Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A Week of Recognition for the 15 Million.

Not to mention the 27 million internally displaced peoples who fail to gain Refugee status.

Today marks the start of Refugee Week, a week that aims to recognise the plight and needs of refugees around the world: Zimbabweans, Iranians, Afghanis, Eritreans, Chinese, Bosnians. Groups across the globe such as Amnesty International, Refugee Council, UNHCR and Refugee Action work tirelessly to secure, support and integrate the needs of refugees into the societies of our home countries. Yet among the fundraising activities and awareness campaigns that scream “We are here and we are growing by the day” an unmistakable disengagement with these issues is being passed through our national politics. 

While our local and international media spins news headlines of European economic downfalls into double dips and grieves the costly interventions into the ‘failed’ states of the Middle East, our thoughts are almost forcibly pulled away from an indisputably linked and ever amplifying problem of displaced peoples.  

Even more troubling is the passivity and discrimination that guards our government’s disengagement with refugee rights. Over the last 20 years our media and society itself has used the refugees and asylum seekers as all-purpose scapegoats. For example in recent economic plight as ‘benefit leeches’. Or even as the cultural stereotypes and political playdough of our century, blowing a wave of malignant discrimination over Muslim asylum seeking communities as ‘Radical Islamists’. Of course this is nothing new, minorities no matter where in the world have historically been used to justify discrimination and ignorance.

What is new however, is our societies growing disengagement with these individuals as human cases, our passivity to uninformed, discriminative media and the consequential endowment of our national break with refugee rights, human rights, and the international laws set by the 1951 UN conference.  

During a Refugee Action workshop on Refugee and Asylum seekers in Britain even a room of engaged university refugee volunteers had problems picking out the definition between an asylum seeker, a refugee, or an ‘illegal migrant claiming asylum status’. In fact they are all part of the same process. The vocabulary of ‘Illegal’ and ‘claiming’ are merely words that we are used to associating with the idea of asylum seekers and refugees, that they might be falsehoods, or undeserving of refugee status. No one claiming torture, disaster or any threat to their livelihood as a reason to gain residence is ever illegal. No one chooses to be a refugee.

Likewise, we are also used to hearing of the drastically and damagingly high numbers of refugees that we accept into our country. In fact countries such as Pakistan, Syria and Iran house more refugees than Britain. Of the 22,000 individuals that applied for asylum in 2010, Britain’s quota is merely 700. Last year Britain didn’t even meet its quota due to high amounts of forced deportation and the overturning of appeals in court. Consequently the UK holds only 2% of the world’s refugee community. Media also tends to ignore the fact that many asylum seekers that are forcibly removed and are claiming human rights violations are under the age of 20 or 18.  For instance in 2010 a 1/4 of refugees and asylum seekers that contacted the One Stop Service provided by Refugee Action were under 26.

In reference to economic refugee ‘hear-say’, it costs £17,000 to deport a single adult asylum seeker, yet asylum seekers are awarded a meagre sum of £36.62 a week and are unable to claim mainstream benefits. Many refugees come across to host countries having lost a lifetime of qualifications and career prospects. Interestingly enough to support a refugee doctor costs only £25,000 while training a doctor from scratch costs £200-250,000. In fact refugee communities and individuals are statistically more likely to pay into public funds than the standard citizen.

Still refugee and asylum rights are dwindling in the UK. Of 520,000 Sudanese refugees in 2008 only 265 applied through the asylum seeker process in the UK. And it is not surprising, no longer is our country providing for the human consequences of many of our international political relations and interventions. Instead cuts now mirror social unawareness. Refugee Action whom work alongside numerous other refugee and asylum seeker service organisations have suffered incredible cuts including a 100% cut to their Integration and Employment Service that will fully be set in motion by 2013 .

 If refugees are unable to integrate or gain jobs are we not merely writing them off as a society altogether?

During this week it is not only vital to remember to celebrate and campaign for the awareness of the existence of refugees but also to critically challenge our society’s disengagement, and thus our government’s disengagement with refugee rights. It is perhaps easy to forget, surrounded by headlines of Economic downfalls and regional intervention, that there is still 15 million and a half individuals that look to us to uphold their rights to continue as humans despite the existence of conflict, disaster, and intervention.

To look into Refugee Actions Work and Refugee Week events see: http://www.refugee-action.org/

Or to join your local STAR network and engage during Refugee Week visit: http://www.star-network.org.uk/

For further action and articles on hostility and disengagement to Refugee and Asylum seeker rights see Amnesty International’s launch of ‘When You Don’t Exist’ campaign that launched one week prior to Refugee week: http://whenyoudontexist.eu

Thursday, 8 March 2012


Okay, so I'm a day late with this video, but here you are:

Sleep Out - A Review


WHEN? 17TH MARCH 2012, 11AM-5PM
TICKETS? £5 FROM http://starnorthernconference.eventbrite.co.uk/


STAR Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, and York have come together to bring you a day of expert speakers, practitioner-led workshops and discussion exploring the experiences of young people seeking asylum and young refugees in Britain.

The conference is an opportunity for all
 students to:

★ Learn more about young people seeking sanctuary, their experiences of the asylum seeking process and lives as refugees.
★ Meet other activists
★ Acquire and build upon skills and knowledge to become more effective volunteers, campaigners and activists.


★ Why Young People Seek Asylum And Protection: The reasons young people seek sanctuary in the UK, and an discussion of their journeys
★Legal Issues - Entitlements of unaccompanied asylum seekers/refugee children


★ Age Disputes and Age Assessments
★ Child Detention
★ Welfare Support and Destitution
★ Experiences of Unaccompanied Children in Care: A practitioners perspective; Effects of trauma on emotional and mental health.

