Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wishing You A STARRY Christmas

And breathe….well almost. It’s been a hectic and hugely successful year for STAR and the run up to Christmas is no exception.

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Lots of our Groups have been busy writing festive cards to their local MP asking them to save the date for a crucial debate in Westminster on March 16th.

This is important because Parliament could decide to back our campaign to #ReuniteRefugeeFamilies and change the rules which keep refugees and their families apart.

Glasgow STAR posted a picture of a postbox saying: “Christmas is a family time for many, but not for refugees who are separated from their loved ones by UK laws.”

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STAR Birmingham actually made their own Christmas cards at their conversation club before sending them to MPs.

“Huge Difference”

In Nottingham the local STAR Group showed the film – White Helmets – complete with lots of yummy mince pies. The Group pointed out that sending a Christmas card to your MP was “a small thing” that “will hopefully make a huge difference to the lives of refugees” here.

Meanwhile – in other seasonal-themed actions – Northampton STAR made sure their very own snowman was supporting our Equal Access campaign.

This aims to ensure that asylum seekers – who are treated as international students – have passage to higher education. Thanks to our work there are now 59 universities giving bursaries and scholarships to asylum seekers.

St George’s in London had the brilliant idea of holding a present drive for “teenage refugees who otherwise may not receive a present” and ended up with bags of gifts such as games, toys, gloves, scarves and sweets.

Wonderful Work

Of course this is only a snapshot of all the wonderful work STAR groups do week in and week out in support of refugees both campaigning and in local communities.

This year we ran 84 local projects with more than 1,500 volunteers supporting over 4,000 refugees. STAR groups also held close to a hundred fundraising events which resulted in nearly £18,000 being raised.

We are able to do all of this because we now have the amazing total of 42 Groups and a 27,000 strong membership welcoming refugees across the UK and Ireland.

It’s true to say there’s been a huge surge in interest about STAR and refugee issues this year, with STARs speaking to 7000 people at freshers stalls during September and October.

Staff from STAR National then visited 38 Groups around the UK and in Ireland for their first meetings of the new academic year. In the midst of all this we also had our Autumn Training event.

There was no time to rest before our big annual fundraiser – the STAR Bake-Off – which so many groups took part in. There was some stunning results from the oven, with Cardiff Met taking the award for most money raised.

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Our annual Conference and AGM in November was voted a big success.

More than a hundred students were in London for the day, hearing from world class speakers and taking part in workshops under the theme of ‘Refugees Welcome? How the UK Welcomes & Challenges Refugees’.

“One Community”

Over the summer we held our Committee Training and took part in Refugee Week which, STAR’s Chief Executive, Emma Williams, described in a lecture as being “really important because it celebrates our welcome for refugees to the UK and brings us all together as one community.”

STAR had a massive win in March when the Government announced that 20,000 Syrians who arrived in the UK under the VPR programme were to be granted refugee status rather than humanitarian protection. This followed a campaign which we led over a two year period in Parliament.

The same month members from Southampton, Reading, Anglia Ruskin universities stopped the traffic with colourful papers chains joining two government departments as part of our campaign to allow child refugees to be reunited with their families.

We then handed in a 31,000 strong petition to the Home Office and the Department for Education.

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“Rebuild Lives”

A month later the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees produced a major report after hearing evidence from STAR.We told the MPs and Peers that ‘university helps refugees to integrate into UK life by providing a safe, empowering environment where refugees can make friends, learn new skills and rebuild their lives…’

All this came on the back off our Action Week in February with many groups holding refugee themed events – including hearing from refugees about their experiences, hosting photo exhibitions and a massive Refugee Rhythms party in Cardiff with food and music from all over the world.

In 2017 we also said goodbye to the Regional Asylum Activism project; after six years of being great campaigners within STAR the organisation moved to Asylum Matters under the City of Sanctuary banner.

In the new year we will be straight back to it, focussing on our Equal Access campaign.

On the 31st January we will host our first Equal Access Conference which will bring together universities, refugee students and various organisations to grow this work.

In the meantime we wish you all a merry Christmas and a great New Year – see you in 2018.

Posted by STAR team on 14/12/2017 at 03:03 PM