Tag Archives: asylum seekers

Sheffield NEEDS Lemlem

22 Jun

Thursday 21st June 2012 1pm, Sheffield.  People  gathered to bear witness to the gross injustice in the asylum case of Lemlem Hussein Abdu of Eritrea, 1/1/50 who is currently detained at Yarls Wood Immigration_Removal Centre, Bedfordshire.

Lemlem was born in a village in 1950 in what is now Eritrea   She was married at 12 and spoke Tigrinyan.  She lived a traditional life and was not able to read or write her native language.  Lemlem was surrounded by her family and friends. parents, children, grandchildren…  In 1978 her village was burned down.  Lemlem lost everything.  She fled.  She survived.

Lemlem’s story from then on is well documented – Ice and Fire Theatre Company have made an “Asylum Dialogue” http://iceandfire.co.uk/ of her life story and previous campaigns by the Sheffield community against the wrongdoing of the Uk Border Agency  have highlighted the details…  In 2007  Lemlem was deserted in London, with no money, no ID, no family, no friends, and no English with which to cry for help.  She was 55 years old, disabled and destitute.  

Lemlem came to Sheffied under an arbitrary dispersal order from the UK Border Agency: Against all odds, Lemlem  made a family: Lemlem made a home.

Lemlem is in detention for the third time in the UK.  The Uk Border Agency has booked flights to the Ethiopian capitol Addis Ababa for the third time, despite the fact that their establishment has now accepted that Lemlem Hussein Abdu is Eritrean by ethnicity, not Ethiopian.

Lemlem at demo apposing Eritrean Ambassador UK, Feb 2011

Lemlem talking at IT Club on Monday 18th June 2012 on subject of reporting to UKBA Tuesday 19th June 2012 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_MsrfLctuk&feature=plcp

Please contact the airline on their facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/flyethiopian – messages on their page will send shockwaves to the highest levels of their commercial sales team – it will hit them were it hurts, in the pocket.

They are a courteous and charming airline, and will be glad to hear your concerns about their customers and crew – airlines have stopped deportations before now.  Flight ET 701 to Ethiopia 21.00 June 24th 2012 Ethiopian Airlines, Heathrow – Addis Ababa.

Please keep up to date with campaign new and actions by joining the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/102878976433976/

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Please see Sheffield’s response to Lemlem being taken away from us:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APeHGS-NTmc&feature=player_embedded

Please keep trying for Lemlem, for peace, for love, for all of us

Happy refugee week Lemlem – Wishing you were not so terrified, brutalised, denied…

Sheffield Loves Lemlem

20 Jun

 

Lemlem is 62 years old and was born in Eritrea.  The village she comes from was a known support base for the Eritrean Liberation Front and consequently in 1978 her village was attacked by Ethiopian forces and burnt to the ground, leaving Lemlem with no surviving relatives.

Lemlem fled to Sudan and lived in a refugee camp, eventually achieving refugee status.  Finding herself with few opportunities as a refugee in Sudan, she applied for work as a domestic servant in Saudi Arabia and got herself a job with a family.  The family regularly visited the UK, and wanted to take Lemlem with them to care for their children, so they obtained an Ethiopian passport for her;

Lemlem is illiterate in both Tigrinya (native tongue) and Arabic (2nd lang), so never applied for, read or even held her own passport.  As Eritrea had gained Independence from Ethiopia in 1993 the passport was fraudulent in relation to her nationality at the very least.

In 2000, Lemlem’s employers visited the UK and took her with them. She had a fall and suffered a broken leg while looking after the family’s children:  She has never fully recovered. Her employers stopped paying her wages as she could no longer carry out some heavy physical tasks.  On a subsequent visit to the UK in 2007 the family abandoned her in a shopping centre with no money and no identification. She has sight and mobility problems.

Lemlem had no prior knowledge of the asylum system in the UK, but came to understand that she would need to register herself and file a claim for “asylum”, which she did.  She was refused.  Lemlem was sent to live in Sheffield, and despite her traumatic history and tragic absence of any living relative or friend, Lemlem threw herself into the Sheffield community, attending ESOL classes, conversation clubs and community groups with an optimism and generosity of spirit that amazed anyone that knew even the remotest detail of her past or current situation.

After her appeals against her refusal for asylum were turned down, Lemlem became destitute.  She became ineligible for any form of public housing or support; having nowhere else in the world to go, she became dependent on charities (notably ASSIST) and the goodwill and generosity of Sheffield people.

