Category Archives: Sanctuary

blue background and 4 head and shoulder shots of two male students and two female students, with the caption: JOIN STAR Student Action for Refugees

Meet the Student Action for Refugees (STAR) society at Kent – get involved this year to make a difference

The Student Action for Refugees (STAR) society at Kent is a remarkable student-led organisation that advocates for refugee rights and fostering a welcoming environment for refugees and asylum seekers on campus. With a rich history that traces back to its inception at the University of Nottingham almost thirty years ago, STAR has evolved into a national network of student groups across the UK comprising of around 34,000 students. The committee members of UKC STAR are passionate individuals who actively campaign, fundraise, and volunteer to challenge hostile government policies and support those in need. Come along to find out more and grab a sweet treat at the Canterbury campus us their our bake sale on Tuesday 10th October at 1pm on the Plaza outside the coop. Let’s meet the inspiring voices behind this dedicated team…

Ewen Rivallain – President:

“I am the newly elected President of UKC Student Action for Refugees, dedicated to fostering a welcoming environment for refugees and asylum seekers on campus.”

Ewen, the newly elected President of UKC Student Action for Refugees, is committed to creating a welcoming environment for refugees and asylum seekers on campus. With a focus on member engagement and community projects, Ewen and UKC STAR are determined to make a difference in the lives of those in need.

Cassandra Ross – Vice President:

“I wish to aid refugees in any way possible and to encourage people to join us in doing so.”

Cassandra, a third-year student in Politics and International Relations, is the Vice President of UKC STAR. Her genuine interest in understanding the struggles faced by the refugee community motivated her to join the committee. Cassandra’s primary goal is to raise awareness about refugee issues on campus and help create a more welcoming environment for refugees in the UK.

Marie Legraverend – Secretary:

“We have a lot of ideas to get you involved in creating a welcoming environment for refugees in Canterbury and in the UK in general.”

As the upcoming Kent STAR Secretary, Marie, a 3rd-year Politics and International Relations student, is deeply committed to resolving the human rights issues surrounding refugees. Having previously served as the Treasurer, Marie is passionate about raising awareness, volunteering, campaigning, and fundraising. She invites everyone to join in their efforts to make a difference.

Leah Tesfu – Marketing and Collaboration Coordinator:

“I joined STAR as I wanted to be a part of a society that brings about positive change.”

Leah, a final year Biomedical Science student, serves as the Marketing and Collaboration Coordinator for Kent STAR. Drawn to STAR’s mission of building a more understanding and just society for refugees, Leah is eager to contribute to the society’s initiatives and projects. The clothes donation point project is particularly close to her heart, as it provides support to refugees while reducing waste on campus.

Romain Picon – Events Officer:

“If you want to start making a difference today, you can donate your old clothes at the various clothes donation points on campus.”

Romain, a third-year student in Politics and International Relations from Bordeaux, France, discovered STAR last year as a volunteer. Inspired by attending talks on refugees and participating in protests against proposed government legislation, Romain is determined to continue taking action. He encourages others to join in the efforts to support refugee rights and help those in indefinite immigration detention.

Want to get involved?

During this academic year, our priority is to involve our members as much as possible! We are in the process of setting up volunteer opportunities for students wishing to get involved in supporting refugees and asylum seekers in the local area, and we have several conferences planned to discuss important issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers. Come and see us at our bake sale on Tuesday 10th October at 1pm on the Plaza outside the coop if you would like to know more, or get your free membership on Kent Union to be informed about all of our upcoming events!

If you’d like to find out more about STAR at Kent or join the society, have a look at their Kent Union page, or if you use Instagram, give STAR Kent a follow to see what’s happening next.

Compassion in Action: your clothing donations are making a difference

Following our initial round of clothing collections for Refugee Week at the Kent, we were able to donate eight large bags of much-needed men’s clothing to the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG). These clothes have gone on to make a difference in the lives of detainees who have experienced hardships on their journey to safety.

Anna Pincus from GDWG highlighted the significance of providing good-quality second-hand clothes, stating:

“People are frequently detained in only the clothes they are wearing and do not have a second set of clothes. Sometimes people arrive in detention in clothes that are not dry after having crossed the channel. People may face deportation in clothes that are inappropriate for where they are being sent to. Providing good quality second-hand clothes meets practical needs and also counters dehumanisation and gives people basic dignity.”

The impact of your support can be seen through the words of those who have directly benefited from your donations. Mohammed said:

“I needed clothes and had only flip flops when I left detention. Thanks to GDWG for clothes I could not buy for myself. We are not allowed to work after detention but we need shoes and clothes.”

Ali said:

“When you have nothing, any clothes are a big gift. Thank you for helping us.”

