SolidariTee is the largest entirely student-run charity worldwide, endeavouring to increase awareness of the scale of the injustices faced by refugees worldwide, and collaboratively raise funds for individuals and NGOs alike that support the international assistance of refugees and asylum seekers. Founded in 2017, SolidariTee’s campaigns have already had a significant impact, rapidly growing and now, in 2021, reaching as many as 60 Universities across 10 countries with more than 800 student volunteers. “With 25.9 million refugees in the world, it’s hard to fathom the scale of this crisis.”
This small grass-roots charity began its mission when Tiara Sahar Ataii (a then first year student at the University of Cambridge), became inspired to raise funds for refugees after a volunteering trip to Greece as an international translator, which opened her eyes to the extent of the immense and ongoing crisis. On her return, she proceeded to use her student loan to fund 600 t-shirts, which later became known as ‘SolidariTee’s’, that she then sold on to her peers in a campaigning act to raise awareness and build funds. From this, the whole idea sky-rocketed and developed into the charity SolidariTee which we know today.
Why do we support Legal Aid?
As the charity has grown, fundraising for legal aid to support refugees and asylum seekers has appeared at the forefront of SolidariTee’s efforts. UNHCR data shows that nearly one person every 2 seconds is forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution, with a total of 79.5 million forcibly displaced worldwide. Legal aid is the service of legal representation offered to provide justice and the right to a fair trial, for those who cannot afford it. This form of long-term aid prevents individuals from being deported unjustly while they have a legitimate claim to asylum, and enables them to gain the rights to healthcare, education, and accommodation.
For us, “It’s the most empowering form of aid we can offer”.
The funds raised by SolidariTee are used to pay grants to individuals and NGOs at the heart of the crisis. Currently we are supporting six legal aid NGOs working in Thessaloniki (mainland Greece), and the islands of Lesvos, Samos, and Chios. We are all feeling the wrath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lives of many refugees have been even more vulnerable than usual. In response to the enormous danger the emerging pandemic poses to refugees living in dangerous, overcrowded camps, in March 2020 SolidariTee also provided an emergency grant to Kitrinos Healthcare, a medical NGO working to set up a ‘Nightingale’ style centre.
There are so many myths and assumptions with regards to the displacement of refugees and asylum seekers, with many people voicing often negative opinions and views. What I have found most striking, is the increasing number of stereotypes and images we, as a society depict, without truly knowing or educating ourselves on their situation. So, let me share with you some ‘myth-busters’ that a SolidariTee campaign has put together to help erase some of these issues.
“Europe is being invaded by refugees”. Let us address this first. In real facts and figures, a considerable 84% of refugees are hosted outside Europe in developing countries such as Pakistan with 1.6 million, Iran with approximately 3 million and Turkey with 3 million. Only 0.24% of the UK population are refugees.
“Refugees just want an excuse to leave their home country”, “Most of the people in the refugee camps just want a free ride into Europe”.
55% of refugees also only come from 3 countries which have been involved in lengthy and bloody conflicts- Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. To add further, most refugees are escaping various forms of violence and torture and even still, critical examination and lengthy interviews are required to gain asylum, often becoming more of an interrogation.
“The UK’s asylum system is more generous than others, that’s why so many refugees flock to it”, or “Refugees migrate and drain the resources of the health services”.
The UK’s allowances for asylum seekers are in fact lower than many of the EU countries and evidence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission conveys that due to the NHS England upfront charges for care last year, many have gone without. An even more shocking statistic is that in 2018, 64% of asylum applications were still rejected in Europe. If these myths were true, why is this still happening?
We stand in solidarity with refugees as we believe in the fundamental rights of all people. No one should face injustice, and so we are working to change this.
Here at UEA, a team of student representatives stand in SolidariTee and continuously strive to spread the positive work of this incredible cause. Reps individually promote the sales of the infamous ‘Tees’ alongside fundraising and awareness events such as yoga sessions, 24hr walks and film screenings. We also have an upcoming talk with guest speakers so watch this space!
If you would like to find out more, have any questions, or want to know what you can do, please contact the head rep here at UEA, Carol Li on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the SolidariTee website at www.solidaritee.org.uk.