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Shazia Mirza and Ivor Dembina stand up for refugees

October 6th, 2017

City of Sanctuary, one of the charities the Guardian is supporting in its charity appeal, is holding a Stand Up for Refugees comedy night, featuring the comedians Shazia Mirza and Ivor Dembina. Mirza tells the Guardian why she’s taking part.
So you’ll be performing at the Stand Up for Refugees comedy night for Leicester City Sanctuary in the new year. Why is this cause important to you?
It’s a vital issue that has become a part of everyone’s life. Either you acknowledge this or you don’t. These people, especially women and children who suffer most in war, are running from Isis – the most barbaric, dangerous and hypocritical terrorist organisation of our time.
Shazia Mirza: ‘Look at me – Isis would stone me to death’ Read moreThey want to live and they are coming to countries like the UK, Germany, Hungary and France, only to find themselves living in a makeshift tent in a jungle like animals. I’m not sure which is worse.
Why is it important to take action?
This crisis is affecting everyone. We are being forced to question everything about ourselves: our resources, our culture, our values, religion, our charity.
Do you feel comfortable with the UK government’s response to the refugee crisis?
Almost 5,000 Syrians and their dependants have been granted asylum in the UK since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the government says. But nearly 26,000 Syrians are seeking refuge in the UK so we could do much more.

What do you think about the debate around refugees?
Everyone has a voice, some are louder than others. But you don’t have to have anything to say these days, you just have to be outrageous. People like [Katie] Hopkins, [Donald] Trump and other dimwits are fashionable by being provocative. Then they say it’s “political correctness gone mad”, desperately trying to hide their own racist views. Then we have immigrants being nasty about other immigrants just because they were “here first”. It is undisguised racism and Islamophobic bigotry.
What would you do to solve the crisis?
Asylum is a human right. We need to open up safe routes and avoid people being exploited by spending all their money drowning in rubber dinghies. Resettlement is necessary for people with medical problems and people who have undergone horrific abuse. Governments also need to stop blaming refugees and migrants for economic and social problems and instead combat xenophobia and racial discrimination. All this hatred stirs up tensions and fear of foreigners.
The plight of refugees is the crisis of our times | Katharine Viner Read moreBut most of all we need to look at the root of the problem – Isis and Assad – to solve the crisis. These people are running for their life; they want to live. We need to eradicate Isis, while causing minimal collateral damage and a safe haven for innocent people.
You’re a comedian and will be raising charity through comedy. Does comedy and the refugee crisis really mix?
Comedians raise money for all kinds of things. People have a good laugh and we make loads of money. Everyone wins. Over the years I have done charity events to raise money for cancer, rape crisis, poverty, FGM and girls toilets in a school in India. You give money to charity but you also get something out of it, which is a good, fun night out.
Do you agree with David Mitchell, who said we shouldn’t ban people like Donald Trump, but keep on laughing at him?
This is absolutely right. What’s the point of banning him? We can’t stop him speaking, unfortunately.
After a black president, do you really think they are going to have a loud-mouthed, obnoxious, racist Brillo pad like Trump? He makes me warm to Nigel Farage.
Leicester City of Sanctuary is holding its Stand Up for Refugees comedy night at the Sue Townsend theatre on 17 January 2016 at 6.30pm, featuring Shazia Mirza and Ivor Dembina. Tickets are here.
Shazia Mirza will be on tour with her new show, The Kardashians Made Me Do It, from the 5 February 2016. All dates and details here.

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