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Press Release

Gary Lineker, Jo Brand and Yasmin Kadi shine a light on the little-known origins of fish and chips to highlight refugees’ contributions to the UK.

Ahead of National Fish and Chips Day tomorrow, the International Rescue Committee launches a new film featuring three British stars – Match of the Day presenter and ex-footballer Gary Lineker, comedian Jo Brand and actress, singer and refugee Yasmin Kadi – to reveal that we have refugees to thank for fish and chips. 

The film explore the origins of fried fish, chips and the combination of the two into a beloved British dish, and highlights how we have refugees to thank for them all. 

Fried fish was originally introduced by Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Portugal and Spain in the 16th century. The chip was first fried in France in the 17th century, and French Protestants, or Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution around the same time might have brought their taste for fried potato with them to the UK.  The combination of fish and chips was the idea of another immigrant, Joseph Malin, who opened the nation’s first fish and chip shop in the East End of London in the 1860s. 

The little-known history of fish and chips is just one example of the historic contribution that refugees have made to British society, and comes at a crucial time. We’ve seen more than ever the contribution that refugees and asylum seekers have made to our communities – as doctors, nurses, caregivers and community volunteers – since the COVID-19 pandemic took over our world.  

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, says: 

“When you delve into the history books, it becomes clear that refugees have played an important role in shaping British society.  They are an asset not a threat.  This is why we at the IRC are launching this campaign today: to spread the simple message that when we welcome refugees, they strengthen our communities at every level and sometimes in unexpected ways.” 

Gary Lineker, ex-footballer and Match of the Day presenter, says: 

“Providing a new start to those who have fled their homes represents the best of Britain's values because we know refugees have always helped to keep our communities safe and make our society stronger.   

We've seen during the Covid crisis how refugees have been among those on the front lines of fighting the pandemic. That should come as no surprise. Refugees want to contribute to this country -- and they always have in ways that many people may not appreciate.  

The story of fish and chips is just one example of the historic contribution that refugees have made to this country. It is a contribution that should be celebrated. After all, Britain wouldn't be Britain without refugees.” 

Jo Brand, comedian, says: 

“The unusual origins of fish and chips is a lesson for today. When we welcome refugees, they thrive: they make our communtities stronger and more dynamic.” 

Yasmin Kadi, singer, actor and refugee, says: 

I was so pleased to be part of this project. Hopefully people will find the film fun, but also see the message behind it. Fish & chips is just one example of the contribution refugees have made, but we could have picked so many others – from healthcare to the arts, business and volunteering.” 

To learn more about the IRC and to watch the video, visit www.rescue-uk.org/fish-and-chips

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.