Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Decision on STARs next national campaign

In the academic year 07/08 STAR will be campaigning to end the destitution of refused asylum seekers in support of the Still Human Still Here campaign.

How did STAR choose the next national campaign?

STAR national office initially collected information from STAR members about the issues of greatest concern affecting refugees and asylum seekers. Research into these issues involved consultations with policy offices of organisations who work for refugees who provided advice on potential campaigning opportunities. As a result we identified 3 possible topics for a national campaign.

A campaign proposal was drawn up for each topic, which formed the basis of a consultation with STAR members. STAR groups held meetings to debate and discuss the potential campaigns, and feedback was received from 13 student groups and a youth member.

A meeting was held on the 22nd May to decide on which topic to develop into a national campaign for next year. The meeting was attended by 6 national office staff, 2 regional reps, and a representative from the STAR Management Committee. Informed by feedback from members, each campaign proposal was assessed using STAR’s particular requirements and widely recognised criteria for campaigning. Following detailed discussions on each proposal a consensus was reached.

Why was Still Human Still Here chosen?

Member Views

The feedback from STAR groups varied, both in detail and opinion, with some clearly favouring a particular proposal and others torn between the merits of different campaigns. However, the majority of STAR groups expressed the greatest interest and enthusiasm for campaigning in support of Still Human Still Here. Here are some key comments by STAR members about each campaign proposal, which are representative of the general feedback received:

*Still Human Still Here*
‘the basic fundamental for every human being to be alive is food, a shelter. If you don’t have these two things, you’re completely stripped of your human dignity and it’s where I think STAR can make a real difference. You can’t study while you’re hungry, not having anywhere to sleep…’

‘the statistics of destitute people… are really quite shocking and seem to get people interested in the campaign as it brings the issue closer to home’

‘a problem that needs to be overcome before education can be effective’

‘our STAR group works closely with [two local organizations]… both of which are concerned with destitution’

‘could tie in quite nicely to our work at the drop-in because we know several people whose claims have been failed and who are struggling with the consequences’

‘the easiest campaign for joint work with Amnesty and medical groups on campus’

‘it was seen to be the consequence of a much larger problem, and thus felt by many members that we should be tackling the main issues head on rather than destitution’

*Equal Access to Education*
‘education seems particularly relevant to STAR as a youth group’

“as we are all students and have been through 14+ years of schooling it is an issue people can relate to, unlike destitution – people have no experience of living on the streets.�?

‘our role within educational institutions gives us access to unions that other groups might lack’

‘fits with volunteer work we do in schools’

‘the education campaign would seem an obvious focus for university students but many people thought that the campaign was too much about complicated policy that would be hard to get enthusiastic about!’

‘it’s possible that we’d run up against a bureaucratic brick wall, which would make campaigning difficult for the rest of the year’

‘it was felt that based on our own experiences… it was much better to adopt a ‘personal approach’ with each individual university, and even with specific students (rather than a policy change in general) – at least for the time being’

*Equal Rights for Children*
‘campaigns involving children do seem to get much more support/raise more money etc in our union whereas there is a lot of stigma involved with ‘refugee/asylum seeker’.’

‘the issue would be something both the general public and students could relate to’

‘a number of members have had previous experience with campaigning on child related issues – all of which to great success.’

The Still Human Still Here campaign presents an excellent opportunity for STAR members to contribute to a campaign where they can focus on what they do best and have a significant impact in a fundamental area of asylum policy in the UK. As the member feedback illustrates, a campaign around destitution has the largest capacity to motivate people to get involved and take action. Linked with this was the importance that the national campaign enables all STAR members across the network to get involved in whatever way they can. The campaign also relates best with many of the current volunteering projects that STAR members are involved in, and has the potential for wide-ranging cooperation with other local groups and organisations who are also concerned with the broad issue of poverty.

Although Equal Access to Education was not chosen as the next national campaign, it is clear that the issue offers fantastic potential for STAR campaigning (Glasgow STAR have already shown how successful STAR groups can be on this issue, with 2 new bursaries available for asylum seekers at their university from this academic year).
The opportunities will be fully considered in the development of STAR’s longer-term strategy.

What now?

Over the summer the STAR national office will develop plans for the academic year 07/08 to give STAR members the best opportunity to make a significant contribution to the Still Human Still Here campaign. Preparations will be made to support group activities and events on a local and national level. STAR will also be coordinating with the other supporters of Still Human Still Here to ensure that the campaign draws on the unique skills and enthusiasm of STAR members.

We really encourage members to feed in any ideas and suggestions about how we can campaign most effectively on this issue, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let us know what you think! (contact James)

Posted by STAR team on 06/06/2007 at 02:09 PM