from Ethiopia, since October 2016. Hussein said he had an extremely difficult journey fleeing his home, but hopes to move forward with his life in the UK. © UNHCR/Aubrey Wade

Source: UNHCR

Photos by Aubrey Wade, backed by UNHCR, highlight how Britons are offering rooms to refugees, and both parties can benefit; collection on display at St Martin-the-Fields till March.

Great British Welcome, a series of photographs and texts portraying refugees and their hosts at home in Britain, will be on display at St Martin-the-Fields in Trafalgar Sqaure, London, until mid March.

The collection helps demonstrate that even as the numbers displaced by war and persecution have surged, Europeans have shown compassion, hope and humanity by opening their homes to refugees, helping to bridge cultural divides and break down language barriers.

The show is the UK chapter of No Stranger Place, an exhibition of photographs and stories of refugees and hosts across Europe. It offers visitors a personal insight into their lives together. The series was developed by the photographer Aubrey Wade with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. It includes portraits from Germany, Sweden, France and Austria and will run from January 16 to March 16 in the Courtyard of St Martin-the-Fields, by Trafalgar Square, London.

"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," Wade said. "It really is win-win."

The UK studies range from a young Muslim from Syria, staying with a Jewish family in Cambridge, to an elderly gentleman from Eritrea, who has found shelter and avoided homelessness in Birmingham.

The Goldhills welcomed Faraj, 21, into their Cambridge home. He fled war-torn Aleppo in 2012. "He comes from a very orthodox Islamic background and then he comes to a very Jewish family," said Simon Goldhill, professor of Greek literature at Kings College, Cambridge University. "He prays five times a day and then comes to synagogue with us and helps the rabbi. This is a testament to who Faraj is. He sees our differences, but never as an issue."

In Britain, the project received invaluable support from Refugees at Home, a charity connecting those with a spare room in their home with asylum-seekers and refugees who badly need accommodation.

"There is a real sense of civic-mindedness and support for refugees at the grass roots level in Britain," said Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR's UK Representative. "Refugees at Home and the hosts it links to refugees are testament to that.

Aubrey Wade uses documentary photography to explore complex social issues, seeking visual approaches to storytelling that help audiences connect with his subjects and their experiences. He works internationally on long-term documentary projects, as well as with leading publications and NGOs. He is represented by Panos Pictures.

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