10 December 2021 

STAR groups across the UK are joining together to celebrate Human Rights Day. Today is all about appreciating the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being, and ensuring that these rights are protected for all. 

Unfortunately, this Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill poses a real threat to the rights of refugees and the right to seek asylum. Sussex STAR have written about their action to bring people together and support people’s right to seek asylum. 

Take action this Human Rights Day by calling for an end to the anti-refugee bill on social media. Post a picture of yourself with an orange heart and a message of solidarity. Read more information about our Human Rights day actions here.

Maozya is the president of Sussex STAR society. She studies international relations and development at the University of Sussex where she is increasingly involved in, and passionate about grassroots organisation, migrant rights and the wider fight for social justice. Maozya spoke to us about organising an action against the Nationality and Borders Bill and advice for STAR leaders. The below text has been transcribed and edited from conversations with Maozya over the phone. 

We took action to stand against the Nationality and Borders Bill, currently progressing through Parliament. The bill is an attack on refugee rights and seeks to further criminalise those seeking safety in the UK. It’s a cruel, inhumane piece of legislation. Taking action is super important for anyone involved in fighting for migrant rights, but also for the general population. This bill highlights how far away we’ve come from a culture of welcome and compassion, and shows us that we need to do something now, before more of these deadly, violent and hostile environment policies cause the suffering and death of any more humans. 

We at Sussex STAR got involved because we wanted to fight against everything that the bill is proposing, and to stand in solidarity with those seeking safety in the UK. We want to live in a country that has a culture of welcome and that takes responsibility for its historic role in generating many of the push factors of migration. We want to live in a Britain that recognises its own history, and fosters a welcoming environment for all human beings.

The week of action itself was organised by a national coalition campaign group called Together with Refugees. We downloaded their campaign pack and began brainstorming our ideas for an action in Brighton to support the national campaign. Our main aims were for it to be a public display of solidarity, something that would be inclusive, and would also receive lots of media attention. We wanted to show the Home Office that most of the population want to live in a country that welcomes people fleeing danger or simply in search of a better life, with open arms. 

The symbol of the campaign is the orange heart, so we thought of recreating the orange heart on the beach, to also symbolise people arriving on UK shores. We used bodies to create the heart to show just how many people attended together. We met with Sanctuary on Sea and began planning the points of action to take in preparation. There was a lot of coordination and preparation needed with getting a megaphone, writing press statements, organising drone photography, general promotion and coordinating the heart on the day! Before the action, we ran an orange tie-dye t-shirt workshop to get students engaged in a fun, crafty event. At the workshop, we chatted to students about the bill and encouraged them to come to the action on the beach. 

My advice for STARs taking action against the Nationality and Borders Bill would be to think about actions that are visible, engaging and inclusive. We brought spare orange t-shirts so any passers by could join in with the heart. We need to engage people who wouldn’t normally be engaged with this action. The Nationality and Borders Bill is the biggest attack on refugee rights in over 70 years. The increasing criminalisation and demonisation of refugees, will undoubtedly lead to more death and suffering. As a community, we need to stand up and fight these attacks on our fellow human beings. If it was us and our families, we would want people to do the same.

I would also say get creative, make it fun and add that educational aspect into it too. Make it not just about the action, but the information you give people while the action is happening. Think about how you leave them feeling, make sure people leave engaged and having a good time – we had music on the beach, to make it more fun.

If you’re stuck for any ideas, have a read of the Together With Refugees campaign pack. It’s very important to be coherent with the national strategy, because we are stronger when we are working together. 

Lilah studies anthropology with human rights at the University of Sussex, and is a member of Sussex STAR. She was at Brighton beach, and writes about the action and its impact. 

On a sunny afternoon on 17 October, Sussex STAR members and local activists showed up at Brighton’s seafront, clad in orange to the ‘show your heart’ protest against the new anti-refugee bill. 

The Nationality and Borders Bill focuses on the routes refugees take, not their motivations, to determine whether they can seek sanctuary in the UK. It will dehumanize, criminalise and condemn people seeking safety. The bill is in stark contradiction with the international law of the UN Refugee Convention. 

The aim of the protest was to challenge these new inhumane and deadly measures designed to keep people seeking safety out, and instead to show people that they are welcome here. We were joined by 200 people, a dog, and local charity Sanctuary On Sea, who aim to make Brighton and Hove a refugee-friendly city. 

I came to the protest wearing orange to stand together with my orange brothers and sisters for the afternoon. As the charity Together with Refugees states: “It uses the colours of the refugee nation flag created by refugee Yara Said, for the first ever refugee team in the Olympics 2016. The colours were inspired by a lifebelt representing hope”.

People of different ages, races and genders all came together as one, in solidarity with refugees. After a little while and with the help of the organisers, we formed the outline of a big heart by holding hands and with some people lying down in the middle. A drone flew over moments later, to capture the huge orange heart as we all waved to it. The drone soon flew away, and the heart made up of humans dispersed as we all said our goodbyes.

If you would like to join in on protests for refugee rights in the future, you should consider joining the Sussex STAR (Student Action for Refugees) society through the student union page, so you too can ‘show your heart’ in the future. 

Join us this Human Rights Day, by opposing the Nationality and Borders Bill. Write to your MP using Asylum Matters’ guidance or watch our workshop on how to lobby your MP.  Read more information about our Human Rights day actions here, and find your nearest STAR group here.

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