In pictures: Portraits of welcome – BBC News

To celebrate International Migrants Day, Marcia Chandra invited members of the British public to a story booth, allowing them to tell their stories and offer up messages of greeting for arriving refugees.


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“When I came here as a student nine years ago I felt that I had come into a very multicultural society and really wanted to be part of it.

“I miss the food in Morocco and being around people who have known me my whole life, but London is my home now. My closest friends from university and from Morocco live here now, my values align more with London and I love being in a very multicultural environment where you get to meet people from all ends of the world.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“Although I left Ireland 57 years ago, I still regard this country as my home. My family has moved back and I miss them. They’re part of my identity.

“Family is my community and has structured who I am.”


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Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“It’s interesting the opportunity that moving home has given me to start over and edit my story and identity in fresh and exciting ways.

“I have moved about four or five times in my life; I’ve lived in countries in Africa, Asia and now, Europe. Flowers at my bedside, warmth, the smell of garlic and a sense of familiarity and light jazz music – that is home. A place of comfort, safety and beauty and a non-judgemental space where you can stare at the ceiling and know it’s OK.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“What makes me feel comfortable here is that I can sleep in peace. I can walk alone at night with my handbag. There is no dust, no insects. Food, shelter and security are abundant.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“Getting to know a new place, learning a new language, landing a job, making new friends these are processes that everyone goes through. It’s just a matter of time before you start feeling at home.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“My father sought asylum in the UK after the Iranian revolution. This country welcomed him with open arms. Community here is about listening to each other’s stories and treating each other with compassion and respect. I hope you find the same things here when you arrive.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“I love the diversity in London. When I’m on the bus – hearing different languages, seeing different faces – that richness is one of the things I find most beautiful about London.

“Welcome to the UK. I hope you find friends, safety, a community for yourself and become part of this tapestry of London life.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“My move to the UK from a village in Pakistan was a huge culture shock. My teacher was very helpful. She became another mother to me and encouraged me to work hard. I didn’t even know how to write an essay, yet she gave me the courage to achieve. She made me realise that anything is possible.

“We who come from a Third World country often feel like we can’t compete but we have all the abilities to accomplish our dreams.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“Moving from Turkey at a young age, I was excited to experience England. This ability here to experience two different cultures and feel safe in both – has made me feel like a global citizen.

“As an academic I am connected to friends and colleagues from all over the world and being part of this one global community is an honour and a privilege. I hope one day everyone can have this feeling of inclusion and belonging.”

Aleena and Fabian

Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“We met when we were doing our master’s degrees and are still friends. Don’t believe the media narrative about people’s perceptions of refugees and migrants. The average person on the street is friendly and accepting, and the UK is a very diverse place.

“Most people here are open and interested in who you are. Be yourself and, if you feel like it, share your stories.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“My grandfather came here just after World War Two, invited by Her Majesty to come and rebuild the country. He is now 90 years old, has five children, 12 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

“When he arrived he worked in a factory making nuts and bolts to rebuild the East End. He realised that the food he was used to from India was not available, so he decided to do something about it and opened a shop to sell homemade food. The best thing you can do is to bring your food and recipes here. The UK loves food. We want to welcome you with food. Let’s share some recipes.”


Image copyright Marcia Chandra

“There is no one way to be a part of British society. The people here have so much heart and joy and wonder. People here will help connect you to the community. Being in Britain doesn’t mean telling each other how to be, but sharing who you are with others.

“With shared experiences, we avoid misunderstandings and judgement, and we build a community together.”

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