20 September 2017

Room for Refugees (London)

“Airbnb for Refugees”


Reproduced from The Guardian newspaper’s photo-essay of the Room for Refugees programme

See YouTube video of Mohammed at Joanne’s home

Mohammed, 35, from Palestine. Living with Joanne MacInnes, an actor and activist, in west London, and on weekends her daughters Malila, 12, and Eve, 14

“We play cards a lot,” says Eve. “Mohammed knows really good card tricks. What else do we do? We watch TV I guess. We play racing demon a lot, obviously.”

Mohammed has also been teaching Malila some Arabic. “Malila wanted to impress her Arabic friends at school,” says MacInnes.

Mohammed has been living with MacInnes and her two daughters since May 2016. He is from Palestine but left as a child, living in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Libya. He has been in the UK for seven years, where he is seeking asylum, and was sleeping rough when PAIH helped to find him a home with MacInnes.

MacInnes has hosted six people in her house, but Mohammed is, she and her girls agree, their favourite. “He’s the nicest of them all,” says Eve.

Currently the family are trying to find Mohammed a wife. He uses his local mosque’s dating service, but says that because of his precarious immigration status he is not considered a desirable match.

“He’s not a good prospect because of his asylum and he lives with an old English bat!” says MacInnes.

“We put him on a Muslim dating website,” she adds. “The problem is he writes back to them in Arabic and they never reply again. It’s very much British Muslims on there, it’s not Arab people.”

Mohammed says he was shy when he moved in and nervous about how the family would respond to him.

“First time I come in here, I’ll never forget, Malila gave me a hug and speak with me,” says Mohammed. “I was shy, Malila come in straight away, hug and speak with me and is not shy, you know. Eve is shy and Eve after two weeks spoke with me. And Joanne spoke with me. I feel family. Listen, I don’t speak English, but I hope you understand me. My dad is dead, my mother is dead [and] my sister. Joanne, Mali and Eve are my family.”


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