Sussex STAR: Meet the Sussex students behind the campaign for refugees

34,000 students across the country welcome refugees to the UK

Student Action for Refugees (STAR) is a national student-led campaign that is working to support refugees within the UK. The STAR network aim to welcome refugees, raise awareness and provide education on refugees and asylum.

The Sussex Tab interviewed Sussex STAR President Maya Bullen. Here is what they had to say:

What were the motivations behind setting up the group and what do you aim to do within Sussex?

“STAR is a national charity of 34,000 students welcoming refugees to the UK; it is made up of 50 groups at universities and colleges and a national team who coordinates and supports the groups. Together we; volunteer at local refugee projects, campaign to improve the lives of refugees, educate people about refugees and asylum and fundraise to welcome refugees. STAR has been represented at Sussex since 2014. Our aim has always been to build a connection between the refugee community of Brighton and the University of Sussex and to raise awareness of the situation of refugees in the UK and abroad.”

How much support from students have you received?

“We have received an incredible amount of engagement and support from students; from signing up to volunteering opportunities to attending educational talks and workshops. One example of this is; in November we set our first ever Run for Refugees fundraising challenge and we had a dedicated team of 28 people join in to collectively run, walk or cycle 358 miles in two weeks. From this, we raised £580 for STAR, which more than doubled our initial target!”

STAR members holding bake sale on library square

What has the response of the University of Sussex been?

“STAR has been campaigning since 2008 to ensure that people in the UK seeking refugee protection have equal access to higher education. Currently, Individuals who are waiting for a decision on their asylum application or who have been granted Limited Leave to Remain (DLR) in the UK as a result of an asylum claim must pay the same fees as international students and have no access to student loans and grants. At Sussex, our Equal Access campaign work has led university management to agree to offer two undergraduate scholarships and one masters scholarship, with a full international tuition fee waiver and £11,500 maintenance award. In 2020 the University of Sussex was also awarded the title of University of Sanctuary. This status was awarded by the nationwide Cities of Sanctuary project in recognition of; the University’s scholarships for asylum seekers, research projects by Sussex Centre for Migration Research, the work of the Migration Law Clinic, and STAR’s role within the student body.”

“More information on the University of Sussex scholarships can be found here; The deadline to apply is 25th April.”

How has lockdown affected the work you do? 

“In previous years we have loved to host live music gigs and club nights, film screenings and cake sales, which have all not been possible this year. As all over societies have experienced, lockdown has meant that we have had to move all our events online and come up with new creative ways to keep students connected. We kicked off freshers week with a DJ Livestream to brighten the pandemic blues. Since December we have also been running a monthly film club, where we post a film recommendation and then at the end of the month get together over zoom to have a chat about them. We have also been inviting external speakers and organisations to give zoom talks and workshops; just before Christmas we hosted Jaz O’hara founder of The Worldwide Tribe and coming up on February 25th is a workshop with Gatwick DetaineesWelfare Group. Finally, we also have exciting plans for the University of Sussex’s One Work Week in March which involve recipes and raffle prizes, so keep an eye on our social media pages for more details coming soon. “

Black Honey performance at a STAR charity event

You can find the Sussex STAR organisation on Instagram and on Facebook.