In the UK every year thousands of asylum seekers and refugees are refused asylum by the UK government. As a result of government policy they are forced into a life of destitution in order to encourage them to leave the UK. Asylum seekers and refugees are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, fleeing from horrors such as war or persecution. Instead of receiving the UK government's support they are faced with destitution, leaving them penniless and potentially homeless if their asylum application is refused. Groups all across the UK have come together to raise awareness about this issue, pushing towards a future where refugees and asylum seekers are provided with some financial support and help from the UK. Amnesty International are working with the 'Still Human, Still Here,' campaign (http:stillhumanstillhere.wordpress.com/) to try and provide better living conditions and a fair asylum system in a manner of ways. This aims to be done by researching aspects of asylum policy and practices, coming up with ideas and proposals on how to improve these, and putting forward these proposals to the government.
Student groups all across the UK have also been staging sleep outs and the Leeds University Union Amnesty International Society will be working with the student group STAR (Student Action For Refugees), braving Leeds' blustery winter weather in hosting their annual Sleep Out outside the Union on Monday March 4th. The aim of this event is to raise awareness, money and donations of essential items (such as food, toiletries and warm winter clothes) for those refused refugees and asylum seekers who are not provided with any help and support from us in the UK. The idea is to have a fun and social evening whilst focusing on the immoral and unjust way thousands of people fleeing to the UK are treated each year. The night will feature various forms of entertainment (from fun societies such as Circus Soc and Swing Soc), food and hot drinks and hopefully some speakers from refugee charities who can share with us tales of their own experiences. Our sleep out is NOT a student-only event, and everyone who wants to join us is welcome to. Last year's event was a huge success, with students shivering shoulder to shoulder with non-students who happily gave up their night in solidarity with destitute asylum seekers. So, come armed with warm clothes, sleeping bags and as much as you're able to donate and arrive any time after 8pm outside Leeds University Union building. It doesn't matter whether you're planning to sleep out the entire night or to just come and join in for a couple of hours, we welcome any contributions. It will be great for us all to experience, just a little, what it is like for those scared people who merely seek a little help and support from us and our country!
By Kataya Bernatavicius
From Amnesty International Student Society