Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland
We all know the feeling you get from a long holiday or a refreshing break away. The freedom that comes from being far away from the worries that keep us up at night, wake us up in the morning or follow us around all day. Different people disconnect from their work in different ways. For some, there is a comfort that comes from switching off their mobile phones, going on a long walk or from spending time with loved ones. Last weekend a group of academics, activists, practitioners and artists who work with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Glasgow (and beyond) came together in a remote corner of the Isle of Mull to share methods of self-care and to practice it in the process.
The people who came together are all part of the Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network. They are usually incredibly busy and (over)committed, concerned with the injustice of the world and the people affected by the UK asylum process and associated border controls. In Glasgow, this group normally gathers through a series of events to discuss serious issues, changes in the legal asylum system or to think deeply about a film in the GRAMNet film series.
We went by train, ferry, coach and foot down the track to Camas. This physical and mental distance allowed people to disconnect with everyday worries and technologies and find the time and space necessary to explore the theme of self-care in playful and creative ways. Some people in the group were already good friends, but many were complete strangers and it was striking how easy it was to be open and vulnerable in the presence of strangers.
One workshop involved an Action Learning Set where the person presenting shared their work-related problem and those listening were required to leave their own baggage and prejudice behind, so that the person sharing their could find the actions and solutions suitable for them, rather than having them suggested to them.
Being on Mull was a much-needed reminder of the connections that exist between us. The (GRAMNet) network is always there; even if the lines of connection are so faint you cannot see them or communicate them in one language. There is a certain strength that grows from knowing that what you do, you do with others. While doing work and research with migrants and refugees, many people expressed that they carry a weight of responsibility on their shoulders to do justice for others. There is a pressure to keep phones on and to check emails constantly. However, after five days with my phone switched off the only thing that happened was the absence of email apnia (where you hold your breath before reading an anxiety-inducing email). Instead of carrying this weight, we should be mindful of the connections we share with others in the network and of the people and places we can go to for support.
Thanks to all the people who organised the trip, the residents and volunteers at Camas and the people who couldn’t be there but make up the rest of the Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network.
Bridget Holtom is currently undertaking a collaborative research project with Scottish Detainee Visitors as part of an MRes in Human Geography at the University of Glasgow.