Asylum seekers record festive single with message of unity / by Ross Domoney

We are very pleased to announce that our warming video of asylum seekers singing an uplifting rendition of Bill Withers 'Lean on me' is being picked up by media across the UK. 

Today the video was published on the Guardian and last night the same performance was performed live on BBC news night. 



The song is also being used to raise awareness and funds to help refugees. Proceeds will go to Refugee Action and you can donate here

Bellow is the text published on the Guardian today: 

'Asylum seekers record festive single with message of unity

One Heart Refugee Choir, made up of 24 refugees, join professional musicians to record version of Bill Withers’ Lean On Me

They escaped persecution, violence and torture in some of the most brutal countries in the world. Now, a group of asylum seekers have come together with professional musicians to record a single for the festive season, an uplifting rendition of Bill Withers’ Lean On Me.

The One Heart Refugee Choir, made up of 24 refugees from countries including Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Jamaica and Kazakhstan, decided to record the track as a symbol of the resilience of the human spirit, and to offer a message of solidarity.

Tamara McFarlane, one of the singers in the choir, said: “Refugees’ and asylum seekers’ voices are rarely heard in this country.

“Usually we are hidden. We have all been through terrible things, but our spirits are strong. We hope that the song’s message, urging human beings to unite, is one that people across the UK can get behind.”

Less than 1% of the world’s 2.2 million refugees make it to the UK to claim asylum, yet those who do often struggle to overcome the stigma placed on asylum seekers and experience social and institutional hostility.

As a Guardian video revealed, they often live in filthy, overcrowded and dangerous conditions in Home Office accommodation.

Those in the One Heart choir have escaped rape, torture and forced female genital mutilation. One of the singers had to flee Zimbabwe for resisting Robert Mugabe’s regime, while another from South Africa was subjected to “corrective rape” after it was found she was a lesbian.

The choir said the song gave them an opportunity to present an antidote to the negative associations often placed on asylum seekers. Lean On Me was originally written by Withers in 1972 as a testament to the power of community spirit that he had known growing up in a poor coalmining town in West Virginia.

One of the professional singers involved in the collaboration, Nina Miranda of the band Smoke City, said she had encouraged fellow musicians to get involved because “the message of human solidarity, especially in times of adversity, has never been more important”.

“Everyone had a wonderful day recording the song and it was a real pleasure to perform with the talented members of the One Heart choir. We hope the song will raise awareness and funds for asylum seekers and refugees,” she said.'