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21.12.2022 / News /

Save ASIRT: Solidarity on the picket line

“We’ve been on the #saveASIRT picket to fight for our own jobs but, more importantly, to fight for our service users. When migrant families have nowhere else to turn, ASIRT can be a lifeline. We must defend free immigration advice.”

Pouneh Ahari, ASIRT worker, striker and UVW member.

UVW members at ASIRT are fighting to save the free legal support service for migrants and refugees and for a voice at work. These brave workers went out on strike on 21 December to try and stop the closure of ASIRT, a unique charity offering crucial support to asylum seekers in Birmingham. In a beautiful display of solidarity they were joined on the picket line by service users and their families, trade unionists and members of the public. 

Pouneh, a UVW member, ASIRT worker and striker, told the crowd why they’re fighting to save the charity: “I know that women and children who are fleeing domestic abuse often have no other choice and the one organisation they can turn to is ASIRT. And I know they’ve changed lives. A decade of austerity. A hostile environment. Cuts to legal aid. There are so few services that are left that can provide the kind of support that ASIRT does. I can see systematically how people are being disenfranchised and marginalised. It would be really shocking and detrimental to vulnerable people in the West Midlands if ASIRT closed down.”

ASIRT service users and their families know that if ASIRT closes many migrants and refugees in the area will suffer. Armel stood in solidarity with the brave workers at the picket line, because as an asylum seeker and service user he knows how important the charity is:

“I was homeless when I came to the UK and ASIRT helped me find a house and get therapy with ‘Freedom from Torture’ because I was suffering from PTSD. ASIRT helps us, asylum seekers. I’m here to fight to save it.”

Nali, another ASIRT service user currently trying to navigate the system, says they all know that there aren’t many organisations like ASIRT in Birmingham, so “if this one closes down, people like me will be left in the dark, without knowing what will happen next. ASIRT workers are not just fighting for themselves, they are fighting for us, immigration service users, too. I hope somewhere out there hears this and takes action and helps.”

ASIRT provides free legal advice to asylum seekers in Birmingham and the West Midlands
and despite offering a valuable and much needed service ASIRT is closing down. UVW is calling upon the ASIRT board to do the right thing and negotiate with its staff, recognise their union and do anything and everything possible to preserve the organisation.

Help the workers by sharing this story via social media with  #saveASIRT

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