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.'

From the archive: Platanos - Self-Rescue by Ross Domoney

From the archive: A short clip from a documentary we were never able to finish in early 2016. It shows the hardships of volunteers who run a self orginized refugee rescue camp (Platanos) on the Greek island of Lesvos. A group of friends from Athens set up the camp in the face of E.U inaction with regards to the refugee crisis on the island of Lesvos.

This film is released under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.
Details here:

Video: The Real State of Emergency by Ross Domoney

As the press and politicians obsess themselves with the second round of voting in the French elections, with the choice between the two final contenders seeming meaningless for many, we follow those who were never offered a choice to begin with: France's forgotten refugee populations are now faced with grim future scenarios, dictated by either the neoliberal, or the outright fascist policies of the two remaining candidates. 

New Arrivals: They left Afghanistan a family of nine. They arrived in the UK a family of two by Ross Domoney

New Arrivals

The first episode of a series I filmed, directed and edited for the Guardian as part a project launched simultaneously with Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País. The project looks at how refugees and asylum seekers are getting on in Europe and how the continents various governments are treating them. 

Click here to view the video. 

'More than 1.2 million people sought asylum in Europe last year. How are they adapting to their new lives? What do they miss? What’s it like to swap Homs for Hamburg, Kabul for Croydon, or Mosul for the Mosel? Which European countries are best at helping refugees settle? In this series, the Guardian teams up with Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País to get inside newly arrived communities in western Europe to assess whether promises are being kept, whether European society is changing the new arrivals – and vice versa.'

  • This project is funded by the European Journalism Centre via a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation