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These young migrants made photo diaries of life in lockdown

Brighter Futures helps young migrants support each other and create social change. Here members share their lockdown picture journals for The Big Issue’s Refugee Special.

Much as we’d all like to, nobody will forget what life in lockdown was like. But how did young migrants feel, their movements restricted in a country that had already placed plenty of restrictions on them?

London-based Brighter Futures is a group of young people standing up for migrants such as themselves. They use creativity to challenge negative perceptions of migration in the UK and their work is supported by Praxis Community Projects and Kazzum Arts. Some of the participants kept a picture journal over the various lockdowns. Here, they share their images and thoughts.

Annie

My image isn’t a photograph in the regular sense because I felt nothing could reflect how I really feel, so I made this. This is my reality, and the reality of several young migrants across Britain.

The policies have imprisoned us. We have been restricted from living normal lives like our peers who we grew up with, went to school with and played with when we were younger. As a young migrant this is my sad and hellish reality.

Covid invited the rest of the world into this imprisonment. The only difference is that, with Covid, you’re restricted for your safety and there’s hope for a release date.

For a young migrant like me, someone who arrived in Britain as a young child and knows no other home than Britain, the barriers are enormous and imprisoning.

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When Covid is over, I will not be able to walk freely like everyone else because my prison sentence will not be over by then. Me and thousands of others will only take off our masks because, sadly, in our reality normality is a luxury.

Soph

The reason I took this picture was because we feel trapped, like we are in a box but you can just about see the light. I had a box and I switched on the timer on my phone to 10 seconds and just put it in the box facing up. I think it expresses how I feel and how a lot of people feel too.

You look outside, you want to go outside, but you’re scared. But something gives you hope that things are not always going to be the way they are. That’s why I took it.

Time waits for no one – a lot of people procrastinate and say, oh, I’ll do it tomorrow, but what’s the guarantee we are going to be around next year?

Lots of people had plans – to get married, have children – but anything can happen. We should just live our lives.

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Benita

I took this picture when I was on the train and I’m wearing the mask and I’m just free. Nobody was there so I didn’t have to sit near anyone – there was more space than usual.

I know I’m not alone with my depression because everybody now… they know how we feel when you are stuck in one place. I’m alone in the picture, the situation is hard. I was in detention – and now with lockdown it’s like you’re in prison, but with everybody. Even though I’m alone I’m still strong and I can stand.

We have to think more about migrants and what they face. Now [when] people lose their jobs, they can’t go anywhere, they have to just stay at home. This is how we live every day. They have to consider us like everybody else.

Now they see it’s not easy to stay at home – they can’t go out, they can’t work, it’s frustrating. We want to work, we want to go out and have a life – but we are blocked. Maybe now people will understand how that feels.

Amina

I just saw this book cover in a magazine so I took a photo of it. I chose it because of the environment I was in before it all happened. I was thinking ‘why me?’, just like the book.

When the first lockdown happened I was feeling lonely – it was a really difficult time, just staying at home without doing anything. Before I used to go volunteering, see people, just keeping myself busy, and when the lockdown came I couldn’t do anything.

The picture also spoke to me about Black Lives Matter during the lockdown. The children on the book cover – one is black and one is white, but they have been brought together. We didn’t choose to be like this, we are just born this way. People shouldn’t judge each other based on your skin colour or your culture. We didn’t create ourselves.

The lockdown did bring people together, and people looked after each other, asking if you need anything, asking how are you feeling. If you feel down you can call someone just to speak about how you’re feeling. I think now people check on their friends and keep them happy. When you make your friend happy, it makes you happy as well, not just them. That’s what lots of people learned.

What’s in a name?

Brighter Futures collaborated with poet Arji Manuelpillai, animator Robin Lane-Roberts and sound artist Ben Moore to bring the story of Joe to life. Not just Joe, but two Joes, living dramatically different lives just because one has a passport, an identity, rights – and the other does not.

brighterfutureslondon.co.uk

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