In July 2010 and again in October 2010 Lemlem was detained by the UK Border Agency, sent to a detention centre and flights were booked to deport her to Ethiopia, a place where she knows no one, does not speak the language and would receive no form of support.  She could not have survived there.  Thankfully on both occasions injunctions halted the removal orders and spared Lemlem at the very last minute.  No-one who knew Lemlem could bear the thought of her being detained again, never mind deported, so she did not return to the address from which she had been forcibly removed and did not report to sign at the UK Border Agency, the other location from which she had been forced into detention.

A fresh claim for asylum has been prepared for Lemlem by a devoted voluntary legal team.  Friends of Lemlem and those involved in previous campaigns were on standby for Tuesday 19th June 2012 when Lemlem would report to the UK Border Agency and re-register herself.

Lemlem spoke to Ian Nesbit at RASAG IT Club on Monday;

Lemlem

 

On Tuesday 19th June 2012 Lemlem Hussein Abdu, 62, Eritrean was detained by the UK Border Agency and sent to a detention centre.  She will be deported to Ethiopia on Sunday 24th June 2012, 9pm.

A protest will take place outside Sheffield Town Hall , Thursday 21/06/12, 1pm.  We will march to Vulcan House to protest outside the UK Border Agency offices.  They know we are coming and will be expecting a reasonable crowed and a bit of noise disturbance (they shut the curtains on previous occasions).  It is essential that this demonstration gets as many people as possible.

Lots of people will be busy at work and not around town, but if everyone could convince SOMEONE to go, it could make the difference.

Someone sharing the e-petition on facebook today wrote “AMIGOS,POR FAVOR: tirem um minuto para assinar esta peticao. E una historia distante para muitos de nos mas sera una assinatura que pode evitar uma sentenca de morte. Estejam onde estiverem, e isso que ira pesar. Va la, uma pequena contribuicao, um pequeno gesto mas una vida que se salva!!!”  – I wasn’t sure what it meant but Bing informed me that the last part means,” spare a moment to save a life.”

It really is that important.

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/groups/102878976433976/

Doing IT?

29 Nov

IT Club has enjoyed it’s 5th successful session, with numbers steadily rising from 8 attendees at the first session to 17 at yesterday’s…  Volunteers are growing week by week as well, with three people now committing to attend regularly to assist members  with skills using email, web based publishing sites and reading.  As the activity develops the evidence of the need for  it is mounting up -so it seems like a good time to answer the question – IT Club –  why do it..?

On 11th September 2011 RASAG held it’s second “Happy Eid For Everyone” party, pictured above.   The majority of the budget was used on food making sure that there was a wide selection of dishes from around the world, freshly cooked with “whole food” ingredients, all suitable for our majority Muslim membership…  The party was open for everyone in the community and we aimed to cater for the enjoyment of a born and bred white Sheffielder, just as much as for a person or family from a different culture.

Our main intention in organising an event as a refugee/asylum seeker group, is to ensure that it is accessible to the hardest to reach people, including those who through the workings of the UK asylum system have been made destitute with no legal status to allow them to work and no recourse to public funds.  Good food, good music and the certainty of a friendly welcome all ensure that our parties are accommodating to someone living in enforced destitution.  Thanks to RASAG teaming up with the welcoming organisation Sheffield City of Sanctuary, “Happy Eid…” enjoyed a fabulous turnout of almost 200 people – African Arabic , Asian and Persian dishes were enjoyed alongside the sounds of DJ Ebo, and Shangra band Yakam Jar Bu – people danced, and laughed and were merry – even the tinned fruit and ice cream dessert was received with rapturous enthusiasm!  To the untrained eye the old school hall was the picture of affable comradery, but from RASAG’s p.o.v, the people who couldn’t raise a single smile, who’s foot never tapped to the beat and who didn’t exchange a word in sociablity were the only ones who mattered and they were dotted throughout the room like shadows in every corner.  Which raised the question – as a group, is it enough to simply afford a welcome to those most in need at occasional gatherings?  If the best we can do as a community group is provide a jolly a few times a year, are we really doing anything at all?  So IT Club was born.

