Saturday, February 26, 2011

Disappointing demo

On Thursday I went to a sleepout to raise awareness about destitute asylum seekers. Unfortunately I decided to leave before too long. It wasn't because I'm not brave enough to face sleeping on the streets on a bitterly cold winter's night. (I'm not, but it wasn't that cold.) It was because the event was poorly organised. Now, there's a difference between an event being disorganised and poorly organised. And this sleepout was the latter. There had obviously been a meeting sometime before to discuss the sleepout, in some office somewhere. There was undoubtedly a brainstorming session, and a person with a dry-wipe pen poised to write ideas down on flipchart paper.

But it seems they came up with great ideas like having a piece of absurdist theatre to highlight the plight of asylum seekers.

Now, I'm all for getting together and holding hands and telling each other how great we are because we care, but I don't think it's particularly productive if the aim was to raise awareness about destitute asylum seekers. Most of us there were just standing around doing nothing. We could have been handing out leaflets, or holding banners, or making some noise, or something. Instead we were standing around like lemons.

Another problem is that the people there didn't seem that well informed about the issue either (not that I am particularly), so the few discussions which did take place seemed to go like this:

Demonstrator: Having asylum seekers in destitution is bad.
Member of public: Why?
Demonstrator: Because it is.
Member of public: How many destitute asylum seekers are there?
Demonstrator: Lots.

So, just in case you were wondering, here are some facts about asylum seekers.

  • There are an estimated 280,000 failed asylum seekers living in the UK without any access to public funds.
  • Around 80% of these come from eight countries: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, the DRC and another country which I've forgot.
  • Between 2006 and this year, the High Court decided it was illegal to forcefully deport people to Zimbabwe because it was too dangerous for them. However, during this period, the Home Office still rejected 10,000 asylum claims from Zimbabweans because it felt it was safe enough to return home. These thousands of people have been living in the UK without any access to public funds.
  • The Red Cross has labelled the treatment of failed asylum seekers in the UK as a 'humanitarian crisis'.

And here's a good video about the issue:

Still Human Still Here - Refused asylum seekers in the UK. from panos pictures on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Red Cross

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've started volunteering for the Red Cross. As a part of this, I've had to do several sessions of training. As of this week, I've finished. Hooray!

I must admit, some of the training sessions were more interesting than others. Unfortunately, there was also a bit of a problem with one or two other people on the course. In particular, there was one who achieved to slow down the entire proceedings by repeatedly asking unnecessary questions, debating Red Cross policy, and otherwise giving her opinion when it wasn't asked for. My patience was definitely tested.

I've also done a few sessions of actually volunteering. And it's been really good, although it's been quite emotionally draining. I work in the refugee unit helping refugees and asylum seekers, and some of the stories are very sad. Unfortunately, I'm a person who is liable to get a bit emotional. I cry when reading sad books. I cry when watching sad films. When I was a child, I cried watching Bambi. And The Lion King. I even got teary eyed at Casper the CGI whiney voiced ghost.

So when I have people telling me about the terrible things that have happened in their lives, or I read a case file about someone with a tragic past, or I see injustice in the way a case gets handled, I've been finding myself getting a little emotional. But I think that's good in a way. It motivates me to do more. It's difficult when I know I can't do something to help someone, but it also means I feel satisfaction from small things which help people, and relief from a little bit of good news. And that's not such a bad thing.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Today is my birthday! And, because it was my birthday, I've had a very exciting weekend. Of course, all my weekends are exciting.

My exciting life

I've actually had quite a nice day. Relaxing and quiet. I've also eaten lots of birthday related food.

A balanced diet...

My lovely flatmates bought me a cake and some chocolate, so I blame them for my unhealthy diet today. But actually, I've had quite a busy week. I went to the opera for the first time on Monday. I was worried I was going to be bored to tears.

But, it was really enjoyable, and I would definitely go again. It was such a nice experience overall. I felt very posh.

That's all for now, just a few quick questions.

  1. What would be your perfect birthday?
  2. Have you done anything recently for the first time recently?
  3. What sort of posh things do you do?