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Why you should join your local STAR network
By Emma WIlliams
With Welcome Week fast approaching, Student Action for Refugees Chief Executive Emma Williams tells us why you should get involved in your local network.
STAR is a student-led national charity which welcomes refugees and asylum seekers to the UK. We are a membership organisation with over 26,000 student members at 40 universities and colleges who welcome refugees and asylum seekers in four ways:
1. STAR student volunteers are currently assisting over 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers with services including English language learning, access to food and clothing, IT skills, exam preparation and most importantly relaxing and feeling welcome in the UK. Volunteers work together with professional refugee support agencies including British Red Cross, Refugee Council and BOAZ Trust.
“Working with STAR has been nothing short of life changing. I have been able to communicate with people I would not have met and I have more insight into how asylum in the UK works” - Warwick University student
2. STAR students educate and change public attitudes by staging events about asylum and the cultural riches which refugees bring to the UK. Each year STAR students stage over 400 of these events including debates, films, exhibitions and concerts attended by 25,000 people.
Cardiff STAR’s annual Refugee Rhythms at their SU is attended by 500 people including 150 asylum seekers and refugees. The gig is a mix of Welsh and refugee dance music including refugees rapping over Welsh DJs
3. STAR students fundraise to keep the charity going, for example our annual STAR BakeOff raises thousands every year
4. STAR students have delivered real change through our campaigns. Our successful Equal Access Campaign, in partnership with the NUS, is removing the barriers to higher education for people who have sought refugee protection. STAR and NUS are calling for universities to use their discretion to charge asylum seekers ‘home fees’ and to create scholarships to cover those fees. Over 50 universities have already said yes to Equal Access. This is vital because asylum seekers are classed as international students, meaning they are charged higher international fees and don’t get student loans and grants. Asylum seekers cannot work and so they can’t pay the fees and, as it is not safe for them to return home to study, they cannot go to university.
STAR was set up by students at Nottingham University in 1994 and developed with support from the Refugee Council and UNHCR. Our 40 STAR groups are student union societies which are affiliated to the STAR charity. We are a membership organisation, each STAR group is a member with voting rights at our AGM.
STAR has a team of paid staff to support and co-ordinate the student network, we work closely with the NUS and student unions.