Sharif Barko was a Haringey resident who came to the UK as a refugee from Darfur in 2002. He experienced the Hostile Environment system first-hand but nonetheless became a tireless campaigner for his community, the Massaleit people of Darfur, and for migrant justice more broadly. He supported Haringey Welcome’s campaign work in many important ways.

Tragically, Sharif was killed by the Janjaweed militia during an attack in Geneina, West Darfur, on a visit back there in 2021. His friends in the UK crowdfunded to have a memorial bench placed in The Grove, Alexandra Palace, in his memory. Together with Waging Peace, a charity supporting Sudanese refugees, Haringey Welcome has long planned a commemorative event in his memory – and that of other victims and survivors from Sudan – at the site of the bench. Recently the unfolding crisis in Sudan and in the Darfur region of the country has made the need for commemoration and solidarity with Sudanese communities in the UK all the more pressing and urgent.

And so, on Sunday 18 June – Father’s Day – we gathered at The Grove for an extraordinary, poignant, and emotional occasion. Approximately 80 people came from all over the UK, many from Darfur or other parts of Sudan. It was a remarkable and much needed coming together of people to grieve, to support, to cry, to laugh, to hope and to heal. We circled up and held a ceremony during the afternoon, where many spoke, of Sharif, of their own families and the dire situation in Darfur and Sudan. We sang and called together for ‘freedom, peace, and justice’ (‘hurriya, salaam, wa ‘adala’). And a ribbon ceremony took place where each person walked silently to the bench and tied a ribbon in memory of a loved one. It was a fitting way, too, to mark the beginning of Refugee Week, the theme of which is ‘compassion’. 

 

Both our Haringey MPs, though unable to attend in person, were keen to show their solidarity. A supportive statement from David Lammy was read out during the ceremony. Catherine West asked to meet members of Haringey’s Sudanese community, including asylum seekers in Home Office accommodation, at the bench two days before the event. Haringey’s Sudanese community has been invited by both MPs to keep in touch and to visit them in Parliament.