Migrants, Refugees, Brits Unite in Concert for Refugee Week Finale in London

Kolbassai Haoussou, a torture survivor who has been living in the UK since 2005, opened his heart to the audience at the 2017 Singing Our Lives concert. Photo: Jolade Olusanya

London – On Sunday (01/07), music will unite refugees, migrants and British choir members for the Singing Our Lives concert to showcase original music that celebrates the strength and resilience of refugees and migrants.

Over 200 performers will participate in the event at Milton Court, hosted by Together Productions, in partnership with IOM, the UN Migration Agency; Freedom from Torture; the Royal Opera House; Improbable; and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

The concert marks the culmination of a unique creative process that brought five amateur choirs and professional musicians together through a series of workshops aimed at promoting understanding among diverse groups. Singing Our Lives will mark the final event of the 20th Anniversary of Refugee Week.

Singing Our Lives combines opera, classical, popular and electronic genres with music from around the globe and performed by the Mixed Up Chorus, the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus, and the Sing for Freedom Choir, and Guildhall School musicians, Woven Gold and Stile Antico.

The Singing Our Lives concert will premiere the song Sembo! (Justice!), a musical call to action about transformation, community and justice featuring musical styles and languages from around the world. It was the result of a musical workshop during which choir members told real-life accounts about their journeys to the UK. 

For some, this was their first interaction with refugees or asylum-seekers.

“Music can be a type of therapy,” said Kolbassia Haoussou, 42, a torture survivor who has been living in the UK since 2005 when he was granted asylum. “It helps me express what’s in my heart to others who may not understand.  On the day we were writing the song, I talked a lot about justice because it is so difficult for me to feel that I will ever see justice.”

With over 8.8 million migrants and refugees living in the UK, according to IOM’s Migration Data Portal, active inclusion of migrants can reduce feelings of isolation and increase their contributions to host communities.

“When migrants, refugees and communities come together and learn from each other - as they do for Singing Our Lives - this is the true essence of integration,” said Dipti Pardeshi, IOM UK Chief of Mission.

“Integration is a two-way process fostering mutual understanding and reducing vulnerabilities and risks of marginalization. IOM is proud to be a partner in such a unique undertaking as Singing Our Lives for the second year,” continued Pardeshi.

“This concert is so important because it can be difficult to feel part of a community,” Haoussou added. “We don’t want to be defined by our struggle, but to have people see similarities to their own lives. That is how we integrate better and that is how life is easier for all of us.”

“Our communities singing together in harmony seems particularly poignant today, when we are regularly reminded of intolerance and suffering each time we listen to the news,” said Debby Konigsberg, a Mixed Up Chorus member. “By contrast, at its heart, Singing Our Lives has been such a celebration of humanity at its best: Unity and oneness.”

For further information, please contact: Abby Dwommoh at IOM UK, Tel: +44 (0)7873301193, Email: