RFS media awards

Compelling and accurate reporting has never been more important, especially when it comes to stories about refugees, a subject that incites a range of emotions.

Held at the end of June, the Scottish Refugee Festival’s Media Awards recognised several journalists telling compelling stories that relate to areas of British Red Cross work.

With categories including local news, features, online, television and national news, the judging panel were presented with a wide-range of reporting with journalists presenting first-hand accounts of refugee lives in Burma, Greece, France and the UK.

The awards are jointly sponsored by the British Red Cross, The Scottish Refugee Council and the National Union of Journalists.

Is the UK’s system of asylum fit for purpose?

Winning in the Features category, Liam Kirkaldy asked ‘Is the UK’s system of asylum support fit for purpose?’ in the Holyrood Magazine.

The article focuses on Anna, a pregnant asylum seeker from South Asia now struggling to live in Glasgow on an Azure Card.

Scotland has seen a great public push to do more on a practical and policy level to help refugees, particularly as the crisis in the Mediterranean has worsened.

The result the article concludes that for people like Anna reaching Scotland has not meant finding security or for that matter sanctuary.

Instead, there is “a different reality – one characterised by destitution, poverty and a sense of powerlessness.”

Hidden crises

Online and film work was also recognised by the judges. The Ferret’s UK-wide investigation highlighted the ‘hidden crisis’ of abused women with insecure immigration status.

Liam O’Hare was also praised for his short film “Behind the Wire – Dungavel”, which offered a glimpse into the conditions faced by people detained in the Home Office’s Immigration Removal Centre.

Jennifer McKiernan from the Aberdeen Press and Journal presented an account of a caravan re-purposed as a women’s medical centre in the Calais ‘Jungle’.

The article describes the community effort in filing the caravan, now called Mavis, with food, clothes and blankets before the 20-hour drive to witness the desperate living conditions in the camp.

Edinburgh-student Shaliz Navab’s work – United Nations Dispatchfeatures after she volunteered with the Norwegian NGO Northern Lights in Greece, where 53,000 refugees were held in military bases. She recalled how she was approached by a man desperate for help.

“‘My sister is in pain,’ he said, pointing at a young woman on the ground – she was seven months pregnant.”

Comforted by other women in her tent, her pleas for an ambulance with the local police were resisted. Shaliz made another attempt to speak to the local officer.

“I can still feel the discomfort creeping through my skin,” she recalled.

“I heard the words coming out of my mouth, rationalising and bartering with a human so closed-minded and insensitive about something so fundamental and urgent.”

Finally, a special award was made to Calum Macdonald. As a journalist, Calum held a strong desire to counter what he saw as a disappointing excess of negativity in news journalism.

He created the not-for-profit website Positively Scottish with a vision to tell the positive stories that were taking place all over Scotland.

Sadly Calum passed away in May, but the judges were keen to recognise that his work was firmly crafted in the traditions of what good journalism should be about.