According to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is “a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” A person is officially accepted as a refugee in the UK when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.

Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim. No country has ever withdrawn from this convention having originally signed up to its edicts.

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, igniting what has been termed by the media as a ‘ refugee crisis’. Indeed, countries struggled to cope with the influx and stark divisions were experienced in the EU over deciding how best to deal with resettling people. Winter did not curb the flow of people; according to the UNHCR, 135,711 people have reached Europe by sea since the start of 2016. Refugees from Syria, displaced by the ongoing conflict there, continue to come in the largest numbers followed by people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Kosovo.

In the UK, the judicial system is highly complex, making it very difficult to be granted asylum. The process is extremely tough and the majority of people’s claims are turned down. Since 2005, people recognised as refugees are only given permission to stay in the UK for five years and can have their case reviewed at any time. Numerous wonderful charities are therefore stepping in to support people and whole families before and during this five year period with Ourmala being one such tremendously vital and pivotal charity.

Ourmala exists to help refugees and asylum-seekers recover from the atrocities they have experienced and rebuild their lives. They stand for compassion, interconnection and social justice. Their mission is to provide immediate and lasting change for refugees and asylum-seekers through therapeutic care, educational services and access to critical resources. One of the key services offered by Ourmala is that of yoga, with ‘mala’ itself meaning garland in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language in which yoga’s seminal texts are written. All of Ourmala’s services are free and they even refund the cost of travel, without which many of the people availing of their services would be unable to attend. They provide therapeutic yoga classes, hot meals, English classes, access to basic-needs services, access to educational services and a safe space for asylum seekers and refugees to simply breathe and be. Ourmala is truly a place of acceptance, kindness, solidarity and love.

This coming Tuesday, 21st June on the eve of midsummer and the official U.N. International Yoga Day, Ourmala is holding their ‘Yoga for Refugees’ Event in London to raise money to support 250 women and children in our local community. Taking place in Lindley Hall in the Royal Horticultural Halls in Everton Street, South West London, ‘Yoga for Refugees’ will include an extended yoga class in the Jivamukti style to a specially created soundscape by Amir Amor of Rudimental, short talks, special guests, goody bags, a raffle and plenty of opportunity for networking and deep connection with compassionate souls. All proceeds from this unique and spectacular evening will be spent directly on supporting women and children in crisis. Doors open at the stunning Lindley Hall at 5.30pm on 21st June 2016 for a 6.30pm start. For more information, visit Ourmala’s event page at . Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite at . You can also make a kind donation at

The Minded Institute are proud to be sponsors of this pioneering and compassion-focused ‘Yoga for Refugees’ Event and support the work of Emily Brett and her forward-thinking charity whole-heartedly. We hope to see as many as possible of you there supporting this deeply worthwhile and critical cause.

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