We spoke to the people giving refugees their own media platform

‘Their real lives have been overshadowed by narratives which we had been inserting them into’

This week is both World Refugee Week and the week of the EU referendum.

Though in Britain we like to consider ourselves to be generally liberal and accepting of difference, but the current refugee crisis and the rhetoric around it has brought up a lot of issues which no longer seemed relevant or even existent.

All photos are part of a participatory project for The Frontier, taken by refugees 

Yesterday marked the launch of The Frontier, a media platform created for refugees to show their side of the story. The aim is to create a space for them to talk about what is happening to them, write about the things they care about and gain an audience inside and outside that community.

We spoke to Callum, one of the editors about how it started, what the aims of the website are and about the refugee crisis more generally.

Hi Callum. Tell us about The Frontier.

The migrant crisis is one of the biggest stories in the world right now, but we almost only hear other people’s versions of what they think, believe, and want.

But many of the refugees involved are more than capable of telling their own stories and talking about their lives. We’d like to give people a structure and a platform for that.

What gave you the idea for it?

I was working on the growth team of The Tab in the US and really enjoyed the work and wanted to do something with education and refugees for a while.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought what I’d learnt at The Tab might lend itself really well to a media project based around some of the camps that we hear so much about, but know so little about.

I then met some people at the Refugee Info Bus who had a similar project in mind, and we partnered up to turn it into a reality.

What’s the most rewarding part of this?

It’s still early days right now, but definitely meeting people in Calais, where all our writers are from for now. The range of interests and passions and ideas people have really surprised me, although it really shouldn’t have.

Talking to people from all over the world who have interesting things to say and experiences to share is really cool.

What are the people you met through this project like?

Our writers and content producers are awesome, but also an amazing volunteer community. In my case especially the Refugee Info Bus who provide internet to people in the camp from a refurbished horse box.

It’s fantastic to drive it into the camp and immediately hear people in 20 different languages Skypeing or calling home and its all thanks to some smart and really committed volunteers.

Who’s the most inspirational person you have met?

I’ve met a lot of people who have been translators for the armed forces or for the various NGOs in Afghanistan and have had to leave home for their own safety.

It’s amazing how calm and articulate many of these people are about their circumstances, especially given that they often have not been well-served by the people they have helped.

What are you hoping to achieve through this?

The more I think about it, the more I realise that I’m just super curious about what people want to write, the opinions and ideas they want to share.

Refugees are often people who’s real lives have been completely overshadowed by various narratives which we had been inserting them into.

There are lots of things this project could do, but I think one really important thing would be to help break up those lazy stereotypes a bit. But also providing some of our writers with something to do and feel engaged by.

What do you think about the current refugee situation? What do you think the government needs to do?

I think there are more and more civil society groups who are mobilising to do something where traditional politics having failed – especially using technology to bridge the gap between communities and influence politicians without going through traditional channels.

We need to get realistic about how to deal with this problem. There is a lot of denial about who can take responsibility for helping these people.

Relatively speaking the numbers involved are small and the alternatives to actually having more generous refugee and immigration policy are pretty unpleasant.

Leaving people in unsanitary and dangerous camp conditions is bad enough, but if you see the way the EU has been moving towards using migrant drownings in the Med as a deterrent, that’s something we should all be ashamed of.