There are still many more in need, and if you have not yet donated there is still time to make a difference.

Keep the Donations Coming

If you have any of the following clean items to spare, please consider contributing clothing:

  • Men’s trainers, especially sizes 8 and 9.
  • Men’s jogging bottoms.
  • Men’s jeans.
  • Men’s t-shirts.
  • Men’s jumpers.

Your donations can be placed in collection bins located at various spots around campus.

The Power of the Refugee Tales Trail Walk

In addition to clothing donations, we want to remind you of another impactful way you can make a difference, by learning more about the stories of refugees and asylum seekers on our Refugee Tales trail walk. On the trail you can read or listen to the real-life stories of individuals who have experienced the UK’s immigration system, offering a powerful opportunity to engage with their narratives.

The trail was launched for Refugee Week back in June, but remains in place on campus.

For more information on the trail and how you can get involved, please visit the Refugee Week webpage.

Sanctuary fund

We at the University of Kent believe that everyone should have the opportunity to study at a university irrespective of their background. We are proud that our campus is a welcoming and inclusive space for everyone.

In committing to become a University of Sanctuary in 2019, we set up Sanctuary scholarships to give three refugees and asylum seekers every year the opportunity to receive a University of Kent education. The scholarships cover a full fee waiver for an undergraduate programme as well as small maintenance grants.

 Find out more about Kent’s work to become and University of Sanctuary, and donate to the fund to empower refugee students at Kent.

photograph of approximately 40 people walking away from the camera along a pathway, wearing a variety of colourful casual clothing

Solidarity and Compassion in Action: Refugee Week 2023 celebrations at Kent

It was wonderful to see different parts of our local community at the University of Kent intersect and celebrate the contributions and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary, at a series of events taking place on Wednesday 21 June 2023 for Refugee Week.

Opportunities for community members, staff and students to come together to learn, share experiences, and expressions of compassion, solidarity and understanding included: a choir performance, a guided walk, a ‘taste of migration’ through a free shared lunch, and a lecture in the library. Running parallel to this was a visit from residents and Friends of Napier Barracks in Folkestone, where migrants and asylum seekers are detained while their applications for leave to remain are processed.

Guided walk: Refugee Tales trail

Around 35 people (an even mixture of staff, students, alumni and members of the wider community) joined a short guided walk through part of the University of Kent campus, stopping to listen to the experience of refugees written in the Refugee Tales book along the way.

People walking outdoors on paved path against backdrop of trees

Before we set off, Natalia Crisanti (Engagement and Communications Officer), who coordinated the Refugee Week programme at Kent, introduced the event and a performance from the Kent Community Choir, who sang ‘Moving‘ , a song written by students and refugees at the Berlin School of Popular Arts at SRH Berlin in Germany.

Kent community choir member: “thank you for inviting us to be a part of it – a moving and humbling experience”

Kent staff member reading an extract from the Refugee Tales outdoors in summer

Along the route, the Refugee Tales extracts were read by Philip Pothen (Director of Engagement), Basma Eldoukhi (PhD student, Migration Studies), and Sam Scott (Philanthropy Manager). We finished at the Kent Community Oasis Garden to reflect and leave a message, before returning to the start point for a ‘taste of migration’ through food inspired by the fusions of flavours that have come about because of the movements of people to the UK.

People sitting at bench table outdoors writing

The guided walk and the stories shared during the event helped us to think more deeply about the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers, and the engagement and support contributed to an atmosphere of compassion and understanding, which we will remember and continue to speak about and reflect on.

People at food buffet outdoors

You can listen to or read the Refugee Tales extracts from the walk again online on our Refugee Week webpage. If you would like to read the lyrics from the choir performance you can download them as a PDF.

Many attendees of the event got in touch with their reflections, including:

“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity today to meet some people from Iran who have come to the UK and to hear some of their stories. I think more events of this kind are needed to allow local residents to meet refugees to build communities, shatter myths and remind ourselves that we are all human and we should support one another.”

“Having people read exerts of lived experiences whilst we were walking freely around the beautiful campus made the experience incredibly moving. At one point a colleague and I had our arms around each other because we were welling up. This event brought the University closer to our local community as we shared a valuable experience together. I had some deep and meaningful chats with members of the public whilst on that walk, and it felt important that we came to learn and to understand together.”

Following the Refugee Tales trail, everyone was welcome to an open lecture by Professor Panikos Panayi, Professor in Economic History from De Montfort University, who spoke about this history of fish and chips, and links to migration and Britishness. We explored the links of the dish with migration and the popularity of fish and chip shop ownership with different migrant communities, as well as historic associations with social class and status. At the end we reflected on how this ‘national dish’ perhaps reflects a vision of a modern, inclusive and diverse Britain, and that over fish and chips we can have many conversations about our backgrounds, and cultural traditions relating to food, sharing our experiences and beginning to understand each other better.

