Lift The Ban: Let Asylum Seekers Work!
By Jay Kramer
Hastings & St Leonards took part in a national campaign on 15th June aimed at persuading the Home Office to allow asylum seekers to undertake paid work after six months of residence if their claim has not been determined.
Stalls were set up in both St Leonards and Hastings Town Centres where members of Hastings Community of Sanctuary engaged the public in conversations about the issues and encouraged them to sign petitions and postcards which will be gathered together nationally to present to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid. I am a leader of this campaign
We were encouraged by how many people came to our stalls to find out what ‘Lift the Ban’ was about and were willing to sign up to the campaign. They recognised that a policy change would enable people seeking asylum to live in dignity by providing for themselves and their families, to have the opportunity to use their skills, integrate into their new communities and improve their mental health.
In the evening, local councillor for Central St Leonards, Trevor Webb, organised a ‘One Hastings Many Voices’ event, where a variety of local musicians from many backgrounds entertained the audience, alongside poems, refreshments and speakers. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor were there to support the event together with Cllr Colin Fitzgerald, cabinet member for Equalities and Community Safety at Hastings Borough Council. Cllr Fitzgerald recounted a story he had been told earlier that day of a woman from Eastern Europe who had been harassed on a train because of her accent. He told the gathering that this is not the kind of society we want to be a part of, and that everyone should be welcomed and respected when they come to the UK.
We were delighted to welcome Alex Mvuka Ntung to the event. Alex spoke movingly about his lived experience of coming to the UK as an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo and what the ban on working had meant to him. Copies of the account of his journey, a book called ‘Not My Worst Day’ were available to buy. He described how he had been able to make Hastings his home town.
Our Hastings & St Leonards Lift the Ban day of action was very successful in terms of uniting everyone to change the current situation which prevents people claiming asylum from working, forcing them to live in poverty for months and often years at a time. Our day ran alongside a national month of action with events already having taken place in London, Middlesborough, Glasgow and Yorkshire. Our stall will have been repeated at the Festival by the Lake on Sunday 23rd June. After that we expect to have hundreds of petitions and postcards to submit to the national campaign.
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