Asylum Speakers Podcast with Jaz O'Hara: Stories of Migration


42. THE JOURNEY Episode 2: The First 'Safe' Country

Season 7, Ep. 2
Welcome back to Episode TWO of The Journey - a 6-part podcast series following migration routes from Africa, The Middle East and Ukraine, to northern Europe.People often ask me ‘Why don’t refugees stay in the first safe country they land in? It’s a comment I see a lot on social media and one I feel there is a lot of judgment and misinformation around. This episode is designed to answer exactly that. I’d like everyone who genuinely wonders about this question, to be able to listen to this and fully understand why a person’s journey can go on to span many countries.We’ll be hearing from six incredible women... both refugees and people working in the humanitarian space in countries like Turkey and Lebanon, that border Syria and other conflict zones….Our first stop in Turkey, the country which hosts the most refugees in the world. Here we visit Anne O'Rorke, an retired entrepreneur who left her home in Ireland to set up a community centre for Syrians in Turkey called Tiafi.Next up we head to Beirut where we hear from Dalal, who works for UNHCR, and my lovely friend Dara from Syrian eyes.The final stop is Egypt where you will hear from another four incredible women from Eritrea, South Sudan, Egypt and America about what life looks like for refugees here.It's a big and important episode. Remember to let me know your thoughts!To find out more about the organisations featured in this episode: support this podcast: buy our merch:–Many of the people we spoke to along this journey are being supported by projects funded by Comic Relief. Thanks to donations from the UK public, Comic Relief's Across Borders programme has invested over £7 million in organisations supporting refugees and people seeking asylum along these routes. Find out more about Comic Relief’s work and how to support it at

41. THE JOURNEY Episode 1: Leaving Home

Season 7, Ep. 1
I’m so happy to be bringing you episode 1 of The Journey - a 6-part podcast series following migration routes from Africa, The Middle East and Ukraine, to northern Europe.In this episode we’re starting from the beginning and exploring why people first embark on their journey.Why do people leave their countries and everything they ever knew behind?What are the push factors?We’ll be hearing from people from all over the world about the circumstances that forced them to first become a refugee.Our journey begins in North Africa, in Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, where we spent a week meeting many young people who have fled countries all over Africa, such as Eritrea, South Sudan, Nigeria, Sudan and Somalia and more, and are now living in Egypt. You will hear from Ahmad from Nigeria, Albino from South Sudan and Radhid from Somalia.We then head to Lebanon and hear from ‘M’ who shares a different reason for leaving his country - his sexuality.Next we head to Greece to hear from Mustafa, who runs Velos Youth - a wonderful organisation supporting young asylum seekers in Athens.Finally we hear a short poem from a young Syrian named Mohamed in Istanbul, Turkey.To find out more about the organisations featured in this episode: buy our merch:–Many of the people we spoke to along this journey are being supported by projects funded by Comic Relief. Thanks to donations from the UK public, Comic Relief's Across Borders programme has invested over £7millon in organisations supporting refugees and people seeking asylum along these routes. Find out more about Comic Relief’s work and how to support it at

38. From defending on the football pitch, to defending the rights of Afghanistan's women and girls, with Khalida Popal

Season 6, Ep. 3
This International Women's Day, It's only right that I bring you the story of one of the most incredible women that I know... Khalida Popal.Khalida grew up playing football with her brothers in Afghanistan, and even though she faced serious discrimination from her community as a result, she went on to form the Afghan women’s football league with her friends. Despite death threats at the hands of extremist and anti-women's-rights groups, she went on to be the first woman on the board of the Afghan football federation, the first female employee of the federation, and the captain of the Women’s National Team after being the driving force behind it’s growth.But as Khalida’s profile grew, so too did the threat to her safety, and Khalida was forced to leave Afghanistan and begin her journey as a refugee. After living in various refugee camps she has been granted asylum in Denmark, but has never lost ties with her homeland.Last year, when the Taliban seized power of Afghanistan, Khalida worked tirelessly to campaign for the safe evacuation of the Afghan women’s football teams, who had become targets to the Taliban (who do not allow women to participate in or even attend sporting events). Khalida rallied the international community and was eventually successful in safely evacuating over 300 people - the players and their familes, to both Australia and the UK.Khalida continues to advocate for the rights of women and girls through her organisation Girl Power, which uses sport as a tool to empower, connect and unify women and girls from all cultures and social backgrounds.This episode is brought to you by Love Welcomes:

