Saturday, March 27, 2021

KCL’s 2021 Conference: Life’s Labours Lost

This year, KCL STAR have planned an incredible online conference around people seeking asylum and the right to work. KCL committee member Siobhan has written about the conference and the importance of this subject.
If you can, please donate to their fundraiser and sign up here.


Sometimes, in lockdown, the only thing that distracted me from the rising hospital admissions and death counts was having some work to get on with. Some urgent, or not so urgent, studying to be doing, some emails to write for STAR. I know other people have not been so lucky. My friends who were furloughed or, worse, lost their jobs entirely, told me what a struggle it was for them to find things to distract themselves.

Now imagine you have just moved to a new country to escape persecution where you grew up. Your brain, maybe, is filled with memories of suffering you endured, or feared, or saw people you knew undergo. There are newspaper reports every so often about the continued turmoil in your country, or the continued threats made to people like you. Murders, bombings, harassment, rape. Imagine you are waiting to hear whether you will be allowed to stay here or sent back to that.

How much do you need a distraction? How much do you need to feel useful? To feel like you are making a difference to someone’s life – even if it’s not those back home? If you are an asylum seeker in the UK you might be in this situation. You might be waiting many years for a decision on your asylum claim. And throughout that time you are not allowed to work. You are also charged international fees to study, and volunteering is made difficult, through the complicated definitions of volunteering and voluntary work. So there is very little to distract from the trauma and stress of seeking asylum.

This is only the emotional impact (and even then only part of it). The economic impact is also enormous, both for asylum seekers who are forced to live on just £5.66 per day provided by the government, and for the UK economy, which misses out on taxes from asylum seekers and the rejuvenating input of new business and entrepreneurship which could be provided by these people. The University of Warwick found in 2016 that giving asylum seekers the right to work could save the UK £70million.

Lift the Ban is a campaign to raise awareness of this issue and has widespread support from more than 200 organisations representing a wide range of business and third sector organisations. ‘Life’s Labours Lost’ is a KCL STAR’s virtual conference in support of this campaign. It will run in the evenings of 30-31 March on zoom.

If you come along to the conference you can learn about the issue from lived experience activists involved with Refugee Action and Asylum Matters. You can also join in with workshops from a Nicaraguan-Costa Rican poet, the director of Lincolnshire Refugee Doctor Project, an Armenian artist, an organisation which offers work experience to asylum seekers in artisan markets, and the director of Ice and Fire’s Actors for Human Rights. You can also observe and contribute to a debate, introduced by Neil Coyle, MP, on whether the right to work for asylum seekers should be the priority for improving employment outcomes for refugees.

Find out more on facebook or sign up here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by STAR team on 27/03/2021 at 09:00 AM