Napier residents and friends receive warm welcome and practical guidance on continuing education

Also on the day, it was a privilege to welcome 25 residents and friends from the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, who joined us on campus for these events and to explore their opportunities for continued education if and when they are granted leave to remain.

Philip Pothen talking to Napier Friends volunteer

Their visit included a welcome introduction from Philip Pothen, Director of Engagement, with refreshments at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre café. We were delighted that some of the visitors took part in the choir performance alongside members of the Kent Community Choir, singing in English and Arabic. After this, the group embarked on a campus tour, finishing in the Kent Community Oasis Garden to join the participants in the guided trail to leave messages of reflection.

The atmosphere was joyful and hopeful, as we shared a multi cultural lunch outside. This included fish and chips, Keralan biryani, and middle eastern dishes including falafel, hummous, baba ganoush, fattoush, fried pitta, flat breads, and Arabic coffee. Some of these dishes were made authentically by our friend and refugee, Hassan Alsoufi, as well as by the catering team at the University. It was fantastic to see everyone eating and sharing this range of delicious food together, sharing stories and chatting in the sun. The group then received information from colleagues with expertise in admissions, immigration and access to Higher Education, and were also given time to ask individual questions about how their existing qualifications might be recognised when applying to continue to study in the UK.

Throughout the day, the conversations between the Napier residents and friends, staff, students and local community members helped bring home the importance of Refugee Week in recognising experiences of migration.

The Napier group were overwhelmingly positive about the visit, commenting:

“Thank you so much for today’s tour. We really enjoyed it.”

“It was very helpful for all of us, had a wonderful campus tour and had the chance to meet very good people.”

“God bless all of you and much appreciate it.”

Kent Law Clinic staff and students deliver advice workshop to Napier Barracks residents

Kent Law Clinic staff and students have been involved in a project to deliver legal advice workshops to asylum seekers residing at Napier Barracks, in collaboration with local charities Samphire and Napier Drop-In.

By Dr Richard Warren, Immigration Law Adviser & Lecturer, Kent Law Clinic

Since September 2020, Napier Barracks on the outskirts of Folkestone in Kent has been used to accommodate male asylum seekers, sometimes for significant periods of time. Residents at the camp come from a number of well-known refugee-producing countries including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Sudan. A recent report by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) [1] has outlined the poor living conditions which residents face, noting specifically the uncertainty faced by those who are unsure what is happening in their asylum claim. The camp was also subject to a scathing High Court judgment in June 2021 in which Mr Justice Linden was unable to accept that the accommodation there ensured a standard of living which was adequate for the health of the claimants.[2] Despite assurances by the Home Office that improvements have been made following that High Court case, the JRS report has documented continuing concerns including difficulties in accessing basic necessities including shoes and winter clothes, inadequate healthcare and barriers to accessing legal advice.

The current historic backlog in the asylum process has been widely reported, with more than a 173,000 applicants’ claims still outstanding,[3] some of whom have been waiting years for a decision. A significant number have received no legal advice since arriving in the UK – again a situation that has been well documented.[4]

As a result, individuals are receiving notices of intent to declare their claims inadmissible, with the possibility of removal to Rwanda[5] without the ability to make representations to the Home Office. The policy of declaring claims inadmissible where an individual has passed through a so-called safe third country has been in place since January 2021 when the UK left the EU and so ended its participation in the Dublin 3 Regulation.[6] In June 2022, s16 of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 placed the process on a statutory footing.[7] However, that process, arguably an essential part of the government’s aim to ‘stop the boats’, cannot currently be implemented. Currently there are no returns agreements with any major countries of transit, including with any EU country. And the proposed policy of removals to Rwanda is on hold pending the outcome of an appeal against the High Court judgment last year.[8] It is therefore unsurprising that the backlog of undecided cases has risen. For those at Napier Barracks the uncertainty of knowing whether they are even going to have their asylum claim considered is clearly taking its toll.

It is against this background that the Kent Law Clinic agreed to run a legal advice session at a local drop-in centre for Napier residents in need of legal advice. The workshop provided a basic overview of the asylum system, including information on inadmissibility, the decision-making process and rights of appeal. Kent Law Clinic student volunteers assisted with interpreting. The session was well received, and the Clinic plans to run further sessions in the future.

