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Half of Brits think the UK should be doing more to welcome and accommodate refugees and people seeking asylum. Street artist creates wall of welcome as a demonstration against divisive policies

As part of a nationwide campaign, Ben & Jerry’s is building a wall with a difference as part of its ongoing effort to support people seeking safety in the UK. And they’re calling on the public to grab a paintbrush and add their own welcome message in solidarity!

Ben & Jerry’s found that over half of Brits (53%)* think the UK should be doing more to welcome and accommodate refugees and people seeking asylum. However, over one in ten (11%) admit that they do not fully understand the issues facing refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK, with 70% disclosing that they only somewhat understand.

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Despite the lack of understanding, 45% of Brits feel that refugees in the UK help to make the country more inclusive and diverse with 42% citing that refugees bring new skills to the UK and a third (33%) expressing refugees help to create a richer culture.

A wall is symbolically known to divide and incite conflict. Subverting this negative association, the initiative aims to encourage Brits to spread a sense of community and to continue to build a society where everyone feels welcome.

Following the Home Office’s renewal of the refugee resettlement programme, the ‘Welcome, not Walls’ installation has been created with support from national and local refugee organisations including Counterpoint Arts, a group dedicated to supporting arts by and about migrants through initiatives like Refugee Week.

The wall of welcome, which was initially hosted in London, will travel to Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester for Refugee Week (21st and 22nd June), where it will be re-imagined by street artist, Mohammed Ali and will be a celebration of refugee-led music, arts, spoken word.

Prominent Manchester MPs, including Shadow Immigration Minister, Afzal Khan and Labour MPs Kate Green and Jeff Smith will be visiting the wall to write their own message of kindness and welcome.

Once decorated with messages it will act as a show of solidarity with those seeking safety and as a demonstration against divisive policies.

This is the latest awareness-raising tactic by Ben & Jerry’s and partners, in their third year of campaigning for the rights of people seeking safety. This includes the current ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign, aimed at restoring the right to work for people seeking asylum in the UK.

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti was first to pledge her support by contributing with her own poignant message of welcome: “There is a great but small island on a troubled and shrinking interconnected planet. Sometime, somewhere, we are all refugees.”

Almir Koldzic, Co-director at Counterpoints Arts comments: “People seeking safety are our co-workers, friends and neighbours but every day people are isolated and unable to participate fully in society. The reason we chose to get involved in this campaign is because we believe arts can inspire social change and enhance inclusion & cultural integration. It’s exciting to be able to bring people together with the work of artists like Mohammed Ali, through such a positive message.”

Street Artist, Mohammed Ali comments: “I’ve been painting walls for decades and truly believe that when art spills out in the streets around us, we bring colour to people’s lives. For the public to contribute with their message, something very special happens. This art then truly belongs to us all, and is the voice of the people”

Rebecca Baron, UK Social Mission Manager at Ben & Jerry’s comments: “Walls are synonymous with refugees – walls to divide and segregate certain communities, but imagine a world where a wall could be a welcome? We believe some of the loudest voices in society are compromising our values of equality and justice, we want our fans to cone together and make their voices heard in welcoming solidarity. Because what’s sweeter than people coming together, to say “we’re all equal, and we’re all welcome here”.

Members of the public can show their support by joining Ben & Jerry’s at the wall in Manchester, tweeting their support using #welcomenotwalls, and join in by signing up to Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission movement here: https://www.benjerry.co.uk/whats-new/2019/06/welcome-not-walls.

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