The emotional torment of fleeing your home is not easy to describe. I remember arriving at London Heathrow airport like it was yesterday. It was a freezing cold December night and I could not think straight. I felt so sad and guilty at leaving my parents behind. But equally I was happy and relieved to be in a safe place. I never wanted to leave Syria. I never thought that, some four years later, I would have a new life in Yorkshire. What makes someone abandon their home and travel over land and sea for a better future? In recent days, there has been so much focus on refugees around the world. I am a 'refugee'. But first and foremost, I am a person.
We know that permitting asylum seekers to work would allow them to integrate better into society, develop their English and make friends in what can often be a lonely and new environment. Many are professionals with skills they would love to put to use and which would benefit our economy. It makes complete sense to make this modest change to the immigration rules in line with other European countries. By changing the restrictions on working, we can restore asylum seekers dignity and self-confidence, whilst saving money for the public purse in the long-run.
Our research shows that 73% of Brits agree that learning English is not only beneficial to refugees - it also benefits Britain. If they are to make friends, find work and start contributing to their communities, all refugees must have full and equal access to English language lessons. Enabling all refugees to access free English lessons isn't a handout; it's an investment in Britain's future.
Our hosts offer anything from a sofa-bed in the living room of a little flat above a shop in the edgy part of North London, to spacious suites with bathrooms in Notting Hill. What each does offer though is a generous heart and a desire to do something to those, and it could be any of us, fleeing war and persecution and facing a deeply uncertain future
There is no doubt that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers face wide ranging challenges. But change is possible. Successful small contributions can result in a substantial impact. If you want to use your skills and resources to help make a real change, find out more about joining Women for Change and sign up to attend our event.
If policymakers are serious about resolving the crisis in Calais, they need to take immediate steps to fix this broken system. It has become clear that no progress will be made until funds are invested in educating and empowering the camp's residents, rather than continuing to segregate and dehumanise them.
These cannot be written off as isolated incidents. They expose the underlying failings of the way Britain responds to refugees arriving here. Current government policy does not provide the support that refugees so desperately need, and fails to build the positive relationships we all want to see between refugees and host communities.