A national poster campaign promoting a positive message about the contribution from immigrants to British society features an award winning human rights lawyer.
S. Chelvan, a high-profile barrister with No5 Chambers, is one of 15 immigrants selected to feature in the crowd-funded ‘I am an Immigrant’ campaign.
Initiated by the Movement Against Xenophobia (MAX) and run through the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), the campaign seeks to challenge the negative rhetoric against immigrants, celebrate them and provide them with a platform to share their story.
#Iamanimmigrant has gone viral on twitter since the campaign’s digital launch last week. And plans to display the eye-catching posters at 400 tube stations across London have now been rolled out to include 550 bus and rail stations nationally as well as 26 billboards, with the barrister featuring in the biggest billboard at Ramsgate in Kent.
With the help of social media, the crowd funded campaign raised more than £54,000 in just three weeks, smashing its original target by more than £10,000.
Two hundred immigrants put themselves forward to be the face of I Am An Immigrant, from which just 15 were chosen.
Chelvan has been a barrister for the last 13 years, representing asylum seekers and immigrants. He was born in Sri Lanka but his family moved to the UK in 1978 when he was just four years old, to escape the riots in his home country. His mother was already here, working in the NHS and studying to become a member of the Royal College of Anaesthetists.
“I Am An Immigrant is about self-empowerment and celebrating the contribution that I and other immigrants make to this country,” said 40-year-old Chelvan.
“The current debate on migrants, particularly EU migrants, is very toxic politically; as the various political parties see themselves losing the debate on Europe, migration becomes an easy target.”
This, says Chelvan, has led to a stigmatisation of the migrant.
“This was not a Britain I wish to recognise, it made me angry, which is why I volunteered to be part of this poster campaign and proudly say ‘I am an immigrant’. It is part of my public service, to offer a human face during the current dehumanisation of the immigrant.”
In 2014, Chelvan was named Legal Aid Barrister of the Year. He joined No5 Chambers in 2011, where he has built an international reputation for representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex (LGBTI) people fleeing homophobic or transphobic persecution.
No5 Chambers, with offices in Birmingham, London, Bristol and the East Midlands, is one of the largest sets of barristers chambers in the UK with more than 240 members including 28 Queens Counsel.