The idea is very simple – four hours of high speed internet access on 11 PC’s, a box of additional resources including Flip cameras, ESL textbooks, dictionaries etc, a shared hot lunch and a small amount of petty cash to reimburse travel expenses for unwaged participants and volunteers – oh and printing is free with the room by default, although the line did have to be drawn when someone wanted to print a whole book!  There is no pressure  for people to prescribe to a specific line of learning, and in fact those who come along expecting a structured IT lesson are quickly put right.  The shared blog space (http://rasagcomputerclub.wordpress.com/) and encouragement to use email, Youtube, facebook and Twitter alongside learning basic IT skills, such as log on, shut down, highlight, double click, make IT Club more like a conversation club online.  Just like Sheffield’s highly successful conversation clubs, IT Club is not only open to refugees and asylum seekers, but to everyone who wants to talk and share, forming a community.

That’s what we’re doing – and we’re going to keep doing IT.

HLC funds RASAG employment course

8 Feb

The poor old RASAG blog has been rather neglected of late, but this is not because the group has been inactive – on the contrary, we have been busier than ever!

Back in December RASAG contributed to a wonderful winter celebration in aid of ASSIST – group members cooked a variety of dishes from around the world and a number of us went along to enjoy the music, dancing and performances.  We also faciliatated a performance by wonderful, soon to be famous RASAG friend Pallav Roy – a young man destined for great things!  The event was organised by Sharrow’s own Creative Action Network and Side by Side drama group and was a successful, enjoyable evening.

Going even further back we contributed to a City of Sanctuary event in Gleadless Valley, which sought to address racial tensions in the area by bringing together long term residents with new arrivals, to share stories, food and music and open a dialogue between the groups.  At this event we were pleased to provide some lovely dishes and Yakam Jar Bu got everyone up, holding hands and dancing!

We have decided to hold a weekly session for our members, supporting language needs, signposting volunteering and training opportunities and enabling peer support and advice – we are in the process of applying for funding to support this work.  In the meantime, we have been awarded some funding by Humber Learning Consortium to deliver some Communications and Presentation skills for work training in February.  Learners will be creating a group blog – so this page will soon have a sister!  How exciting!  As part of our bid we are to buy some Flip video cameras, so visitors can expect lots of footage of our work in future!  The training and our weekly sessions will take place at Sharrow Community Forum, Sheffield.

The HLC funding comes from the European Social Fund and is to benefit hard to reach individuals who face significant barriers to employment.

ESF Logo

Happy Eid From Rasag!

16 Sep

Some of the people who helped to organise and enjoyed the party

Many thanks to Goran and the rest of the RASAG team for a very successful Happy Eid party on the 11th September in the Sharrow Old Junior School Hall.  RASAG were granted £250.00 from the Shine on Sharrow fund, for which we are very grateful.  RASAG laid on food, including Kurdish dolma, made by friends of Goran, fish and rice by Nzazi, a range of lovely dishes from Sujata and a large bucket of biryani from Sagheer – thanks guys!  Music was provided by Yakam Jar Bu, and they had us all up dancing together – great to see so many different races and Nationalities enjoying a boogie together.  Side by Side’s Dan Humble came and took photo’s, including the lovely one above – thanks Dan!  There will be a link to a page of photo’s added shortly.  Firas and Shiran worked hard on the party preperations and the clear up and it was great to see Azizeh and Lemlem enjoying themselves and spending time with friends.  Great work all round RASAG team!

Many thanks to everyone at Sharrow Community forum and Sharrow Surestart for making everything run smoothly and keeping the kiddies occupied with glue, sparklies and other fun messy stuff!  There will be more pics and quotes from the group to follow, plus a piece in Sharrow Today, but suffice to say, we’re planning an even bigger bash for “Big Eid” in a few months – though we were very pleased with the 80+ people we attracted to “little Eid”

Eid Mubarack!

Many thanks to Shine on Sharrow!

31 Aug

Thanks to the Shine on Sharrow committee RASAG will be holding an Eid celebration on 11th September at the Old Junior School building, 1-5 pm.  As well as proving some delicious food for everyone, RASAG will be laying on entertainment including Kurdish singing and dancing.  We are on the look out for performers to make this a truly multicultural experience and there will be children’s activities too. 

Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate on the 11th september – the more the merrier.

Happy Eid Party 

 This will be a great opportunity to eat and drink together, have fun and meet new friends in the community.  The whole community likes to celebrate Christmas together, whether we are Christians or not…  Let’s do something special together as a community for Eid this year.

