Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Power of a Movement - students standing with refugees at STAR’s conference

Equal Access ambassador Abir King tells us about how the day unfolded at STAR’s student conference, The Power of a Movement.

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This article is an extract. You can read the full article here .

STAR Annual Conference – “The Power of a movement”

During the period of the last 25 years, STAR has enlightened so many asylum seekers and STAR student groups with their campaign. I was been given a golden opportunity to attend the Annual AGM this time on 23rd of November 2019 in London with STAR. STAR is a network of 50 ( Currently) students societies who volunteer at local refugee projects and campaigns to improve the life of refugees and asylum seekers locally and nationally. STAR groups in the universities stand with the refugee students and make sure they are being supported and get the appropriate assistance. With that great power of movement, we have stared out the conference on 23rd of November in CASS Business School in London at 11 am.

The program started with the introductory speech of Chief Executive of STAR. Then we had an amazing speaker from Refugee rights Europe “ Marta Welander”. She spoke about the horrible situation of refugees’ denial of safe and legal routes to seek asylum in certain countries. We have witnessed horrible situations in the rough sleeping of refugees in Europe and the externalization of asylum response in the EU countries.She also talks about the criminalization of solidarity across Europe. Then we had excellent speaker Director of Refugee Council UK “ Maurice Wren”. He brings up the early era of refugee campaign in the UK and the long journey Refugee council the UK has made through the time and it’s a success. He described about the Dublin 3 process and other matters about the local organization’s long term contributions. He thanked the STAR movement which really makes a difference in refugees’ life and to the country.

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A big STAR at conference

Last but not least then I had my favorite Speaker on board “ Shrouk El- Attar” She is an excellent inspirational speaker with lots of real-life experiences which does make me inspired personally. She is UNHCR woman of the year, BBC 100 most influential women in the world and IET top, 6 young female engineers. On top of that, she has passed her journey as an asylum seeker and a refugee and she was involved with the STAR movement since she was in university. A big STAR to have at the conference. I literally could not resist myself to express my desire “ You are my inspiration from now on Sister” I called her sister from my heart and suddenly I got a big hug with a reply “ You are my brother from now on” What an achievement for me of the day! I am really grateful to have her as my sister.

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Then we had a question-answer session with the speakers which was chaired by “ JAMALA Abdullahi”, STAR’s Student Network Assistant. I did ask a question to the speakers about the death of migrants on the way to the UK and what is the organizations will do about it in the future.

Then we had a great lunch session with STARS. The food was amazing and vegetarian. Everyone was chatting and enjoying food. I had a chance to speak to new students at that time and I meet with a Esther Mark Baleh who I did a course in Durham in September from the city of Sanctuary, A college student Abdullah from hammersmith college, Students from different universities around the UK and especially Greece.

“University shock”

Then I have joined the workshop as a STAR equal Access Steering group campaigner with Ben Margolis ( City of Sanctuary) to discuss with the student about the Sanctuary movement and University of Sanctuary movement. We have tried to reflect the main idea behind the UoS movement and its involvement with STAR and how students can create new STAR society on their campus to support the UoS movement. I have personally expressed my experience to set up a new society in my own university and how I am helping the local asylum seekers and refugees using conversation class tools every week. I am giving the asylum seeker an opportunity to explore the university beforehand they apply for university and scholarships. I have named it “ University Shock” like culture shock. This kind of social integration beforehand they apply for university gives them courage and also keeps the legacy of sanctuary scholarship or equal access scholarship I believe. The real-life example I have asked 20 students in the conversation group which is consists of local refugee and asylum seekers that how do you feel coming to the university. Every single one of them replied, “ We feel proud ourselves and empowered”. Here I had a quick chat with Emily Churchill Zaraa ( Refugee week UK Co-Ordinator) about refugee week. She is very supportive and listens to my story. I was been given a wonderful box of CHOCOLATE as a thank you gesture by STAR. I was really happy to get it from Christopher SMART.

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Well after the workshop we went back to our auditorium for the student taking action past, present and future workshop. There was a panel of STAR group members from past, present. Panel members were- Heba Tang ( KCL Star president) , Ben Margolis( STAR member 2004, Leeds), Jonny Voza Zola( Teesside STAR graduate) , Bella Browne ( Nottingham STAR president), Angkella Argirofski (the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Start now). This session was chaired by our STAR “ Maryam Taher” -York STAR graduate and Equal access Activist)

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A day to be remembered…

With all those positive empowerments and inspiration the time was nearly 5 pm and we have to finish our STAR conference. I was feeling a bit sad but I was very happy to get a new sister, A box of lovely chocolate, new friends, a lot of inspiration, skills and My favorite STAR*. I wish and really wish I would be there again next year and years forward which never ends. Please send me your comments and suggestions about my blog if you like. Thank you for reading my blog again. Abir’s full blog post can be read here

Posted by STAR team on 11/12/2019 at 01:55 PM