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From War and Trafficking to London’s Tech Scene

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. “I’m Alaa but my friends call me Ali. I am from Damascus, Syria.”

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. “I’m Alaa but my friends call me Ali. I am from Damascus, Syria.”

From War and Trafficking to London’s Tech Scene, photo essay by Alice Rowsome

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One by one the students walk down the staircase, lit by colourful hanging lightbulbs and decorated with abstract oil paintings, into the basement of one of Old Street’s technology startups. As they take their seats and pull their laptops out of their bags, there is a palatable sense of relief in the room.

Amid the tense atmosphere in the capital following Brexit and government sponsored walls at the British border, I join a group of refugees from Syria to Uganda on their first day of a 6-month intensive coding program in London.

For the past few months, Germán Bencci, a Venezuelan-born engineer based in London inspired by a similar program launched in Amsterdam, has been rallying technology startups and gathering support. On the curriculum is a universal language: HTML, Javascript, Angular and Node. The aim: give refugees the opportunity to secure employment and the tools to work on projects that may help them tackle the refugee crisis, whilst enriching the technology sector with more trained developers.

This photo series gives a face and a voice to London’s refugee tech students. As they begin an incredible new journey, their past continues to hover over them. They all underline that graduating will not only benefit them and their communities here and but also those still trapped in the bombshell.
(Alice Rowsome)

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. “I come from Aleppo in Syria, I think the city is quite well-known now but not for very good reasons. I guess it’s a well-known city for anyone that follows the news. Since claiming asylum, I have been looking for work. Sadly my speciality area is English Language Teaching and so it’s not the best speciality to have here in the UK. As we say in Arabic, it’s like selling water in a neighbourhood of water providers. It’s just not the right thing to do! After the course, I hope to teach coding here in the UK.”

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. “I come from Aleppo in Syria, I think the city is quite well-known now but not for very good reasons. I guess it’s a well-known city for anyone that follows the news. Since claiming asylum, I have been looking for work. Sadly my speciality area is English Language Teaching and so it’s not the best speciality to have here in the UK. As we say in Arabic, it’s like selling water in a neighbourhood of water providers. It’s just not the right thing to do! After the course, I hope to teach coding here in the UK.”

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016.

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016.

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. “My life wasn’t safe in Afghanistan. I was living in a very difficult situation there. Many people wanted to harm me. I worked for the Ministry of the Economy and when they sent us on a course to Paris, I stayed. My brother is in the UK and he was very sick, so I needed to get to him. I ended up in Calais and stayed there for a month, then left to Dunkirk and after the fifth day, I remember it was a rainy day, I managed to cross the border in a lorry and claimed asylum. This course will help me provide for me and my brother.”

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. “My life wasn’t safe in Afghanistan. I was living in a very difficult situation there. Many people wanted to harm me. I worked for the Ministry of the Economy and when they sent us on a course to Paris, I stayed. My brother is in the UK and he was very sick, so I needed to get to him. I ended up in Calais and stayed there for a month, then left to Dunkirk and after the fifth day, I remember it was a rainy day, I managed to cross the border in a lorry and claimed asylum. This course will help me provide for me and my brother.”

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. “My name Bridget, I come from Uganda. I am part of Room to Heal [a group which supports refugees who have survived torture and other forms of organised violence]. They put me in touch with the Helen Bamber Foundation who suggested that I apply to this program and everything went from there. We had to create a webpage to get in. You needed to put a lot of work into it and look everything up yourself. I did mine on Albert Einstein.”

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. “My name Bridget, I come from Uganda. I am part of Room to Heal [a group which supports refugees who have survived torture and other forms of organised violence]. They put me in touch with the Helen Bamber Foundation who suggested that I apply to this program and everything went from there. We had to create a webpage to get in. You needed to put a lot of work into it and look everything up yourself. I did mine on Albert Einstein.”

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. A technology startup based in Old Street, London's Silicon Roundabout, lets the group use their offices every Sunday for free.

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. A technology startup based in Old Street, London’s Silicon Roundabout, lets the group use their offices every Sunday for free.

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. “I am from Damascus in Syria. I think everyone will be less shy once we all get to know each other.”

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. “I am from Damascus in Syria. I think everyone will be less shy once we all get to know each other.”

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. “My name is Sentayhu and where I come from in Ethiopia it means ‘one who has seen a lot’."

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. “My name is Sentayhu and where I come from in Ethiopia it means ‘one who has seen a lot’.”

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. "I know all of us feel so lucky to be here. We feel a great sense of responsibility towards our families and communities back home who are unable to get out. We have to succeed."

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. “I know all of us feel so lucky to be here. We feel a great sense of responsibility towards our families and communities back home who are unable to get out. We have to succeed.”

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. Germán Bencci, founder of CodeYourFuture.

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. Germán Bencci, founder of CodeYourFuture.

London, United Kingdom - 9 October 2016. Ehmed from Damascus is designing a webpage on Syrian Food.

London, United Kingdom – 9 October 2016. Ehmed from Damascus is designing a webpage on Syrian Food.

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