Victory for RASAG – Fear for Mother and Kids…

21 Aug

RASAG had another piece of great news this week – following a letter to a solicitor and the UK Border Agency, the member who had been fitted with a tag for the last three years has been released. This is a great victory as the RASAG member had become severely depressed about his seemingly endless arbitrary incarceration and the tag was also causing physical damage to his leg as well as restricting his movements and forcing him to submit to an unreasonable curfew. The “sentence” imposed upon him was clearly a breach of his human rights, but the often haphazard ways of the UKBA paired with the might of a product pushing multi-national like SERCO meant that hope for a sensible and humane result looked dim – but we did it! The RASAG member is very happy and can’t wait to get stuck in to the full range of RASAG activities, many of which, including the upcoming City Of Sanctuary talent contest, take place in the early evening, so the curfew would have prevented him from attending.

Sad news in Sheffield’s asylum seeking community is that a mother and her three small children are facing deportation to Nigeria on the 2nd September. There is a facebook group called “Stop Sheffield Kids Deportation Danger” at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=144107995621408&ref=mf

To download a petition and get involved in the campaign please go to

http://www.sheffieldcdas.org.uk/campaign…

The facebook group has information about the family and will be kept up to date with documents relating to the campaign as they become available.  The very short time scale that this campaign has to make an impact coupled with the fact that it is the school summer holidays so very difficult to mobilise potential supporters through the children’s primary school make it of the utmost urgency that people get on board and support this campaign.  RASAG has not had the opportunity to work with Mildred, but she is an active member of the Sheffield community where she has lived with her family for five years. She has worked as a volunteer with the Citizens Advice Bureau, Home-Start Sheffield, Northern Refugee Centre (REACT) among other places. She is a familiar voice on Sheffield Live! Community radio station. She was also given an award by City of Sanctuary for her services to the community.  It would be great if the community could give something back to this dedicated and active mother of three small children.

Joy and Despair

18 Aug

RASAG has had two great sources of happiness recently; two of the founding members have been granted indefinite leave to remain. We are all so happy and pleased for the members and wish luck to them and thier families, one of which is here in the Uk and the other is still in the country of origin, hopefully now one step closer to being brought over here to start a new life. However, it has also come to light that one of our key members is living in a state of depression and discomfoft due to being fitted with an elecronic ankle tag to monitor his movements and to impose an unreasonable curfew upon him. This member has been unable to attend RASAG events that take place in the evening, and when he did break his curfew to attend the launch of Chris Stone’s “Shared Sense of Belonging” project, he was threatened with imprisonment.

The member in question arrived in the UK in 2005 and his original claim for asylum was turned down, but as he is from Iran, there was no question of him being returned to his country; one of the many incongruities of the asylum system. Having been forced into destitution, with all benefits and housing rights withdrawn, the RASAG member took the uneasy choice to enter into illegal work. He was caught and was sentenced to 12 month in prison; he served 16 months… This is already a breach of his human and civil rights. When he was finally released after spending an awful year and a quater in Liverpool and Doncaster prisons he was forced to submit to electronic tagging; that was three years ago and he has abided by the conditions ever since. Having reached rock bottom with his situation after suffering damage to his leg from the tag while playing football, and being unable to interact with his local community and the RASAG group because of the curfew, the RASAG member has decided to speak out about his plight and to try to challenge his sentence through the courts. The member in question has spoken to the BBC journalist who we have been working with about his situation and he has taken letters of reference to a solicitor to see if they can help him.

Another source of concern in the latest RASAG meeting was the Home Offices reaction to the Supreme Court Judgement that failed asylum seekers who make a second fresh claim for asylum should be given the right to work if they do not receive a decision within one year of their claim. Damian Green, Immigration Minister, has decided to severely restrict the jobs that this group of asylum seekers, estimated to be around 45,000 in number, will be able to do. He said “I believe it is important to maintain a distinction between economic migration and asylum – giving failed asylum seekers access to the labour market undermines this principle.” (Guardian Thursday 29 July 2010), yet his idea to limit this group to jobs on the shortage occupation list means that infact they will be treated in exactly the same way as economic migrants from outside the UK. As Jonathan Ellis, director of policy and development at the Refugee Council, said “The shortage occupation list is not designed for asylum seekers but rather economic migrants needing sponsorship to come to the UK. Asylum seekers who have waited so long for a decision should be allowed to work for local employers whenever their skills are needed.” (Guardian Thursday 29 July 2010)

The only thing that is clear here is that the right to work continues to be a minefield of uncertainties and the Home Office continues to churn out inconsistant policy and commentary. Progress is slow and even good news is tainted.

