Mr Zeraslasie Shiker
I am originally from Eritrea and a naturalised British Citizen. I previously worked for the Eritrean Diplomatic Services for eight years following completion of a BA degree in Political Science from the University of Asmara. During my eight years diplomatic career, I worked as the Desk Officer in the Africa and Asia Divisions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Asmara and served as the Consular Officer in the Eritrean embassy in Nigeria.
I came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 2008, and since I have worked with various charities supporting asylum seekers and refugees in the UK, including the British Red Cross, Advocacy Support, and Yorkshire based asylum detention visiting community groups, and private solicitors. My responsibilities included providing frontline practical support to people, managing projects, and for over two years I coordinated the VOICES Network UK, a project supported by the British Red Cross to increase the voices of migrants to influence research, policy and practices. Currently, I work for the British Red Cross in the Yorkshire area.
In 2010, I completed an MA in African Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Bradford in the UK. I am now pursuing a PhD programme at the University of Leeds. My PhD project stems from my professional background and lived experiences.
As a former government employee and later ‘asylum seeker’ and then a refugee, I have a lived experience and professional affinity to the realities of people living in exile away from their original “homeland”. I have developed an interest in diaspora transnational political activism to explore how (and if) refugees engage in activism to contest government policies and improve situations in their countries of origin. I am interested to explore the challenges diaspora activists face and how these could be mitigated.
As the involvement of diasporas during the Arab Spring of the 2000s has shown, exiled diaspora political activism remains an important phenomenon in the globalising world. This phenomenon appears to be miss understood by some, which is why my research project is important. I hope to explore this phenomenon through the Eritrean case study.
My PhD project aims to study the Eritrean diaspora with a particular emphasis on exile diaspora transnational political activism and its impacts on the diaspora’s settlement and integration in the host country. The study will be undertaken in the UK focusing on asylum seekers, refugees and naturalised Eritrean British citizens in the UK. The research asks:
- Do new refugees and settled diaspora communities feel they have a stake in repairing defects of the Eritrean state institutions and contest oppressive government practices to improve the situation in the country of origin?
- What are the opportunities and challenges for engaging in exiled activism?
- What networks and organisational structures exist to build and conduct local-to-transnational or local-to-global diaspora mobilisation to influence politics in the country of origin?
- And, what are the impacts (if any) of participating in transnational activism on the refugees’ integration into the host country?
To answer these and other questions, the project draws from existing literature as well as qualitative research conducted with people with lived experiences of activism, exiled political and social organisations, and members of the Eritrean diaspora in the UK.
Opposition politics is not allowed within Eritrea, an unfortunate situation that has forced many former senior government officials and activists to live in exile and engage in resistance from exile. Exiled diaspora activism against the policies and practices of the government remains underexplored. The aim of this thesis is to fill this knowledge gap.
My research interests, however, are not limited to exploring diaspora politics. I have life-long research interests in asylum, refugees, and integration, and most importantly, African politics and democratisation.
- 2012 - present: British Red Cross, Refugees Support and Restoring Family Link
- 2008 - 2012: refugee and asylum support worker
- 2000 - 2008: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea
- MA African Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Bradford, 2009-2010
- BA in Political Science, University of Asmara, Eritrea, 1996 – 2000