During UK Parliament week, students at St David’s College in Cardiff seized the opportunity to learn more about issues affecting people seeking sanctuary and flex their citizenship skills by speaking up for welcome, kindness and solidarity.
St David’s College have launched a Speak up for Sanctuary group for students who are particularly interested in these issues to lead the college’s activities and efforts whilst developing the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to take action on the topics that are important to them and create positive change.
The week of the 6th November started with students exploring a 360-degree virtual parliament tour online and participating in The Big UK Parliament Week Quiz 2023 – learning about what UK parliament is, does and how each and everyone of us can (and should!) engage with it.
Students in the Speak up for Sanctuary group then conducted research on the government financial support provided to asylum seekers and were shocked to learn how little this it.
This understanding was further grown following a visit from Norman Gettings, the Outreach Lead at local refugee charity Oasis Cardiff. During his visit, Norman introduced the work Oasis Cardiff does with people seeking sanctuary in the city and discussed some of their realities. This included explaining people seeking asylum who were being housed in local hotels, who are unable to work and receive a mere £7 per day. He noted that a return bus fare to access support services is £4, making students question how adequate such an amount is for people to be able to survive, let alone thrive. Norman’s visit ended with a lively Q&A with students crafting thoughtful questions that further revealed the extent of the challenges facing people seeking asylum.
Drawing on what they had learnt, students worked together to compose a joint letter to their Local MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Jo Stevens, expressing concerns about common misconceptions and media stereotypes.
In the letter, students also updated her on the collaborative sanctuary-related initiatives they’ve undertaken since her involvement in Culture Day 2023 and extended an invitation for her to join the college again at this year’s event.
As a result of activities during this week, students’ commitment to supporting people seeking safety has only grown and the Speak up for Sanctuary group are now making plans for Refugee Week 2024 and this year’s St David’s Culture Day to raise awareness of of the issues facing people in the asylum system, challenge misconceptions and offer meaningful support to Oasis Cardiff – helping them to realise their mission to provide a warm Welsh welcome to those seeking refuge.