“… transferred from one prison to another…”

18 Aug

City of Sanctuary

10 Aug

RASAG is currently working on several initiatives to expand the group and to take it to the next level.  we are working with a BBC journalist on a feature about the City of Sanctuary, where she will be using case studies to dispel the myth that asylum seekers and refugees come to England for an easy ride…  One of the RASAG members who has agreed to talk to the journalist is Lemlem Hussein Abdu, the Eritrean lady who was detained and had a flight booked to a country that she does not originate from, but was given a last minute reprieve in the form of an injunction that halted her flight.  The Manchester court granted the injunction at the last minute because a document was located and faxed from Saudi Arabia that proved that Lemlem was from Ertitrea, not Ethiopia, despite the fact that she had been issued with an Ethiopian passport (which is far from unusual as Eritrea was historically possessed by Ethiopia – the root of all of the war and troubles there in the first place).  With the help of key RASAG member and co-founder, Firas Sharefy, Lemlem will tell her story to the journalist in the hope that it will help give a greater understanding to the Sheffield community about the violence and persecution that people are subjected to before they take that enormous decision to flee their own country and seek asylum elsewhere.  Lemlem is yet to be granted leave to remain in the UK so the campaign continues.  Please go to Sheffield CDAS at http://www.sheffieldcdas.org.uk/, or contact SYMAAC at dignitynotdetention@yahoo.co.uk for more information, or write to Home Secretary Teresa May at Rt Hon Theresa May MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA to make your views known.

Another project involving people’s own stories that RASAG is assisting with is one mentioned earlier in this blog, Chris Stone at FURD’s “Shared Sense of Belonging” project.  Firas has joined the steering team for this project to help to guide the direction of the research that will take place.  This project promises to be very exciting. as it explores the sociological implications of what creates a sense of home, ownership or belonging for someone who has been driven from their own place of origin to a distant place that often does not welcome them, persecutes them and plunges them into a world of misinformation and uncertainty.  This project will particularly focus on how playing, watching and talking about football play a part in creating a sense of belonging and home in people from disparate backgrounds, but it will also examine the role of other sports and activities by way of comparison.   Several RASAG members are also interested in forming a five a side team to play football at FURD, which would be very exciting as it would be one of the few city teams that would be made up of people from different nationalities, rather than being a “DRC team”, and “Iraqi team” etc…  This unity between refugees and asylum seekers of different nationalities is one of RASAG’s great strengths.

More exciting plans in the offing include the creation of a RASAG identity card which would aim to give members a sense of belonging and ownership and could be used to enable them to interact with other community groups on an official level.  This idea came from the group when RASAG member Spag was asked to help with interpreting for an asylum case by Sheffield CDAS and was asked to show his RASAG ID – we had not considered the fact that  members would be offered opportunities based on their RASAG membership status before this point but it is a positive development.  We would also like to buy a laptop and some software so that we can start to create a database of our members and activities.

RASAG’s next event is planned to be a post Eid community meal where we will tell stories, perform music and provide attendees with food from around the world…  This event will be used to create a space for the group to meet with the wider community and to promote our activities and ethos.  We are all also looking forward to the end of Summer of Sanctuary celebrations planned to take place later this month – Summer of sanctuary funded our Legends project and in fact RASAG was formed to take part in this unique three month event.

Finally I am very pleased to announce that I have been offered the role of Communications and Administration Worker for Sheffield City of Sanctuary.  As the only member of RASAG who is not an asylum seeker or refugee I am keenly aware that this prospect is a real privilege and  an opportunity that is sadly not available to many of the group members who have hitherto been denied the right to work.  However, following the court judgment that asylum seekers who do not receive a decision within a set time should be given the right to work, I hope that this will be the start of many RASAG members finding gainful employment within the sector.   In my role at the City of Sanctuary I will be supporting a groundbreaking grassroots organisation  key to the sector of people seeking asylum in Sheffield.  I will be helping to advance the aim to promote a positive image of refugees and asylum seekers in the city and provide spaces for encounters between the community and the wider Sheffield population, which is also embedded in RASAG’s constitution.  Of course the work with RASAG will also continue.

As always, RASAG can be contacted of katelyn_mckeown@yahoo.co.uk, or at Learn For Life Enterprise on 0114 2559080.

Katelyn 🙂