Skip to main content

Awareness raising comes in many different forms. It could be a formal talk, given at a school or business, or it could be just a conversation with someone.

Connecting people and giving people the opportunity to meet a sanctuary seeker is such an important way of raising awareness and often makes people question their pre-conceptions.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is intended for guidance only. It is not a substitute for professional advice and we cannot accept any responsibility for loss occasioned as a result of any person acting or refraining from acting upon it.

Many groups are asked to give awareness-raising talks to schools, university classes and workplaces. This section is based on our experience and discussions with groups and we would love to hear your feedback and about your own experiences!

Giving an awareness-raising talk


  • You will need to know who your audience is and what they’re interested in. It is a good idea to tailor your presentation accordingly eg. a group of Sociology students at a university will need different materials to the staff at a theatre or a class of year 6 pupils
  • How long do you have for your talk?
  • Can you include a sanctuary seeker in your talk?
  • What will be the set-up of the venue and how many people will be there? eg. will there be Powerpoint facilities? is there space for group work?

Structuring a talk

Some elements you could include:

  • Definitions and some statistics / background about the international situation and the situation in the UK
  • Testimony about why people flee their countries (see below)
  • Testimony about what its like to be an asylum-seeker (see below)
  • Activities
  • Group discussions
  • A questionnaire to get feedback at the end of your talk

Supporting a person seeking sanctuary to take part in a talk

Hearing a sanctuary seeker speak can be an incredibly powerful and empowering element of an awareness-raising talk and is often the part that changes people’s attitudes but if a sanctuary seeker is asked to participate in an awareness-raising talk but is not properly supported, there is the potential for them to be traumatised by the experience. We have produced some guidance in consultation with the Sanctuary Ambassador Network to ensure this is a positive experience: Guidance for Welcoming a Person with Lived Experience to Speak.

You can take the following steps to try to avoid that:

  • Discuss beforehand where the talk will be, who will be there, what you’ve been asked to cover and what they want to talk about. Practical planning like travelling together can help remove some worries.
  • A sanctuary seeker should only be asked to speak in a situation that they are completely comfortable with eg. if they feel that the number of people may be too many or they’re worried the audience may be hostile, they should feel like they have the option to back down
  • There is a big difference between asking someone to speak about the reason why they fled their country and their experiences of the asylum system, although both are potentially traumatic to talk about. A discussion beforehand will ensure you know what someone is comfortable speaking about and you can tailor your talk accordingly
  • Are they comfortable with questions and if so, would they like you to be there to field any questions they don’t want to answer or don’t know the answer to?
  • Arrange to have a debrief afterwards to discuss how it went and how they feel about it
  • Here are two articles well worth a read to support your own awareness and understanding of the responsibility of working with people to tell their stories:

Refugee Stories could do more harm than good. 

Personal Stories can be powerful and dangerous. 



Glossary of terms from Refugee Council

The 1951 Refugee Convention


Our Facts and Figures page

‘Asylum in the UK’ statistics from UNHCR


Please be aware of the implications of how data / maps are presented. This article from The Correspondent explores how maps in the media affect perceptions of migration. Some other resources are:

A free, regularly updated resource of interactive heat-maps and graphs covering key asylum and protection data

This map uses data from the UNHCR to show refugee migrations by year

Visualisation of global refugee flows 2000-2015

The Asylum Process

The Right to Remain toolkit is a comprehensive guide to the immigration and asylum system in the UK. 

LASSN have produced this video which is a simple guide to the asylum system.

The Asylum  Process Made Simple –  a guide produced by Asylum Aid.

‘Limbo’ – a 360 degree video from the Guardian about what the asylum process is like

‘A Guide to the Hostile Environment’ – a document from Liberty outlining ‘hostile environment’ policies and the actions that are being taken to resist them. 

‘Waiting in the dark: how the asylum system dehumanises, disempowers and damages’- A report from Refugee Action about the human impact of Home Office failures throughout the decision-making process.

‘Survivor’s A to Z’ – audio clips from Freedom from Torture

‘Blue Moment’ and ‘Seeking Asylum’ films from Risky Things

Refugee Stories

A short animated film was made about Omar and Rand’s journey by SCREEN31 and screened at the Gulbenkian in Canterbury.

A wide range of stories from the Red Cross

‘Refugee Voices’ – stories from Refugee Action

‘Seeking Refuge’ – animations of children’s stories from the BBC

Stories of separated children – animations from the Refugee Council

‘The Testimony Project’ – videos from women about the asylum system

‘Mohammed’s Story’ from BBC Cymru

Other videos

‘7 videos guaranteed to change the way you see refugees’ from UNHCR 

Human Cargo– An entertaining show which poses a serious question. ‘Can history detoxify the debate about migration?’

Other resources

Refugee Action created this quiz to give a sense of some of the questions that have come up in real Home Office asylum interviews.

An interactive timeline of key policy and legislative changes affecting the UK asylum system from 1999 to the present day

Free Movement have pulled together a new immigration law timeline spanning 1905-2018. You can find the timeline here.  

Liberty Guide to the Hostile Environment

‘Many Rivers Crossed: Britain’s attitudes to race and immigration 50 years since ‘Rivers of Blood’ – a report from British Future (Apr 2018)

2015 Presentation on ‘the refugee crisis’

Nola Ellen Training and Consultancy provides refugee awareness workshops (based in Leeds)

Mythbuster leaflets for Tees Valley / Newcastle (2017) and the North East (2017)

‘Speaker’ volunteer role profile from Swansea City of Sanctuary

‘Request a talk’ leaflet from Swansea City of Sanctuary

This is an approach to handling difficult conversations explored in a workshop led by Tom Godwin from Hope Not Hate at the 2017 City of Sanctuary AGM

It is also outlined in the blog post by Arun Devasia from Hope Note Hate

Utilise empathetic listening:

  • Give the person the opportunity to speak and listen to what they have to say (read more about active listening here)
  • Try to understand why they feel the way they do
  • Identify and respond to feelings

Use agitational questioning, e.g.:

  • “What makes you think that?”
  • “What do you mean?”
  • “Could you explain that to me a bit more?”

Provide your own experience as a counterbalance

Talk about commonalities and what we can do together

Avoid a barrage of statistics

You may not be able to change somebody’s mind completely but you might move them a step along the attitudes wheel eg. from passive negative (‘asylum-seekers are scroungers’) to neutral (‘it’s complicated’)


See this approach in action in this video from the LA LGBT Centre

‘How to talk about immigration’ from British Futures (2014)

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website has a lot of information and resources which could be used in conjunction with Holocaust Memorial Day or as part of another awareness raising event or presentation:

HMD 2018: The power of words

Information about the Holocaust and genocides and a resource on ‘the 10 steps to genocide’