[1] JRS-UK-Report_Napier-Barracks-the-inhumane-reality_March-2023_WEB.pdf (jrsuk.net)

[2] NB & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWHC 1489 (Admin) (03 June 2021) (bailii.org)

[3] National Audit Office report 16/6/23 https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/the-asylum-and-protection-transformation-programme.pdf

[4] 628f50a1917c740a7f1539c1_No access to justice- how legal advice deserts fail refugees, migrants and our communities.pdf (website-files.com)

[5] UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership – House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)

[6] EUR-Lex – 02013R0604-20130629 – EN – EUR-Lex (europa.eu)

[7] Nationality and Borders Act 2022 (legislation.gov.uk)

[8] AAA v SSHD Rwanda judgment.pdf (judiciary.uk)

Migrateful: supporting migrants with the power of food

Written by Katherine Moss, Senior Press Officer

As part of Refugee Week, Dora Perera, Immigration Compliance Officer at Kent, shares her experience of working with Migrateful – an award-winning UK charity with a mission to support migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in their journey to integration through food.

Food is more than nutrition. When we cook we create, learn about our history, customs and discover our identity. Sharing food is sharing our inheritance, it is a language we all speak and the best medium to bridge the gap between communities.

A charity integrating refugees and asylum seekers through cooking

Migrateful was founded in 2017, seeking to use the power of food to integrate refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the UK into the community. Displacement creates ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ labels and the most emotionally disheartening obstacle faced is long term integration. Migrants can become isolated waiting for their immigration status to be regularised, which can take years, and in some cases are unable to work or access public funds. The act of cooking, making mistakes and sitting down together to have a family-style dinner humanises the current migration narrative, opens the hearts and minds and fills the bellies of everyone involved.

Migrateful offers a 2-year development programme where migrant integration is fostered through practice of the English language, presentation training, improving self-esteem and learning of transferrable skills to use to interact with the UK community and enrich it with their culture. Refugees are supported, encouraged and trained to lead cookery classes, share their traditional cuisine and heritage to make connections. They develop menus based on their personal family recipes, share the social status behind each recipe or the cultural importance of serving a dish in certain circumstances.

Rebuilding lives, finding purpose

Many migrants who arrive in the UK due to conflict in their country were qualified professionals in HR, nursing, firefighting, lecturing or dreamed of working in the food sector. Where qualifications were not transferable or destroyed in conflict, our chefs are rebuilding their lives and finding connections and passion through sharing their country’s food. After their Migrateful ‘graduation’ they lead teams and share their experience. Once their status was regularised, some became head chefs, owners of catering companies or picked up where their education left off.

The Migrateful experience unsettles the traditional narrative of charity by inviting the contributors to learn from migrant chefs and integrate new techniques and ingredients into their daily lives. Tickets are exchanged for a journey in learning customs and breaking down barriers along the way. The food cooked in a family home in Aleppo contributes to the making of a dish in a home in Canterbury.

Dora’s experience

I come from two war-torn islands and grew up seeing the impact of war on communities; in Cyprus and Sri Lanka. When I emigrated to the UK, I specialised in immigration law and work as an Immigration Compliance Officer at the University of Kent. By day I help international students comply with the terms of their visas while realising their dreams. By night, as the Canterbury Migrateful facilitator, I advocate for impactful and far-reaching opportunities for displaced individuals. Through Migrateful, I am honoured to support asylum seekers, refugees and migrants from across the world on their journey to independence and contribute positively towards the migration discourse by encouraging an inclusive community.

Get involved: cook and support Migrateful in your area

Tickets for the cookery classes include ingredients you need to make a traditional dish with a choice from over 30 countries. In 5 years, Migrateful has hosted over 3,000 cookery classes with 30,000+ participants across London, Bristol, Canterbury and Brighton. Migrateful’s Canterbury classes are hosted at St Martin and St Paul’s CT1 – find out more about Migrateful classes.

Help these classes run: Each Migrateful cookery class relies on a small team of volunteers to run successfully. Find out more about volunteering to assist in cooking classes.

Join an online cookalong for Refugee Week!

On Wednesday 21st June, 5.30 – 7pm, UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Agency’s national charity for the United Kingdom) have teamed up with Migrateful Syrian refugee chef, Amani, and for an evening of culture and cuisine to celebrate Refugee Week. You can register online to join the free, virtual cooking class on Wednesday. Amani will be taking us step by step through how to make a delicious Syrian Mousakaa (Aubergine & Tomato Mezze) and Fatosh (Arabic Flatbread, Vegetable & Herb Salad).

Refugee Week at Kent

To see what’s on at the University of Kent for Refugee Week an beyond, check out our Refugee Week website for ways you can get involved and contribute, and look for #KentRefugeeWeek on social media – together, we can make a difference in our communities.