Sleep-out for asylum seekers
More than 100 people are expected to attend a sleep-out on February 24 in Covent Garden to raise the awareness of the asylum seekers living throughout the UK in poverty.
Amnesty International and STAR (Student Action for Refugees) have joined together to organise 17 different sleep-outs between the 21 and the 27 February.
Sarah Bowling, UAL Amnesty International Society president, explains: "Everyone has the right to food and shelter. People seeking protection in the UK from war and torture should not be forced into poverty."
The sleep-out has four main demands. Firstly, allow asylum seekers to work if their appeal for refugee status has not been resolved within six months.
Secondly, give protection to all those who need it. Thirdly, meet essential living needs and lastly to allow free healthcare to all asylum seekers.
In 2009, there were an estimated 269,400 asylum seekers in the UK, which accounted for 0.5 per cent of the population.
Though the government knows many asylum seekers need protection in the UK, they are refused refugee status because of the narrow criteria used to determine who needs protection and who does not.
In 2010, 53 per cent of Somali asylum seekers who appealed against denied refugee statuses were successful; this shows how important it is that the Home Office policies be reviewed.
The criterion used does not include every factor that makes asylum seekers unable to return home. This results in many asylum seekers falling through a ‘protection gap’.
While an asylum seeker is waiting for the return of their application (which can take over six months) they are unable to work in the UK or receive benefits.
Living in these conditions not only has serious mental and physical implications on the individual, but forces asylum seekers to find dangerous jobs like prostitution. This is why the priority of the sleep-out is to allow asylum seekers to work after six months of waiting for the return of their application.
Bowling explains: "The Home Office currently believe that changing their policies will enable a lot more asylum seekers to take refuge in the UK legally, putting a strain on the economy, NHS and employment.”
However, Amnesty International says "allowing these vulnerable people to work would reduce the burden on the taxpayer while contributing to the economy.”
The main statement from Amnesty International is: “Ordinary people from around the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect individuals wherever justice, fairness, freedom and truth are denied."
Amnesty International began in 1961 when Peter Benenson read about two Portuguese students being imprisoned for toasting to freedom.
This led to an international campaign calling for all prisoners of conscience to be released from prison.
Benenson said in 2001: "Only when the last Prisoner of Conscience has been freed, when the last Torture Chamber has been closed, when the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reality for the world’s people, will our work be done."
Today, Amnesty International works to stop all exploitation of human rights.
This year, UAL Amnesty International Society was set up to raise awareness of these issues among the student body and to let students have a more active part in protecting the lives of others.
Since it started the society has taken part in many campaigns to free prisoners of conscience, including ‘Protect the Human Week’ and ‘Free Troy Davis’.
This term they will be getting involved in the ‘End Forced Evictions’, ‘Demand Dignity’ and ‘Bring Home Shaker Aamer’ campaigns.
The London sleep-out will take place outside St Paul’s Church in Convent Garden from 8pm onwards on Thursday 24 February. "There will be music, food and speakers with first-hand experience of the asylum process," said Bowling.
The confirmed speakers at the London sleep-out are Patson (Zimbabwe Association), Maurice Wren (Director of Asylum Aid), Melanie McFadyean (journalist) and Lisa Nandy (Labour MP Wigan).
If you have any questions about the society please email us at email@example.com