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© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

Landmark action in Manchester

Jonathan Kazembe

Guest blog: As part of Together With Refugees, One Strong Voice members will be leading and involved in landmark events throughout the UK on 21 March, in this last push to influence the outcome of the inhumane Nationality and Borders Bill.

In this guest blog, Jonathan Kazembe, describes the event One Strong Voice is organising with partners in Manchester.

With the support of One Strong Voice, the first ever coalition of people with lived experience of the UK asylum system, a coalition of migrant justice organisations in Manchester including RAS (Refugee and Asylum Seeker) Voice, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, No Borders Manchester, These Walls Must Fall, WAST Women, RAPAR, Status for All, Asylum Matters and Freedom from Torture have come together to organise a Manchester Day of Action on Monday 21st March, as part of Together With Refugees’ national campaign against the Nationality and Borders Bill.

On this day, we plan to gather in St. Peter’s Square, around Manchester Town Hall, from 1pm to 2pm on the 21st of March. Our gathering will centre and be led, as much as possible, by those who have faced the asylum system and are experts by experience. Some may choose to talk about their story, whilst others may give their story to our team to read out.

We are also planning to have placards with stories and poignant quotes on them, hoping to stop passers-by on their lunch break. The 21st is also World Poetry Day and we can think of no better use of the day, than to bring together people with the power of words to fight such a harmful bill.

Jonathan campaigning

Asylum Seekers who have come here had to leave everything behind. Security for asylum seekers is not only shelter and health, but also work and good welcome when they are looking for safety. The National and Borders Bill threatens refugees’ human rights. It forces asylum seekers to live in constant worry, feeling worthless, frustrated, in pain and fearful because they cannot predict how the bill will affect their futures.

We are asking people including mayors and members of Parliaments to join us on this important day to lend their voices and stand in solidarity with those who have been subject to harmful immigration policy. The UK has a long tradition of welcoming refugees and therefore we are asking the UK Government to continue to provide safety to people fleeing persecution.

Jonathan Kazembe, One Strong Voice & RAS Voice

The tips below have been compiled by the Together With Refugees team, based on discussions with people with lived experience.

Tips for involving people with lived experience

There’s helpful tips in the Campaign Pack (on page 23) developed by colleagues from One Strong Voice, to help local groups ensure people with lived experience are at front and centre of events.

“People with direct experience of the asylum system are best placed to represent their concerns about the government’s plans. And we know that audiences connect more with people and their stories, rather than dry facts and figures.”

Together With Refugees, Campaign Pack

Poetry day

The landmark action takes place on 21 March, which is national poetry day, so it could be a great way to showcase a poet, who writes about their lived experience of the asylum system. Or if people with lived experience would prefer not to speak publicly , it could be that someone reads a poem written by someone with lived experience. We’ll make some available soon.

Events organised by people with lived experience

Whether your group, is led by people with lived experience or not, do remember you can adapt the landmark campaign to make it more relevant to you, and your groups’ experience. You can even dispense with the landmark. The main point is that we demonstrate community support for a more compassionate approach to refugees, which stands in stark contrast to the government’s bill. So be creative and work out what makes most sense for you and your group. Consider your strengths and capacity – you may be able to speak about your lived experience, you may be linked to local refugee groups and have great links into other parts of the community. Also, take care of yourself and consider what you can reasonably do in the short time available.