On Saturday 15th April 2023, Migrants Organise with over 120 migrant justice community campaigners and allies co-organised the Solidarity Knows No Borders Yorkshire Summit in Sheffield. The Solidarity Summit was a commitment to working together at the grassroots to build resilience in our communities as well as a shared commitment to imagine better futures for all.
Our Organiser Sarli Nana shares more:
“In the wake of the pandemic and in the midst of this government’s escalation of anti-migrant politics and policies, communities across Yorkshire have been growing their power and building networks of solidarity for migrant justice.
During the pandemic we had to find creative ways of building our resilience over Zoom. As hostile anti-migrant policies grew we took actions of solidarity across our communities. From standing up for our friends like Simba who was charged over 100,000 for receiving life saving healthcare treatment to fighting back against the Rwanda deportation plans and the cruelty of the 2022 Nationality and Borders Act. It has been essential to grow local communities of solidarity.
The Yorkshire Solidarity Summit, held in Sheffield, was an exciting day because it brought together over 120 people from 60 groups and organisations involved in 55 campaigns.
In the room were people who are at the heart of this work, including groups and organisations like City of Sanctuary Sheffield, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG), These Walls Must Fall, Voice for the Voiceless (VVDY), Humber All Nations Alliance (HANA) as well unions like , University and College (UCU), Acorn Sheffield and Industrial Workers of the World , academics and individual allies. We were also joined by friends from Solidarity Knows No Borders community from Manchester, Liverpool and London.
Collectively our work ranges from building power to have better access to healthcare, the right to work as well as demanding an end to immigration detention, surveillance, raids and deportations.
Our struggles are connected
Walking up from Victoria Docks to the venue with colleagues who came all the way from Hull, we were excited to come to the Summit to discuss plans to tackle the hostile environment like the proposed anti-refugee immigration bill, immigration raids, detentions and deportations.
The challenges of working in the migrant justice sector makes travelling to events more challenging, as people are often under-resourced and face capacity issues to join in organising at the regional or national level.
When we opened the doors at 10am people were already queuing for the Summit – a first sign of success! People came from half a dozen towns and cities from across Yorkshire. They were also from different types of groups and organisations ranging from campaigning groups to registered charities, trade unions and two universities.
We kicked off with our organising round of introductions. We didn’t have time for detailed rounds given that we have over 100 participants but it was powerful to recognise everyone in the room. What came out of the enthusiastic intros was the diversity of participants and groups/organisations present.
Sounds of solidarity
There is no dull moment in Yorkshire! In solidarity with all oppressed people around the world, Amir Monsef a Sanctuary seeker from Iran, performed a song he dedicated to the women and people of Iran.
The speakers were drawn from the migrant justice frontlines. Zrinka Bralo the CEO of Migrants Organise set the scene with an inspiring speech reminding the audience that our struggle is a long distance relay not a sprint. She has seen off 14 Home Secretaries and six Prime Ministers, so is not new to the hostile environment. Zrinka invited the Yorkshire Summit to build alliances to fight against the oppressive immigration laws, now penetrating all our public services.
Mary Brandon, Regional Campaigns Manager, Asylum Matters, highlighted some of the campaigns and initiatives that are ongoing in the region. She pointed out that bringing in people who are not usually part of our ‘sector’ is one of the ways to achieve changes. She cited Penistone Council and the private sector involvement in the Lift the Ban Campaign (a campaign to give people claiming asylum the right to work) as examples of how the public and private sector has pledged to defend the right to asylum.
Then we had the amazing trio from Solidarity Knows No Borders Merseyside: Nina Houghton, Celine Hay and Manono Kawoza. They talked about their own experiences in organising for justice. In addition to going to demos, they have started the difficult job of knocking on doors and trying to raise awareness about migrants rights and their situation to residents of some areas.
The participants broke into six workshops to discuss the major issues facing people in the region including; the hostile environment, learnings from ‘Justice for Simba Campaign’ on NHS charging, ‘Tell it as a migrant’ focused on sharing our stories, Mutual aid, Migrant Women Rights and Migrant Workers Rights.
The summary of the discussions will be used as part of the action planning for Solidarity Knows No Borders Yorkshire future organising.
The Summit was a space for people to meet and connect and showcase their work and campaign on 16 information stalls all within the hall. The lunch, cooked and donated by our allies in the Jubilee Movement, was delicious.
The participants who registered are already involved in over 50 campaigns and part of about 60 groups/organisations. The next step is to deepen these solidarity connections in Yorkshire and add more people to the Yorkshire Solidarity Knows No Borders Organising Group. First we have a few simple steps to take: from setting up our mailing list, action planning and organising and learning together (starting with media training.)
To connect, organise, grow our power, speak out and take action for dignity and justice in Yorkshire please reach out Sarli Nana email@example.com
For more information about Solidarity Knows No Borders and the movement for migrant justice please visit: https://firmcharter.org.uk