Swansea Says ‘Refugees Are Welcome Here’

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AT least 800 people turned out on Saturday in Castle Square, Swansea, to declare REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE.

There were similar rallies all across the UK, across Europe and around the world.

In Swansea, young and old, many with home-made banners, heard speeches calling on the UK government to do much, much more to take in refugees from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and all countries blighted by war and persecution. Speakers also called on the government to treat asylum-seekers in the UK with much, much more compassion.

Speakers from SBASSG called for better support, access to legal advice, and an end to the vicious policy of destitution. This policy leaves many people with nowhere to live and no income whatever, potentially for years on end. They often successfully claim refugee status in the end, but meanwhile are denied basic protection, basic dignity. The government even plans to extend this appalling policy from adults to children too.

This policy of making asylum-seekers suffer as much as possible, in order to put others off the idea of claiming asylum, is inhumane and does not even work. It makes many British people ashamed to be British.

Poet and activist Max Kpakio, who came to Swansea fleeing civil war in Liberia in 2002, spoke of the warm welcome he has received from people here, in his new home. He read a poem titled “I Feel Like Nobody Here”, about the way media and politicians demonise asylum-seekers like him. He now runs a charity promoting HIV awareness in Wales and Liberia.

The crowd responded generously to an appeal for money for charities supporting destitute asylum seekers: SBASSG, the Share Tawe project, EYST, and Unity in Diversity

Many people came forward with offers of help: to teach English, to befriend new arrivals, to take destitute people into their homes, to help out at drop-ins, to help raise funds, and much much more.

Unity in Diversity has a directory of services for asylum seekers. All these organisations need volunteers to help.

The appeal for donations raised just under £1000 on the spot – thank you, warm and generous people of Swansea!!

If you would like to help asylum seekers in the Swansea area, please register your interest with Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group here – we look to forward to hearing from you!

Hearing the Unheard: Swansea City of Sanctuary (SA1 5JQ) Friday, 25th September 2015 from 09:30-16:00

Swansea City of Sanctuary is hosting a thematic workshop on September 25th with a focus on using art, drama, creative writing, and digital voice as a way of capturing and representing voices and stories from Asylum Seekers and Refugees that are not often heard. This will be followed by activities in the afternoon that highlight the importance of supporting and sharing ideas about how organisations and individuals could take action to welcome and support Asylum Seekers and Refugees. This will include workshops and presentations on what barriers there are to participation, how to include Asylum Seeker and Refugee voices in your organisation as well as what organisations have done that could be replicated as examples of best practice.

This workshop is designed for organisations that do not have much experience in supporting and working with Asylum Seekers and Refugees but would like to gain more knowledge about some of the barriers that are faced by people seeking sanctuary. Additionally it is aimed at organisations that are looking for new and interesting ways of representing and including Refugee and Asylum Seeker voices within organisations.

Some of our supporters who will be contributing to the day include the West Yorkshire Playhouse, African Community Centre, Oasis, Hafan Books and the Uk’s first Shop of Sanctuary Oxfam Castle Street.

In the evening there is a play called 9 Lives by the West Yorkshire Playhouse in the Taliesin at 7.30pm, it would be an excellent way of concluding the workshop. Here is a blurb about the play:

‘Fleeing from his home in Zimbabwe where a fresh wave of homophobia threatens his life, Ishmael has sought sanctuary in the UK. Dispersed to Leeds, Ishmael waits to hear his fate, he waits for a new life to begin amongst strangers. Strangers who don’t trust him and don’t want him there. But not everyone is bad… can he find a place to call home again?’

To find out more and to book tickets please go to: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/hearing-the-unheard-tickets-18308165215

If you have any queries, please contact Richenda by email – richenda@dpia.org.uk