Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards – sharing the stories of people seeking safety

Every year, Scottish Refugee Council and the National Union of Journalists Scotland join forces to hold the Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards.

Highlighting and rewarding the vital role of accurate and responsible journalism on refugee and asylum issues is more important than ever. Digital Content Volunteer, Elina Badovska, worked as a journalist in Ukraine. Here, she shares her experiences of the 2024 Media Awards.

Each year Scottish Refugee Council runs the event to highlight how journalism is important for sharing the stories of people seeking safety in Scotland.

The 2024 Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards took place at Barras Art & Design in Glasgow on June 13. Winners and runners up were awarded in five categories: News; Broadcast; Radio; Local News and Features. The full list of winners and runners up can be found here.

Sabir Zazai, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, opened the event, which highlights the experiences of people who are simply looking for safety:

“This evening we’re celebrating the courage, hope and resilience and refugee stories are our stories, just like refugee rights are our rights, and there are no differences between us, despite negative narratives of the system”

Nick McGowan-Lowe, NUJ National Organiser for Scotland, was on hand as one of the judges.

The winner in the Features category was Jamie Smith for his Surge Magazine article: Ore’s Story: How an LGBTQ+ refugee fled Nigeria to make Scotland home.

Jamie was not able to attend the event in person, so his dad collected the award on his behalf.  He stressed that the award should honour Ore, who had to flee Nigeria after experiencing severe persecution simply for kissing another girl and witnessing her partner being beaten to death. Ore is now rebuilding her life as a refugee in Scotland.

“One evening in 2020, Ore and Eoyosi attended a friend’s birthday party. They both had drinks – a few too many. They kissed. But, unknown to them, they were being watched. One of Ore’s brothers, with a group of other men, set out to ‘correct their wrongs.’ The young couple were dragged outside and brutally beaten. Ore managed to break free, running away from the party, but was unable to save Eoyosi from the violence.”

Jamie Smith, Surge Magazine

The winner in the Broadcast category, was BBC Alba with Eòrpa – Afghanistan to Lewis, created by Annabel MacLennan, Maureen Macleod, Darren Laing, and Iona MacRitchie. The story follows a family from Afghanistan who rebuilt their lives on the Isle of Lewis, recalling the horrors they escaped from under the Taliban regime.

“It was only when the plane finally took off did the family dare to think it was their moment of escape. From Qatar, they flew to the UK, travelled to Edinburgh, and then to Lewis. Frishta said there were times in Kabul she thought they would die. She said: ‘I just looked to my husband, hugged my son, and said, ‘Maybe it’s the last time we see each other.’”

Eòrpa, BBC Alba

The winner in the Radio category, was Tony Kearney for his BBC Radio Scotland interview with Hassan Nazer, an Iranian film director who came to Scotland as a refugee in 2000. Hassan shared his journey from refugee to esteemed filmmaker with Tony, the Sunday morning radio presenter.

The Local News category was won by Val Sweeney with Displaced Ukrainians in Inverness face another Christmas away from their war-torn homeland. Her powerful story in the Highland News and Media highlights the experiences of Ukrainian families united by their shared experiences. Despite the emotional events of their past, these families have found a new home in Scotland, bringing their traditions to a new country.

“Boisterous, enthusiastic and delightful, they resemble any ordinary group of youngsters. But their circumstances are far from ordinary. It is the second Christmas and New Year away from their war-torn homeland, separated from their fathers and other family members by thousands of miles.”

Val Sweeney, Highland News & Media

The winner in the News category was Nicola Kelly with her piece for Byline Times. The Refugees Turned Out on to Freezing Streets to Clear Rishi Sunak’s Asylum Backlog exposed how the housing crisis is affecting people seeking safety in Scotland.

“The day I got my status, that is when my problems really started”, said Mohamed, a recently-granted refugee from Sudan. “I waited two years for this decision, and I was so happy when I got it, but now I am out on the streets.” Less than two weeks after being granted leave to remain, Mohamed was evicted from his hotel and forced to sleep rough.

Nicola Kelly, Byline Times

The power of freedom of speech should be used to share similar stories to stop discrimination against refugees in the UK and globally. Nominations for next year’s Media Awards will open in March 2025. Journalists are encouraged to share their work with us.