Thursday, March 31, 2011
Students across the UK slept out to raise awareness of the destitution of asylum seekers and to lobby MPs to sign a Declaration calling for some asylum seekers to be allowed to work.
Visit the Sleepout Facebook page for photos of the Sleepouts!
During February and March, STAR and Amnesty International student groups held almost 30 Sleepouts across the UK.
Over 1,200 people participated, with over 450 sleeping-out over night. The biggest Sleepouts happened in London, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford with around 200 taking part and over 40 sleeping out in each city!
Students hosted fun evenings of speakers and entertainment before bedding down for the night. Evening highlights included a performance by Theatre Reportage in London, an open-mic night in Glasgow and fire-jugglers in Birmingham. A number of groups also used the Sleepouts as an opportunity to fundraise for local charities, and Leeds collected food for PAFRAS, who support destitute asylum seekers.
Thousands of people are living in extreme poverty after being refused asylum in the UK. They are denied any support and do not have permission to work to provide for themselves.
As part of the Still Human Still Here coalition, we are calling for the government to grant asylum seekers permission to work if their case has not been resolved within six months or they have been refused, but temporarily cannot be returned through no fault of their own.
Students at the Sleepouts did a great job of getting the word out about the destitution of asylum seekers! The Sleepouts gave people who didn’t know much about asylum seekers the chance to become informed and engaged in the issue and were also an opportunity for students to link up with local refugee and asylum seekers organisations.
STAR groups were also delighted to receive support from the five MPs who attended Sleepouts: Kate Green and John Leech visited the Manchester Sleepout, Ben Bradshaw visited Exeter, Fabian Hamilton visited Leeds and Paul Blomfield visited Sheffield. In addition, Caroline Lucas and other Green Party members visited the Cardiff Sleepout as the Green Party conference was in session close by. Essex received statements of support from both Bob Russell MP and Richard Howitt MEP. In addition, thousands of signatures were collected to send to MPs!
All together, eleven groups got their events in the media. Well done to Edinburgh, Essex, Exeter, Leeds, London, Manchester, Malvern, Newcastle, Oxford, Plymouth and Sheffield!
Several participants shared the high points of their Sleepout experience:
“The highlight was a young guy who had driven past after work at about two in the morning and had seen the banners and people sleeping outside and thought we were all refugees. He went to the supermarket and came back with about six bags of food. The group were able to donate it to local projects.” – Emily Crowley on the Bradford Sleepout.
“One (asylum seeker) guy said to me that he was really amazed and excited on seeing the email about the campaign, as he hadn’t realised that there were so many people campaigning about it.” – Student on the Cardiff Sleepout.
If you have not already done so, please contact your MP by filling in Amnesty’s e-action on permission to work.
Posted by Communications on 31/03/2011 at 10:51 AM