On Tuesday evening, students gathered in the Barbara Strang Teaching Centre for the first meeting of a brand new society starting up at Newcastle University – Student Action for Refugees (STAR).
STAR is a national charity, comprised of student groups from universities all over the country, which campaigns to support refugees. This includes increasing public awareness of the experiences refugees go through, volunteering and working with refugees in the UK, and campaigning for their fair treatment and rights. The Newcastle branch is the latest addition to the network of some 41 groups, totalling up to around 13,000 students.
During the first meeting, STAR committee members at Newcastle gave a presentation introducing the charity, the issues that it seeks to address, and the important role students can play in supporting refugees. With the focus firmly on the current Syrian refugee crisis, groups discussed the UK’s response to the matter. Attendees also each wrote down a reason why they welcome refugees to the UK, having photos taken with their responses.
President of the new STAR group Khadija Badri said: “Watching the conditions refugees faced in Europe get increasingly worse, and the lack of humanitarian response from the UK and other countries made me feel like I had to do something to change the situation in whatever way possible.”
The current humanitarian disaster in the form of the Syrian crisis has escalated over the summer months, prompting more and more students to get involved and do their part to support the refugees. There are already a number of fellow societies at Newcastle addressing the crisis in their work, and ready to cooperate with STAR in order to highlight the severity of the situation.
Khadija also outlined the main aims of STAR for the academic year ahead: “STAR want to make Newcastle University an equal access university for refugees and asylum seekers by providing scholarships to those eligible. We also want to tackle the misconceptions people have about refugees and asylum seekers by putting on educational workshops with guest speakers and film nights.”