While STAR:York are campaigning for equal access to higher education for asylum seekers it is interesting to refer to other campaigns that aim to open up opportunities for asylum seekers, helping them build their expertise, contribute to dynamic work environments and reach their potential.

Citizens for Sanctuary presented the situation of young Zimbabweans seeking refuge in the UK in 2008 as follows: “Many of the Zimbabweans who fled to the UK brought skills with them, but the [UK government’s] ban on working has left many of them deskilled and demoralised. Many of them want to return to Zimbabwe when it is safe to do so and help rebuild their country, but long periods of destitution and worklessness have made them less able to contribute to Zimbabwe’s eventual reconstruction than when they first arrived here.”

The Citizens for Sanctuary Strategic Internships for Zimbabweans initiative, was piloted in London in 2008 and helped young Zimbabweans seeking refuge in the UK find appropriate and strategic internship opportunities, monitored and evaluated by CitizensUK. To find out more go to: http://www.citizensforsanctuary.org.uk

Perhaps what makes this initiative particularly inspiring is its focus on the ways in which the UK can contribute towards international development goals and post-conflict reconstruction, through changing its attitudes towards asylum seekers. The scheme is also great for its recognition that asylum seekers are, once in the UK, as potentially powerful in contributing to local communities in positive ways as any other citizens of the UK. In fact bringing new and exciting points of view, and expertise and knowledge in differing areas, asylum seekers may be an extremely valuable asset to our local and national communities. 

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