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)
- Group discussions
- A questionnaire to get feedback at the end of your talk
Supporting a sanctuary seeker 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. 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:
Our Facts and Figures page
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
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
‘The Testimony Project’ – videos from women about the asylum system
‘Mohammed’s Story’ from BBC Cymru
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
‘Many Rivers Crossed: Britain’s attitudes to race and immigration 50 years since ‘Rivers of Blood’ – a report from British Future (Apr 2018)
Nola Ellen Training and Consultancy provides refugee awareness workshops (based in Leeds)
‘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: