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Stop the destitution of asylum seekers in Bristol

Bristolians who have survived human rights abuses and war and sought sanctuary in the UK are to speak out at an event commemorating International Human Rights Day.

The anniversary, which marks the UNโ€™s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 61 years ago, will see people who fled countries such as Somalia, Iran and Zimbabwe sharing their experiences at a public meeting entitled โ€˜Stop the Destitution of Asylum seekers in Bristolโ€™ at Malcolm X Centre on Monday 10th December 2012.

The focus of the meeeting will be on the enforced destitution of asylum seekers โ€“ the one group of people in UK who experience destitution as a direct result of central government policy. Enforced destitution has been a longstanding problem in all cities where asylum seekers are living, but is largely ignored. It remains hidden partly because complete destitution brings with it deep shame, and so it is rare to hear the voice of those who suffer it.

At this meeting, people who are either destitute now or who spent long periods with no shelter or support before their claim was resolved will highlight the destitution issue in Bristol.

The matter is topical in Bristol. Following the courageous and desperate protest in July of one Algerian asylum seeker in Bristol, who slept rough outside the Council House to bring attention to his plight, local Councillors have joined to present a motion to Bristol City Council. The motion deplores the consequences of current legislation and expresses an intention to alleviate such destitution where it occurs in Bristol.

The event is a great oppotunity to hear about the situation first hand, meet sanctuary seekers living in the city and enjoy a multi-cultural feast meal and music provided by sanctuary seeekrs.

Also part of the event is to launch the Sue Njie Hardship Fund aimed to raise funds to help destitute asylum seekers. Currently Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR) and the Bristol branch of the British Red Cross jointly provide funds so that destitute asylum seekers can receive ยฃ10 per week for up to 12 months in any 12 months.

Caroline Beattie, Manager, BRR said: โ€œSue Njie (1953-2009) was the founder of Bristol Refugee Rights. She was always ready to give away the little she had to someone with nothing. So we decided to put the Fund into her name as a memorial to her.โ€

Bristol Refugee Rights, Bristol Hospitality Network, City of Sanctuary and Migrants Rights Centre Bristol, who work with asylum seekers and refugees in the city, are organising the event, which will hear testimonies from several asylum seekers at all stages of the asylum process.

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