Last Friday 29th of June, Bristolians gathered at City Hall to honour Kamil Ahmad and Bijan Ebrahimi, and others who have been failed by the system. Kamil and Bijam were both disabled men who came to the UK seeking safety and sanctuary. Both of them were murdered in Bristol.
Kamil came to England from Iraq, after being imprisoned and tortured. He was hosted by Bristol Hospitality Network (BHN) during a period of destitution, before moving to supported accommodation. Kamil remained closed to BHN, attending the Welcome Centre on regular basis, always sharing a smile with members, volunteers and staff.
Sam Kidell, BHN Volunteer, attended the event at City Hall and kindly shared his thoughts about the event.
“Speakers included Kamil’s brother Kamaran Ahmad Ali, his friend Esam Amin, poet Miles Chambers, a city councillor, and a representative from Stand up to Racism and Inequality (SARI). After the speeches, a mural that Kamil had painted before he was murdered was installed at City Hall, depicting the experiences of people with disabilities who seek asylum in the UK. After the ceremony, as attendees gathered outside, Amazing Grace was played on the trumpet – softly, waveringly. We walked through the city centre in a procession to the next venue where discussions focused on the specific struggles faced by people with disabilities and precarious migration statuses.
Esam Amin told the gathering of people that even as he felt deep sadness, he was proud of his friend Kamil for bridging the struggles of the disability and asylum/immigration sectors. This bridge became stronger throughout the afternoon, as shared struggles were illuminated: of barriers to attaining appropriate support from government agencies, of being made more precarious through ongoing cuts to government budgets, of being stigmatised as vulnerable people, rather than recognised as people made vulnerable by oppressive situations. Speaking of his situation in Bristol in a film shown at the event, Kamil said: “I feel like I am in prison in a country where I am supposed to be free”.
As attendees shared experiences, possible solutions, and made new commitments, a sense of solidarity grew. As several speakers suggested, it is only through solidarity that the vulnerable, precarious, imprisoning situations that Kamil, Bijan, and many others were and are trapped in can be eradicated, and people with disabilities seeking asylum in the UK might live in freedom.”
BHN members, volunteers and staff miss Kamil’s friendship at the Welcome Centre, but remain hopeful that support for people looking for sanctuary will grow, and that new spaces of solidarity will continue to open.