Students Unite For Refugee Week 2013

March time is a great time of year for realising how lucky we are…
 
Comic Relief does a great job in reminding us of the vast numbers of people in our world caught in a truly vicious cycle of poverty. There are also great projects launched closer to home which aim to raise funds and awareness for human beings around the world whom are suffering unjustly.
 
A national network of student groups based in universities all over the UK recently held a week of charity events aiming to improve the lives of refugees living in the UK.
 
STAR (Student Action For Refugees) are the group behind the movement, and students from The University of Sheffield were quick to spring to action, organising events in and around our city aiming to raise funds for asylum support groups and generally change some perceptions of asylum seekers in the UK.
 

 
The group collaborated with a wide array of organisations, such as Amnesty International who helped organise a scheme where the committee lived on a mere ten quid a week! Which is the average amount of money asylum support group ASSIST can afford to give Asylum Seekers.
 
Other events that took place was an event headed by theatre group ‘Ice and Fire’ who performed the ‘Asylum Monologues’ – retellings of stories from asylum seekers, documenting how harrowing it must be to leave your home through fear of persecution and come to an alien country.  Alongside this there was a very successful flash mob on the University Concourse where people were asked to show their support to the cause and pose for a picture.
 
The main event of the week however was the Big Sleep Out. Braving the snow – STAR, Amnesty and ASSIST were joined by members of the refugee community to kip on a piece of cardboard and show solidarity with destitute refugees around the world.  This one event alone raised a fantastic £500 for ASSIST.
 

 
Exposed caught up with STAR publicity officer and University of Sheffield student Emma Redley to discuss Refugee Week 2013 and the sterling work the crew at STAR have been up to…
 
So Emma, why were you sleeping out?
We were sleeping out to raise awareness of deprived asylum seekers in Sheffield, to understand ourselves what a fortunate position we are in and importantly to raise money for ASSIST who support destitute asylum seekers in Sheffield.
 
What were the biggest surprises or things you learnt?
From the week the most surprising thing I learnt was that so many students still have false ideas concerning refugees and asylum seekers, many asking if they were illegal immigrants. And from the sleep out I realised just how comfortable and safe a bed makes you feel.
 
Who did you meet?
We already volunteer with refugees and asylum seekers but we met students that previously had no or little interest in the asylum process, we also got to mix more with other campaigning societies such as Amnesty and feel that we have built strong links for future collaborative events.
 
How can people help?
People can help by keeping an open mind to refugees and asylum seekers as well as refusing to ignore the difficulties these people face. They can also help by signing petitions against deportation and by volunteering at local organisations such as Conversation Club.
 
Finally, What’s next for STAR?
STAR will be continuing to volunteer at Conversation Club every week and will have regular meetings to decide on projects for the rest of the year. The University has applied to become a University of Sanctuary which would support students in difficult situations, such as those from a refugee or asylum seeking background. STAR would support the University should its application be successful.
 
A hugely succesful week by all accounts. Exposed wish STAR and the rest of the crew all the best with their future projects. It's really is heartening to see the next generation taking it upon themselves to deal with such important issues in a pro-active and caring way. Keep up the good work guys!
 

 




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