Doctors of the World UK policy and advocacy officer, Emmanuel Serrano

Refugee Week: “I did not ask to be born in Venezuela”

Published 19th June 2020

Emmanuel Serrano is a policy and advocacy officer at Doctors of the World UK. He is also a Venezuelan refugee.

For years the South American country has been plagued by violence, instability and political turmoil, forcing millions to flee.

According to the International Organization for Migration, approximately five million migrants and refugees have left Venezuela in what is one of the world’s biggest recent displacement crises. 

Emmanuel has been living in the UK for nearly two years and wanted to share his story during Refugee Week.

Doctors of the World UK policy and advocacy officer, Emmanuel Serrano.

“I did not ask to be born in Venezuela; I was just very lucky. I have always loved and will love the country where I come from and never wanted to leave.

An authoritarian regime rules the nation where I was born and I fought against it from a very young age. I am proud to say that I was a councillor in my country’s capital when I was only 25 years old.

But the regime doesn’t like contrary voices. They threatened me and I had no choice but to flee from the land to which I owe everything.

At just 25, Emmanuel was a councillor in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. He’s pictured visiting an impoverished community where he implemented a project with a nutritionist to help residents eat a more balanced diet.

Almost two years ago, I came to the United Kingdom.

My perception that this is a country with a very kind society, full of wonderful people, does nothing but grow. But after going through the UK asylum system, I have understood that the laws are not in accordance with the British society that is so kind.

From the border officer who greeted me with a smile and friendly conversation, my first GP who checked my asthma, to the supermarket cashier, it makes it hard not to say that everyone here is a great person. But every letter from the Home Office about my asylum case, with confusion and misinterpretations, generated mixed feelings.

But again, I was lucky. A first-tier tribunal judge understood that my claim for asylum was more than valid and fair. Today I’m a refugee.

An anti-government protest in Emmanuel’s electorate, where he also lived.

The truth is that I have much to thank the United Kingdom for. It has given me shelter and security, which I did not have in my own country. For this, I will be grateful until the last of my days. But not everyone has my luck, that’s why now I must help those who are going through difficulties like I did to make the road easier.

Reflecting on my journey during Refugee Week, I am particularly grateful to the UK for giving me shelter. But I can’t stop thinking about all those who still need help.

Working at Doctors of the World, I can help ensure universal access to healthcare, thinking about all those undocumented migrants, asylum seekers or refugees who are too afraid or don’t have the means to seek medical treatment. This mission becomes even more important at a time when we are dealing with a global pandemic; when the health of one, is the health of all.

“With a neighbour and supporter from my party in a very poor and violent community. We did a significant activity that day to connect with the community and develop, later on, trust enough to do some political work with them.”

Reflecting on my journey during Refugee Week, I am particularly grateful to the UK for giving me shelter. But I can’t stop thinking about all those who still need help.

The coronavirus crisis has taught us that there are no borders for challenges like this pandemic and that beyond practising physical distancing, it is time to work together and recognise that, just like a chain, every link counts if we are to remain united and strong.

I understand very well that on my journey I have been very lucky. But I know that I cannot always bet on luck, so I wonder – are we doing everything we can to put solidarity at the forefront and protect the chain or are we just betting on good luck?”


If you were inspired by Emmanuel’s story, help him provide support to other refugees and asylum seekers by making a donation this Refugee Week.

Just £20 could allow Emmanuel’s colleagues operating the advice line to take a call from someone in need.

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