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STAR Sleep out 2013! November 3, 2013

Posted by starglasgow in Uncategorized.
For the past six years around the time of Halloween members of STAR (Student Action for Refugees) Glasgow have taken to the steps of the Wellington Church – facing both the brunt of the elements and the general public – to sleep outside. We do this to raise awareness about the number of asylum seekers and refugees forced into destitution in Scotland and to raise money for charities who work to protect them.  This year we were raising money for the Glasgow-based charity Positive Action in Housing’s Destitution Fund which provides emergency accommodation and practical resources to asylum seekers and refugees facing homelessness.  So far we have made £1043.51 and our sponsorship page will remain open for another 2 weeks – http://www.justgiving.com/star-glasgow
In Scotland 1 in 4 asylum seekers will experience destitution at some point in the asylum process, and 40% will be destitute more than once (http://www.stopdestitution.org.uk/files/Trapped%20-%20destitution%20and%20asylum%20summary%20final%20compressed%20pictures.pdf).  Asylum seekers can be forced into destitution at a number of points in the asylum process, for example – when they first arrive in Scotland, as the only place where they may apply for asylum is in Croydon, London and they are given to practical or financial assistance to get there (and so can’t work or receive asylum support), because their claims are refused but due to a true fear of persecution they are too afraid to return home (but the UK government cuts off their support, making them homeless, unable to work and without food, to “encourage” them to return “voluntarily”) or, for as simple a reason as their local post office (where they collect Asylum Support) closes down but they cannot, or don’t know how to access another Post Office.  Refugees are also made homeless completely due to bureaucracy as when their asylum claim is accepted their financial asylum support and accommodation is stopped but their mainstream UK benefits do not start for 2-3 weeks.
In an effort to educate as many people about the problem as possible we held an Open Air Cabaret at the sleep out where we invited friends and strangers along to perform, or just to watch, making our statement larger and directly engaging more people with the problem!  At our cabaret we had singer-songwriters, a melodian player and several poets, as well as speakers.  All told we had around 40 people.
At around midnight the festivities had curtailed enough for the able and dedicated members of the group to begin setting up our “beds” for the night.  Luckily this year the weather was comparatively warm (although still drizzling) making it slightly less difficult to get some sleep.  In an effort to balance solidarity with those who are destitute without making a mockery of their circumstances we allow ourselves multiple layers of clothes (and hats, and scarves), sleeping bags, cardboard to cover the ground, as well as the use of the Wellington Church’s toilets and kettle.
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