Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Heart of STAR 1997 - Nicola Witcombe

In celebration of STAR’s 25th birthday, we took the time to reconnect and share the stories of the people who made it possible for STAR to be where it is today. These are The Hearts of STAR, these are the change-makers, who through the decades strived to positively impact the lives of refugees and create a welcoming society in the UK and we are proud to share their stories with you on this Refugee Week 2020.

Nicola Witcombe

1997 – 1998 at Edinburgh STAR, 1999 started Newcastle STAR, 1998 – 2006 STAR management committee
Current job: Editor of a research dissemination website

How and why did you get involved in STAR?

Picked up a leaflet at the activities fair, I think. It is difficult to remember whether I was attracted to STAR because I was politically motivated, or they seemed like a nice bunch of people, so I became politically motivated.
What kept me involved through the years was not only the outrage in seeing the gradual erosion of legal provision, the introduction of dispersal, and the diminishing of refugee rights generally, but the people I met and worked with along the way – too many interesting people to mention here!

What impact did you see STAR have on your community:

a. At university
I don’t know what it is like today, but there was really only Amnesty and Third World First that addressed human rights issues in different ways back then. STAR added an important opportunity for action with respect to rights issues on our doorstep and enabled us to join with local asylum seekers and refugees to work in their interests, as well as with local agencies.

It provided the local mobilisation of young people from a range of different backgrounds in an organised and effective fashion to assist the work of local agencies, including for example the North East Refugee Service, the Scottish Refugee Council, and the Refugee Council.

What is your favourite thing about STAR?

It manages to balance having fun at the same time as ensuring the gravity of its activities is not overlooked.

What impact did STAR have on your life or on what you do now?

Lifelong friends. Campaigning for refugee rights led to me training as a lawyer and getting involved in other like-minded organisations like Scottish Somali Action and Refugees Welcome. Although I ended up specialising in employment law, the early interest in refugee issues still trickles down in my life: I was a volunteer advisor at the Danish Refugee Council in Copenhagen where I now live for several years and, when I did a part-time LLM a few years ago, my dissertation was about the right to work for asylum seekers in the UK compared with Denmark.

What message would you like to give the current STAR students?

Keep up the good work!

An inspirational quote from the heart of STAR

It is difficult to condense all my STAR experiences and feelings into one quote, but, if I had to, I would say that the STAR conferences were for many years the highlight of my year!
STAR acts like a voice for young people in the area of refugee rights.

Posted by STAR team on 17/06/2020 at 07:20 PM