Wales

Asylum seekers and refugees share stories at Swansea writing class

Asylum seekers and refugees are using creative writing workshops in Swansea to share their experiences.

Writer Eric Ngalle Charles, who runs the classes, said they can be used to help people to express the challenge of seeking asylum and past experiences.

He said: "Every time they have to go to the Home Office they have to repeat their stories constantly. So these guys are constantly re-traumatised."

The sessions are held at the Dylan Thomas Centre.

Image caption Eric Ngalle Charles leads the classes

Mr Charles said: "When I first came to Wales all those years ago, all I had with me was my memory. I didn't know how to articulate, and tell people about my memories.

"I didn't know whether to tell them about the cesspit of crime that was Pechatniki in Moscow, or why as a young man at 17-years-old I was made to leave my homeland with such haste.

"There are organisations that try their best to help people. But they will label you continuously 'refugee', 'asylum seekers'... in a box.

"But when people come here [to the workshops] I remove that garment of an outcast that is a permanent fixture. I take them back to the earliest childhood memories, the first sounds that they heard.

"I will remove them completely from 'I have to go to the Home Office tomorrow', 'I have to go see a solicitor tomorrow'. I remove them completely from this kind of trap, or mental prison they find themselves in."

Image copyright Dylan Thomas Centre
Image caption Saba Humayun (third from left) attends the workshops

Saba Humayun, 23, who has attended the workshops, said: "I have been living in Swansea for almost two years.

"As a friend, or as a family now, we just try to encourage people to come to this project to share their story if they want.

"I like to tell people what we've been through. We have lots of problems in our life, but still we are here now. We have a chance to speak in front of people.

"Before that I was nervous. But Eric always told me, 'It is only you that can tell your own story to other people'."

The course, which is organised by Swansea council and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Welsh Government's Fusion programme, aims to encourage people to take part in the arts.

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