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Thursday, 22 March 2012

The symposium began with a very personal address from the mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Sheila Stuart. She told the students about the importance of supporting Refugee Week and how this was a subject vey close to her heart as her ancestors were themselves refugees    


Our host for the event was Dr Sean Lang of the history department who gave an opening talk on how wars lead to refugee crises. He asked the young people (around 15 of them), to imagine what choices etc


Our host for the event was Dr Sean Lang of the history department who gave an opening talk on how wars lead to refugee crises. He asked the young people (around 15 of them), to imagine what choices they would have to make if they too became refugees that evening.


The event continued with a moving talk by Miss Ann Chadwick, the author of the newly published ‘Suzie, the little girl who changed our lives.’ Ann spoke with deep emotion about how little Suzie Spitzer came to Cambridge in 1939 as a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Austria. She came on the so-called ‘kindertransport’ – the mass rescue of 10,000 children to the UK. Ann spoke of her first encounters as a very small child with her ‘new sister’ – how things were not always easy and the sacrifices made by her parents at the dawn of the war. Ann’s father Mr. Aubrey Chadwick is still very much alive at the age of 98 and sent his good wishes to the group.


The youngsters from the school were enthralled by Ann’s talk and asked many questions at the end of it.  The next speaker was Eddie Stadnik from the British Refugee Council and Chief Officer, Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum. He talked to the students about the work of the Refugee Council and introduced the next part of the symposium: case studies on asylum cases. Dr Lang and Mike Levy took up the subject and gave a short introduction to the basis of international law on asylum seekers. The students were then asked to read some case studies and make some judgements on whether asylum cases were valid under the law.  One case study was a true story written for our symposium by a specialist asylum lawyer


With Dr Lang as lively moderator,  the case study provoked very lively discussion among the students and the symposium came to a vigorous end with the students fully engaged in the subject and keen to learn more.


Everyone including the teacher from Chesterton, Ms Catherine Abrahams, head of history, that it was a very worthwhile event and that the students gained some very interesting insights into issues surrounding refugees in the modern world. She expressed interest in a follow-up symposium as part of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) week in January. We will set this up as usual.