August 21, 2016
by rst2012
Comments Off on A Night at Edinburgh’s Festival of Politics: Scottish Solutions to the Refugee Crisis

A Night at Edinburgh’s Festival of Politics: Scottish Solutions to the Refugee Crisis

Festival of Politics

This is a guest post by Katharine T. Weatherhead

The opening night of Edinburgh’s Festival of Politics on 18 August 2016 saw prominent politicians and organisations come together at the Scottish Parliament to discuss ‘Scottish Solutions to the Refugee Crisis’.

The public event, held in partnership with The Royal Society of Edinburgh, aimed to ‘explore Scotland’s attitudes and solutions’ to the global displacement of people which reached a high in 2016 of over 60 million people.

The Chair, Rt Hon Sir George Reid, introduced the evening with an overview of international, UK, and Scottish proposals to respond to displacement and gave the panel an opportunity to comment on them. The panel was comprised of Dr Alasdair Allan MSP (Minister for International Development and Europe), Iain Gray MSP (Labour politician and former Oxfam campaign director), and Gary Christie (Head of Policy and Communications at the Scottish Refugee Council).

Attendees also heard from three refugees in Scotland, one woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo and two men from Afghanistan. They shared their personal experiences of the asylum system, both the negative and positive aspects, which helped shape the discussion that followed between the public and the panel.

Many questions were raised over the course of the event. Is our moral duty to our own society or wider humanity? Can the refugee crisis only be solved through global efforts? What can the Scottish Government do to alleviate the challenges that refugees face in Scotland? How can local communities play their part?

Though there are no easy answers to these questions, the event allowed several possible policy paths to be aired. For example, at the international level, states could increase their efforts to prevent mass displacement from occurring and commit to fair responsibility-sharing. At the UK level, political leaders and the media could more visibly push back against the negative narratives about refugees which misinform public thinking. At the Scottish level, the government could further focus on widening the enjoyment of human rights by refugees, which may be facilitated in particular by ensuring that refugees can make use of their skills in the job market.

Members of the audience offered suggestions based on their own experiences of how local communities can support refugees. Suggestions included campaigning to increase public awareness of asylum issues, proactively welcoming those refugee families resettled by local authorities, and donating money, food and clothes to established charities.

The evening ended on a note which recognised the scale of the task in responding to the refugee crisis. However, the Chair and panellists also acknowledged that much good work is being done to alleviate the crisis and encouraged all stakeholders to continue working in line with the principles of humanity and human rights.

August 19, 2016
by rst2012
Comments Off on Unicef Children’s Champions network

Unicef Children’s Champions network

One of RST’s volunteers, Sarah, reports from a meeting with Senior Campaign Advisor Kate Dentieth discussing ways of promoting Unicef’s new Children’s Champions network to campaign for refugee children.

Image from Unicef

Image from Unicef

Unicef Children’s Champions network

The aim is to lobby the government to allow unaccompanied children in Calais to rejoin relatives in the UK. There are currently about 600 juveniles in Calais, but to date only 20 have been allowed to enter the UK. Every night they try to smuggle themselves aboard trains and lorries, and risk harm in other ways.

Unicef is very concerned about this situation, which contravenes the EU regulation which states that children in Europe in this situation can have their asylum cases transferred to the UK.

Take action and raise awareness

  • Become a member of the Unicef Children’s Champion network
  • Contact your MP/MSP and urge them to call on the new Home Secretary.
  • Make letters stand out by adding multiple signatures of family and friends and a photo of your own family.
  • Sign petitions and open letters
  • Contact the local press raising your concerns
  • Hold picnics and fun events for children to promote this cause

A whole series of Climate Change summits is due, at which UNICEF will be present to promote its new Children’s Champions campaign. We are asked to urge the UK government to support UNICEF aims to help refugee children.

The UNGA High-Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants is an opportunity for the U|K government to demonstrate its support for refugees.

August 12, 2016
by rst2012
Comments Off on Top 5 Fringe shows on refugees, race and religion

Top 5 Fringe shows on refugees, race and religion

Guest post by Jill Stevens

Refugees, race and religion: five Edinburgh Fringe Festival shows handpicked especially for you. Follow the stories of an Eritrean man in the Calais jungle, Young Mana as she escapes from Red-Yellow planet, two men in a Fife jail cell, seven Glasgow Girls fighting their friend’s deportation, and a Muslim rapper hiding her identity in London.

The Other

Image: Vive Le Fringe

Surreal and stunning take on the current refugee crisis. Young Mana escapes her life on war-torn Red-Yellow planet in order to find refuge and safety on Blue planet. This fantastical fairy-tale pours over with adventure, heart-ache and thrills as Mana faces shadow creatures and pumpkin-headed soldiers on her journey. Using captivating visuals and a poetic script, solo performer Gaël Le Cornec shines a light on the difficulties faced by refugees across the world.


