Monday night saw the launch of the 10 Days of Action on the Refugee Crisis campaign. The Student Exec, along with societies STAR and Amnesty International, will be dedicating 10 days to untangling the misconceptions surrounding refugees, asylum seekers and forced migrants and supporting their cause.
Union Affairs Officer Jack Palmer said: “The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, change perceptions of what we should ‘expect’ from people who have fled violence, and get students to talk about what we as a University community can be doing to be more inclusive and supportive for refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds”.
The 10 days are set to be an in-depth and insightful exploration of the current crisis, and both students and the wider community are encouraged to come to as many events as they would like, including the ‘Living Under Military Rule’ event where refugees and asylum seekers share their experiences of living under oppression.
For anyone who would like to help local refugees and asylum seekers, a collection point will be in the outlet in Union Square throughout the 10 days and students and staff can donate any warm clothes, footwear, kitchen utensils, toiletries and children’s toys. Donations will be given to All Hallows Church for their free shop for local refugees. This collection point will be open 11am-4pm until Thursday 15 March.
Natasha Mutch-Vidal, Equality and Diversity Officer said:
“The emphasis of our campaign is that ‘existence is enough’. More often than not, immigrants and refugees are given value based upon their contributions to society. It is great to be celebrated through what you have invented or significantly changed, but we want to emphasise that we value their existence over anything else. This is why our campaign focuses on the lived experience and stories of refugees and asylum seekers to centre their voices. We as a society must move away from toxic ideas like hours spent at work or studying equates to worth and respect, because existence is enough.”
The 10 Days campaign also aims to highlight the voices of asylum seekers and refugees that are not often heard in the media. The ‘Unheard Stories: LGBTQ+ Women of Colour Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ event provided a performance of queer refugee narratives. Yarls Wood detainee and queer campaigner Aderonke Apata was the guest speaker and the audience participated in a Q&A. The event was free, but donations were welcomed towards the fund of queer Women of Colour activist Kelechi Chioba.
In the coming weeks, the University of Leeds will be launching sanctuary scholarships, which will provide asylum seekers with free University education. There will be a drop-in for asylum seekers to learn more about it during the 10 days campaign.
Zaki Al-Ghazal, Education Officer said:
“Breaking down barriers to education is absolutely vital. We want to make education and the sharing of knowledge more available particularly to students escaping zones of conflict. Education is a public good and is something no person should be unable to access because of their nationality and the place they were born. One’s nationality isn’t a choice; it’s something they’re born with and we strive to do all we can to ensure that potential students who come from areas of the world engulfed by war and suffering are given the equal opportunities other students have.
“The University of Leeds and Leeds University Union have a rich history in offering their support to those fleeing conflict and persecution. From the 1970s when the Chilean community fled their country and arrived in Leeds, to the present day with our significant cohort of refugee students, we have always valued the input of all student no matter where they call home.”
The 10 Days campaign will cumulate in a vigil marking the anniversary of the Syrian conflict.
See full event details here.