As described in our June Newsletter, we have joined six major NGOs: the Red Cross, Asylum Matters, The Refugee Council, Refugee Action, the Scottish Refugee Council and Freedom from Torture, along with more than 250 groups, in the Asylum Reform Initiative and their campaign Together with Refugees.
We are working now intensively to raise awareness, across our town and the wider area, of specific issues around asylum and of the current Government proposals radically to change asylum law in ways that will criminalise people seeking asylum and also those who in any way assist irregular entry, including rescue at sea; the new laws will remove the right to asylum for anyone who arrives without permission and papers, however compelling their case for asylum may be.
See our recent articles in the local press here, with initial explanations of some of the main proposed changes:
and in this podcast from Hastings Independent Press, first item here (at 1min 40 sec) https://anchor.fm/hastings-independent-press/episodes/Covid-Vaccinations–co-housing-and-sun-salutations–179-HIPcast-e13pl4r
And here including a personal testimony from our HCoS Campaigns team colleague Pal Luthra. https://www.hastingsindependentpress.co.uk/features/hastings-community-of-sanctuary-joins-new-national-coalition-to-build-a-fairer-asylum-system/
Our Campaigns team member Safwa Chowdhury has written a compelling article, published in Hastings Online Times, about mental health issues arising from lockdown, and the unimaginable situation for those who are locked up in lockdown compared to the experiences she and many young people have had during the Covid pandemic.
And see this moving and informative article by another HCoS Campaigns team colleague Olivia Cavanagh about the realities of a legal advisor’s work, in particular her work with unaccompanied young people who arrive seeking refuge – looking beyond the rhetoric of ‘do-gooder’ lawyers (also published here, in Hastings Independent Press).
More articles are in the pipeline. Working collaboratively with Stand up to Racism (Hastings), we will be intensifying our campaigning at both at local and national level, as the Nationality and Borders Bill makes its way through Parliament over the coming months.
Meanwhile, we have taken part in an installation ‘A Vanished Sea’ in Rye, put on by Climate Art (https://climateart.org.uk/exhibition) and exploring issues of migration and climate change; with Hastings Supports Refugees, we recently contributed many small suitcases and holdalls for the men of Napier barracks to carry with their meagre belongings as they finally leave the nightmare of their time there – once again the kindness of Hastings people in clear view.
Our festival – renamed Sanctuary Festival, is now in planning for SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 12th, and more information will be coming soon.
Finally, we have begun with Hastings Museum the process of becoming a Museum of Sanctuary, and are also exploring further plans for other institutions across the town to join this programme of City of Sanctuary’s ‘Streams of Sanctuary’.
In all this, our underlying focus is on the shared humanity with those of our fellows who find themselves having to leave their homes and seek refuge far away. Some of them, as Olivia Cavanagh points out in her article, start these journeys as young teenagers and spend years travelling through the most harsh and hostile environments conceivable, including torture and slavery on the way. Conversations from Calais makes vivid their humanity.