Image: Triad Pictures

Lifted is a dark, raw and funny performance about race, immigration and police violence in Scotland. This stark political drama takes place in a Fife jail cell where two men are being questioned by the police. Expect racism, islamophobia and mermaids, in this fresh piece of Scottish storytelling by Triad Pictures.

Glasgow Girls

Image: Robert Day

Glasgow Girls is one of the most remarkable and striking musicals in British history. Based on the true story of seven high school girls in Glasgow who fight for the rights of their asylum-seeking friend and her family. When their friend is forcibly removed from her home and faced with deportation, the girls rally together and take on the government in a way only Glasgow Girls can. This political drama includes heavy themes, strong language, and even stronger women.

Still Here

Image: Theatre for Justice

Theatre for Justice bring their first full-scale production Still Here to the Edinburgh Fringe. Their verbatim drama is based on an interview with an Eritrean man at the Calais refugee camp last December. The show is set in a tent in the Calais jungle with a British journalist and a refugee who has fled persecution for his faith.


Image: Tower Hamlets

You see a hijab, I see a rapper. Performed by the youth of Tower Hamlets borough in London, Rapture tackles issues faced by the actors in real life: gendered expectations, radicalisation and marginalisation. Through spoken word, music and rap, the performers tell the story of a young Muslim girl called AJ from Tower Hamlets. Throughout her journey to be recognised as a rapper, AJ’s hijab acts as a metaphorical and literal veil for her identity.

We hope you enjoy our recommendations and please feel free to email us about other Edinburgh Fringe shows on refugees, race and religion. We may follow up with interviews and reviews!

August 5, 2016
by rst2012
Comments Off on Pop-up poetry event

Pop-up poetry event

Ross_Fountain,_Princes_Street_GardensJoin RST volunteers this Saturday 6th August for a pop-up poetry event in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.
Drop in to the Robert Louis Stevenson grove in Princes St Gardens between 2 and 4 pm (near the big fountain) to share poems from round the world, and join us for an ice cream afterwards! Bring your favourite poem along to share.

August 4, 2016
by rst2012
Comments Off on Farewell Diana!

Farewell Diana!

August 2016

Diana Rix, our Coordinator since June 2014, is leaving RST to move abroad. In her time with us, Diana has made an enormous contribution to RST by working tirelessly with our volunteers to raise funds and increase awareness of the support we offer. As well as providing support for our Board, Diana has kept our finances in order and has secured the funding needed for us to continue running our much-needed Destitution and Access to Education & Employment grants schemes.

Diana’s knowledge and enthusiasm for her role will be much missed and we wish her all the best in her next venture.

July 26, 2016
by rst2012
Comments Off on RST provided over 200 destitution grants between April and June this year

RST provided over 200 destitution grants between April and June this year

RST’s destitution grants April – June 2016

RST provided 212 destitution grants from April to June 2016, supporting 334 people and totalling £16,278. The average grant was £77. The average monthly spend was £5,426.

Dest grants April - June 16 - graph 1

[Click image to enlarge]

 Key facts

  • 73% of lead applicants were male
  • 77% of applicants were single
  • 25% of applicants were homeless at the time of the application.
  • 6% of applicants had applied to RST for support before.

Asylum status

We provided 43 grants to refugees and 16 to people who were yet to claim asylum, (15 of which were for travel). We provided 29 grants to people waiting for a decision on their asylum application and 65 to people who were in the process of submitting a new application.

Dest grants April - June 16 - graph 2

[Click image to enlarge]

Reasons for claim

We provided 104 grants for ‘essential living expenses’. This included 17 ‘breathing space’ grants for people at the end of the asylum process. Thirty-nine grants were for new refugees awaiting mainstream benefits. We provided 56 travel grants, 33 of which were for travel to Liverpool to submit fresh evidence.

Dest grants April - June 16 - graph 3

[Click image to enlarge]


The largest nationality groups were Eritrean (15.6%), Syrian (11.8%), Iranian (10.8%), Sudanese (9.4%), and Iraqi (6.1%).


Seventeen percent of applications (37) included children. RST supported 88 children in these three months. Twelve of these families were refugees.

Five families had been granted refugee status but were awaiting mainstream benefits. Five further families (17 children) needed support with family reunion.

Nine children (from six applications) were homeless at the time of the application.

July 5, 2016
by rst2012
Comments Off on DASS has a new Accommodation Worker!

DASS has a new Accommodation Worker!

We would like to welcome our new Accommodation Worker, Dodee Olangi, to the DASS team. Dodee’s previous experience working with vulnerable women as a volunteer with the British Red Cross Women’s Orientation Service will be invaluable in her new role at RST, supporting DASS clients living in our temporary accommodation.