★ Panel Discussion; Equal Access

★ Simple Act; In support of 'Equal Access'

★ Shared Horizons Photography Exhibition: Photographs taken by separated young people seeking sanctuary. A creative engagement project supported by Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Lunch and Refreshments provided


Bursaries are available for asylum seekers

A one-day conference for students organised by students from STAR (Student Action for Refugees)
Young people seeking asylum in the UK are fleeing war, torture and persecution.  They can face huge difficulties when they arrive including being accused of lying about their age and forced to undergo age assessmentsliving in poverty as they are not allowed to work and barred from going to university due to admissions policies.
The conference organisers are students campaigning for fair treatment for asylum seekers.  We want to our fellow students to know about the neglect experienced by young people in this country who have fled violence and persecution.
Experts in the fields of human rights and refugee activism will lead a series of talks, workshops and a panel discussion on issues including: motivations and journeys of young asylum seekers, detention, welfare support and social care, destitution and access to higher education.
Lunch and refreshments provided. Tickets only £5.
The conference is ahead of Young People Seeking Safety week 2012 (30 March - 5 April)
For more information please email starcommitteemanchester@gmail.com

Lots of love.

Another Film Night! Persepolis



In 1970s Iran, Marjane 'Marji' Statrapi watches events through her young eyes and her idealistic family of a long dream being fulfilled of the hated Shah's defeat in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. However as Marji grows up, she witnesses first hand how the new Iran, now ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, has become a repressive tyranny on its own. With Marji dangerously refusing to remain silent at this injustice, her parents send her abroad to Vienna to study for a better life. However, this change proves an equally difficult trial with the young woman finding herself in a different culture loaded with abrasive characters and profound disappointments that deeply trouble her. Even when she returns home, Marji finds that both she and homeland have changed too much and the young woman and her loving family must decide where she truly belongs.

Persepolis deals with some of the themes and issues that are prominent within refugee lives, notions of belonging, separated families, integration. 

So come along!

Friday, 10 February 2012

SLEEP OUT and touch faith...

STREET SLEEP-OVER! Everyone is invited...

Student Action for Refugees (STAR) and Amnesty International are campaigning to end the destitution of refused asylum seekers. We hope to raise awareness of their destitution and frequent homelessness by sleeping out…

Manchester Sleep Out

Manchester Uni Student Union steps

7.30pm on Thursday 23rd of Feb till the next day

Picture from Glasgow uni, but it's the same idea.

When asylum claims are rejected (72% in 1st attempt in 2010), many people still cannot return to their home country, so have no choice but to stay in the UK. They become destitute: living in abject poverty and relying on charities or fellow asylum seekers to subsist. The total number of refused asylum seekers is unknown, yet there are many thousands in London alone.
They live on the margins of society, denied free healthcare under the NHS unless it is an absolute emergency (therefore excluding pregnant women, cancer patients and diabetics) and join the ranks of the stateless wandering the streets. Many of those interviewed by Amnesty International suffer from mental health problems, due to their insecure position, and fear of detention and return.
Although a House of Commons Committee noted that ‘where the removal of a failed asylum seeker is delayed through no fault of their own, it is morally acceptable for them to be rendered destitute’, they have failed: the current policy is ineffective and inhumane.
Even those still within the asylum process are living in destitution due to the inability to work whilst being given a pitiful amount to live on. The asylum support amounts to £5 a day, hardly enough to cover even travel costs in this country!
As part of the Still Human Still Here campaign, we are asking the government to:

  • Ensure adequate support for asylum seekers until they are given protection in the UK or returned to their country of origin
  • Make sure that when they introduce annual increases to Income Support in line with inflation, the same happens for asylum support rates too
  • Provide asylum seekers with support rates equivalent to at least 70% of Income Support, paid in cash rather than vouchers
  • Grant asylum seekers permission to work if their cases have not been resolved in 6 months, or if they have been refused but cannot be removed through no fault of their own
The Still Human Still Here campaign is a coalition of groups campaigning for the rights, dignity and wellbeing of destitute asylum seekers. This group includes many refugee and human rights charities, and faith groups, who are all committed to campaigning against to end the plight of these asylum seekers.
Find out more on the Facebook event: STAR and Amnesty International Student Sleep Out.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A few key points highlighted in Chance or Choice?

Chance or choice? Understanding why asylum seekers come to the UK, written by Professor Heaven Crawley, University of Swansea and commissioned by the Refugee Council  is available online at:

The report is based on semi-structured interviews with 43 refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and key findings include the following:
·         Over two thirds did not choose to come to the UK
·         Most only discovered they were going to the UK after leaving their country of origin.
·         The primary objective for all those interviewed was reaching a place of safety.
·         Around three quarters had no knowledge of welfare benefits and support before coming to the UK – most had no expectation they would be given financial support.
·         90% were working in their country of origin and very few were aware they would not be allowed to work when they arrived in the UK.
·         The majority of the interviewees explained their lives were in danger and that they had to leave their home countries very quickly – within a few days or weeks – leaving them little time to plan or pick their destination. In addition most were helped to leave by an external party or agent, who made the key decision about their destination and helped facilitate their journey to safety.

While none of those interviewed came to the UK in order to seek work, they fully expected to have to work to support themselves, and were not anticipating being given money by the government to live on. The single biggest area of British life they were familiar with was football.

The report also makes a number of recommendations around the following areas:
·         Addressing the root causes of migration
·         Creating protection-sensitive border controls
·         Improving the asylum determination process
·         Providing access to work and increased benefits
·         Changing the terms of public and political debates on asylum
·         Addressing research gaps