Leeds SolidariTee hold week of action for refugee crisis

The Leeds division of the student-led charity, SolidariTee, are holding a week of action to raise awareness and support change in the refugee crisis. Here they explain the ongoing struggles refugees face and how Leeds students can get involved.

It may no longer dominate the news but the refugee crisis is ongoing. People seeking asylum are being left in dangerous, makeshift camps with little support despite all the challenges and trauma they may have faced, and continue to face.

And the time that refugees must spend in these overcrowded camps is not short. In Greece, for example, refugees arriving today will have to wait until 2022 before they can expect an interview which will examine their right to claim asylum.

Further, due to the underfunding of legal aid, thousands of refugees must experience a highly complex legal process without professional guidance, which leads to a huge number of unjustified deportations and/or unnecessary appeals.

This is where SolidariTee comes in. SolidariTee aims to get refugees out of these camps by offering grants to NGOs that provide legal aid to refugees so that they are not left without support and are able to begin fulfilling, peaceful lives in their new host countries.

SolidariTee is the largest, wholly student-run charity that supports refugees and asylum seekers while fighting for long-term change in the refugee crisis.

It was founded in 2017 by Tiara Sahar Ataii, a then-first year Cambridge student. Tiara wanted to raise funds for the refugee crisis and increase awareness among her peers. To do this, she used her student loan to buy and print 600+ t-shirts – ‘SolidariTees’.

Right now, in the 2020/21 year, SolidariTee are supporting 6 legal aid NGOs in 4 different locations: Thessaloniki in mainland Greece, and the islands of Lesvos, Samos and Chios. SolidariTee also support translation services and, due to the pandemic, provided an emergency medical aid grant in March 2020, to fund an COVID-19 preparedness project to protect refugees in Moria camp which has had a terrible outbreak.

Today, SolidariTee has more than 750 student volunteers from 60 universities around the world, including the University of Leeds.

The Leeds SolidariTee team is made up of about 24 Leeds students: Head Rep Jenna, Events Co-ordinator Millie, Publicity Officer Jess, and over 20 amazing Regional Representatives. 

As a group, we aim to raise funds for SolidariTee’s chosen NGOs as well as raise awareness and myth-bust across the University and Leeds. We are also hoping to become a university society this year to reach more people and put on even better events.

Alongside selling SolidariTees, each volunteer holds an initiative that they come up with and lead the organisation of, and are free to organise any event they choose which further’s our mission. This semester some of the planned initiatives include a book swap and a joint event with the British Red Cross Society. 

As a team, we also hold a variety of fundraising and awareness-raising events across the academic year. 

Last semester, we kicked off the term with an insightful talk by Rosie, director of Team SolidariTee, focused on the experiences of women in the refugee crisis and how identity affects experiences of exile.

Our fundraiser, hosted in December, was a Leeds-themed virtual quiz. This was a great way to end the term, and SolidariTee Leeds raised £110. Well done to our winners, who won prizes from Bakery 164, Franco Manca, Alchemist and more!

And SolidariTee isn’t stopping this semester. From the 1st-7th February SolidariTee is hosting a Week of Action 2021. In this week there will be lots of different events going on, with Monday the 1st being the ‘Day of SolidariTee’, where everyone who owns a SolidariTee wears their tees as a united movement, to raise awareness and show that we literally do stand in solidarity with refugees.

The Leeds team is also running an event that week. On Tuesday the 2nd we are holding our second awareness event. This is a talk on ‘voluntourism’ and how we can provide aid that is respectful and sustainable, given by the director of outreach at SolidariTee. We warmly invite you to come along and listen. Sign up here.

Additionally, we are always open to new volunteers in our Leeds team. 

As head rep Jenna says: “I’m amazed at how well the team have adapted to doing online events. Everyone is passionate and dedicated and just lovely to work with. I will continue to welcome new members to the team all year round.”

You don’t need to know lots about the refugee crisis, but if you are a Leeds student and want to make a difference, please do join!