37. What's happening in Sudan? Everything you need to know and what you can do about it, with Waging Peace

Season 6, Ep. 2
Today’s podcast episode is about a country very close to my heart - Sudan.Like most people in the UK, I grew up without any knowledge of what was happening in Sudan. In my history lessons at school I learnt about the Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing that happened during the second world war, but I learnt nothing about the current genocide in Sudan that continues to this day.It wasn’t until I went to uni and I somehow blagged my way onto a scholarship programme to study Mandarin in Beijing, (a story for another time), but I was sharing a room with a now good friend of mine Anna, who was studying the genocide in Darfur (a region in Sudan) for her degree. She was my first introduction to the situation there. She gave me the context, she told me stories about what she was reading, and I remember lying in bed one night in our room in Beijing, watching a film together called ‘Attack on Darfur’ - a hollywoodised, but pretty accurate depiction of what is happening there.That film still haunts me honestly. This is a warning for anyone who watches it - it was the most heartbreaking film I’ve ever seen, but it served a very important purpose for me.Fast forward about 5 years or so and I found myself in the Calais Jungle refugee camp for the first time, chatting to a guy there who told me he was from Darfur. As he talked about how his village had been burnt to the ground and he showed me the scars on his legs from where bullets had hit him, I thought back to that film and those conversations with Anna, and I was grateful that I knew even just a little bit about what he was telling me. I realised though that I still had a lot to learn.Since then, I’ve met many wonderful Sudanese people along my journey. I’m happy to call some of them my best friends, you guys might remember my conversation with Awad in Episode 2, and I also have a Sudanese foster brother.This episode comes after many conversations with them about the best way to encourage understanding and awareness for the people of Sudan. It aims to be a comprehensive introduction into the history, but through personal stories that make this information accessible to everyone.In it we hear from three wonderful women sharing their knowledge and stories about Sudan. First, Sonja and Maddy, from an amazing organisation called Waging Peace who support the Sudanese community in the UK, then Marwa, who shares her personal experience of living in and leaving Sudan. Her testimony is an honour to be able to include and share with you.To learn more about Waging Peace: check out the products made by our lovely sponsor: (use the code WWT for 10% off at checkout)To support Asylum Speakers by buying a t-shirt or a hoodie: support Asylum Speakers by donating: get in touch:

36. My journey from Syria to Filmmaker to NHS Hospital Cleaner and Activist, with Hassan Akkad

Season 6, Ep. 1
I’m so excited to introduce you to our guest for this episode... Syrian filmmaker, activist and most recently, author, Hassan Akkad! Hassan is the very first person I ever heard speak about their experience leaving Syria first hand, and it’s safe to say that it had a huge impact on me. Not only has Hassan shared his incredible story through talks and at events, he actually first became known for filming his journey from Syria to the UK - and his iconic footage was shown on the BBC documentary, Exodus back in 2016 for which he won a BAFTA. Since then, Hassan’s passion and dedication to telling his and other important stories has taken him all over the world, including to his local hospital where he worked as a cleaner during the pandemic.In September last year, Hassan published his incredible memoir, Hope not Fear. I read it in a couple of days and even though I thought I knew his story, it absolutely blew me away.In today’s episode we talk about his journey, his book, how candid he was in it, who he didn’t want to read it and why, and at the end he tells the story of the beautiful reunion he recently had with his family after many years of not being together.You can find Hassan's book hereThis episode is sponsored by the incredible Love Welcomes (Remember to use the code WWT at checkout for 10% off.)To support this show and keep us sharing these stories, you can donate here

34. A Lebanese cookery class with Ahmad from Migrateful

Season 5, Ep. 6
I’ve got a bit of a different episode from normal in store for you today as I’m going to take you with me on a really fun experience I had recently.... a Lebanese cookery class.Let me explain... My guest this week is Ahmad Sinnu. We met through one of my all time favourite organisations Migrateful. Migrateful run cookery classes led by refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who are otherwise struggling to integrate or access employment.  These cookery classes are absolutely amazing.  They not only provide the teachers with ideal conditions for learning English and building confidence, but also promoting connection and cultural exchange with their new community - and as a participant, you learn something new and you get to eat it which is a win-win for me. I’ve been to a couple of these classes in person now, and also done one online, and they’re awesome. Anything that revolves around food makes me happy and these classes bring together everything I love - cooking, eating and meeting new and interesting people from all over the world. So a couple of weeks ago i went to Ahmad’s Lebanese cooking class to learn how to make vegan moussaka and tabbouleh. Ahmad is an asylum seeker. He left Lebanon 6 years ago after being shot on two separate occasions, leaving him in a wheelchair. He worked for the Lebanese red cross and learnt to cook when his parents passed away when he was young. So the first part of this episode is the cookery itself, and the second half if a beautiful conversation I had with Ahmad the following day. I hope you enjoy it!To find out more or book your own cookery class: the show (