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Experiences of refugees and asylum seekers during COVID-19

Tied bird: A drawing by a young asylum seeker from Pakistan

A new digital exhibition which chronicles the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers in different parts of the world during COVID-19, launches on International Migrants Day (18 December 2020).

Unlocked Archive, based on research led by Professor Marie Gillespie, OU Professor of Sociology in the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, captures images, videos, audio and music around the migrant and refugee experience during the pandemic. The exhibition is a curated space - a series of rooms which users can tour and experience the light and the dark sides of the pandemic.

The exhibition is part of the COVID-19 Chronicles from the Margins project, which is exploring what it has been like being an asylum seeker, a refugee or an undocumented person under lockdown.

Creative responses invite a politics of hope

A digital ethnography project, it gathers creative responses to the pandemic mainly through smartphones and situates them within the broader landscape of multiple crises, including systemic racism, war and conflict, climate change, austerity and migration.

Professor Gillespie said: “Our collective work invites a politics of hope. It is based on the belief that COVID-19 can open up opportunities for solidarity, care and a new sense of our common fate, locally and globally. And it aims to nurture hope, by collecting artefacts that speak of creativity, care, efforts to make life beautiful even amidst desperate conditions. At the same time, we engage governments, policymakers, organisations and partners in the struggle to fight the inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19.”

The project has just received further support from The Open University (OU) COVID-19 Rapid Response funding scheme.

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