We are keen to promote local awareness of a variety of issues relating to asylum-seekers and refugees, and our goal is to deliver a programme of free public talks which allow a wide range of voices to be heard: those who have fled, those who volunteer to support them, and those whose work is to assist them. The following is a list of our talks to date.
AGM 23 April 2018
Our first-ever AGM was a public meeting held at Allhallowgate Methodist Church Hall, Ripon. We reported on several areas of our work, including campaigning, Schools of Sanctuary, events, refugee support, clothes collections and more. After the formal business, we welcomed 2 special guests, Syrian men who have been resettled in Ripon, who told something of their stories from Syria into Lebanon and then on to the UK, having been offered sanctuary here under the SVPR scheme.
The SVPR scheme from both sides Jonathan Spencer from NYCC and Oday, a Syrian refugee, 26 February 2018
Jonathan has responsibility for resettling North Yorkshire’s share of the government’s 20,000 intake of Syrian refugees. He explained how the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPR) scheme works: how refugees are chosen, how they get here, where they are resettled and why, and how they are supported. Then, through an interpreter, we heard for the first time publicly from Oday, the father in one of the 3 Syrian families who have been settled in Ripon. He told some of the story of his journey from Syria to Lebanon and then on to the UK, and what it;s been like to try and settle in such an alien culture.
Campaigning in Support of Asylum-Seekers & Refugees Lorna Gledhill of Asylum Matters, 15 November 2017
Lorna spoke about campaigning to support asylum-seekers and refugees in response to the key issues they face. She reviewed how the effects of the government’s stated policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for asylum-seekers is resulting in denial of access to basic rights and, frequently, destitution, and what we can do to put pressure on decision-makers to protect human rights. Lorna is campaigns project manager for Yorkshire and Humberside at Asylum Matters, an advocacy and campaigns project that works in partnership locally and nationally to improve the lives of refugees and asylum-seekers through social and political change. Lorna is bang up-to-date on the relevant legislation and data around these issues.
Investigating War Crimes Philip Trewhitt OBE, of IICI, 10 April 2017
War crimes contribute significantly to the number of civilians who are displaced from conflict zones. Philip spoke about the various types of war crime; how investigations are approached; the challenges inherent in securing convictions; and how refugees can provide evidence and be involved in the process. He is the executive director of IICI, based in The Hague, which investigates, and trains investigators in, alleged violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Philip previously held a number of positions at the United Nations and was the UK’s lead on transitional justice in Baghdad. He is a recipient of the Order of the British Empire and the Office of the US Secretary of Defense Public Service Award.
International Family Tracing/Refugee Camp Design British Red Cross, January 2017
Olivia Franck spoke very movingly about the Red Cross’ international family tracing programme, a vital service to families who become separated when fleeing. Maria Netto, a PhD researcher, spoke on the subject of the planning and layout of refugee camps, which has astonishingly not altered since Roman times.
Planning for the Syrians’ Arrival Richard Orton of Refugee Council, 3 October 2016
The Refugee Council has been awarded North Yorkshire’s contract for resettling our region’s share of the 20,000 Syrian refugees being brought to the UK under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (SVPR) scheme. Richard outlined the forthcoming arrival of 3 Syrians families who have been offered humanitarian protection in Ripon, and discussed ways in which volunteers can provide support.
One in 122 John Mellor, City of Sanctuary, 10 August, 2016
One person in every 122 has had to flee, and the numbers worldwide equate almost exactly to the entire population of the UK. John is chair of Ripon City of Sanctuary and a trustee of national City of Sanctuary. He has been supporting refugees and asylum-seekers for many years, including previously in Southampton, which is why he was able to deliver an outstanding talk about the scale and nature of the global asylum crisis, and how the asylum system works in the UK. He provided stories of 10 asylum-seekers known personally to him – a poignant insight into a very complex and frightening situation.
Life in the UK as a Long-Term Asylum-Seeker February 2016
We were visited by two asylum-seekers from Africa: both living in Leeds, both in the UK for over a decade (one married to a British man), and both still waiting for a decision on their asylum application. They described why they were forced to leave everything (and everyone) behind in Africa; what it’s like to deal with the Home Office; the challenges of uncertainty, poverty and boredom; and their hopes for the future.
Two Sides of the Syrian Refugee Crisis Najem Al-Din Ali and Lily David, 22 June 2016
First-hand accounts of the Syrian refugee crisis were provided by 2 speakers. Najem, a Syrian refugee living in Ripon, talked about how his life changed as a result of the outbreak of war, what happened to his village as a result of a siege/occupation by ISIS and subsequently the coalition bombing (the results of which he showed via video footage he had shot himself) and how he came to the UK. Lily, a Ripon resident studying in Jordan, talked about her part-time work as an intern for UNHCR at Za’atari, the enormous UNHCR-run refugee camp in Jordan, and doing welfare visits with Syrian refugees in the capital, Amman.
Life in the Jungle Amanda Harrison, May 2016
Amanda, who lives in Ripon, spoke about her experiences volunteering at the Jungle in Calais, at Dunkirk, and in Greece.