General Meetings

SWVG general meetings are at 7.00 for 7.15 usually on the first Monday of a month – dates for 2024 are still to be set. They are at Avenue St Andrew’s, The Avenue, Southampton SO17 1XQ.  There’s usually one main topic, plus news and briefings about SWVG. We aim to add presentations or notes from speakers after meetings.

Do join us.

All SWVG members are welcome, as are asylum-seekers and English students who are in SWVG.  General meetings take place in person. We try to set up a zoom link for people to follow meetings in person but the technology isn’t always perfect.  To get the zoom link, email events@swvg-refugees.org.uk.  

If your meeting is at Avenue St Andrews, Sue Herman can explain about things such as access or refreshments.

There is wifi (details on a sign on the wall). If you are organising a meeting which includes a presentation on screen, a film, and/or zoom, liaise with chris.holloway@swvg-refugees.org.uk on 07779 283451 about setting it up. There is a built-in screen, but SWVG needs to bring a projector if needed 

If you have suggestions of topics for a general meeting, please contact david.rees@swvg-refugees.org.uk.

Meetings to come

2024

General meetings are in person at Avenue St Andrews, The Avenue, Southampton SO17 1XQ. 7.00 – 9.00ish, we hope with zoom link for those unable to be present in person.

Past meetings

2023

4 December – AGM if you want any papers contact info@swvg-refugees.org.uk.
 
3 July – SWVG Communications. Chris Holloway and other members of the Communications Group briefed us about new leaflet, pop-up banner, flag, more ways you can use our logo, and improvements to the website, both the public pages and the member section. See detailed notes.
 
5 June – Elizabeth Flint of Winchester City of Sanctuary on Trafficking and the National Referral Mechanism. The West Midland’s Anti-Slavery Partnership have created a National Referral Mechanism booklet which they have translated into several different languages that may be useful for SWVG volunteers to share with people they support, and Migrants Organise have an illustrated guide to the National Referral Mechanism.

3 AprilWEA (Workers’ Educational Association) – see presentation by Fiona Mackie (Education Coordinator, Southampton) about WEA and how it can be helpful to SWVG, its members and people seeking asylum.  The WEA has been offering adult education since 1903. They bring adult education within reach of everyone who needs it, fighting inequality and promoting social justice. They take teaching to local communities and deliver learning in surroundings learners are familiar with and comfortable in. They also deliver some learning online. 

6 February. Nikki Waters talked about CLEAR and joint working

2022

5 December 2022the Annu​al General Meeting.

3 October 2022Mental health support. See the short Powerpoint

6 June 2022 – The international work and logistics of the Red Cross Catriona Statham, logistics coordinator with the Red Cross, with responsibility for West and Central Africa and the Caribbean, spoke about the international work of the Red Cross, the logistics involved and her work in Poland over the previous month.

4 April 2022  Developing a trauma-informed approach: about post traumatic stress and how it affects all members of SWVG (those seeking or granted asylum, plus those supporting them) and what we can do to address it. See the presentation:

  • What constitutes trauma
  • The ongoing trauma experience of people seeking asylum
  • Definition of PTSD
  • Focus on developing a trauma-informed approach and environment
  • What is vicarious trauma and how we recognise it in ourselves and others

7 February 2022 Britain, refugees and asylum, 1685 to the present – an illustrated talk by Tony Kushner, using visual heritage in Southampton to explain and contextualise how, at a state and popular level, refugee entry and exclusion has happened, and how refugees have shaped the world we live in’.  Tony Kushner is James Parkes Professor in the Parkes Institute of the University of Southampton. He has written extensively on refugee history and has most recently published Southampton’s Migrant Past and Present, the proceeds of which are going to support the work of SWVG and CLEAR.

2021

6 December 2021 – AGM – Speaker Ben Jackson from Together With Refugees, a coalition which brings together people and movements (including SWVG) calling for a kinder, fairer, and more effective approach to supporting refugees in the UK. Ben is also Director at the Asylum Reform Initiative (ARI), which was set up in 2019 by six national organisations (Asylum Matters, British Red Cross, Freedom from Torture, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, Scottish Refugee Council) to develop a strategy to drive long-term, deep change in Britain’s approach to asylum seekers and refugees.
 
1 November – Oxfam. Euan Crawshaw, Humanitarian lead at Oxfam GB, spoke about Oxfam’s work in supporting people in areas of natural disasters, conflict and other areas or situations where people are in need and often forced to be displaced.  He also talked about his role and how Oxfam’s work might relate to that of SWVG.  See Oxfam presentation.
 

4 October – Action Asylum, a Task Force Trust initiative to encourage asylum seekers and refugees to volunteer in the local community. This would help them to integrate, reduce isolation and practice their English language skills. In Hampshire, it is housed by Portsmouth City of Sanctuary. With the support of many community groups and organisations, Action Asylum initiated many projects to promote community cohesion. Their volunteers are helping at charity shops, community larders, community leisure centres, art galleries, vaccination centres, and to do shore/beach clean.

Anita David from the Action Asylum Project spoke about her work in connecting volunteers with volunteering opportunities in Portsmouth and her plans to extend this work to Southampton.  Activities have involved such things as: beach cleaning, shore cleaning, soup kitchens, art galleries, leisure centres, charity shops.  Anita has a network of contacts and the key to her success in finding people placements is through setting up a group of volunteers initially and explaining the process. Once people attend the activity for 2 to 3 weeks, they can then explore and be encouraged to try other activities, which may lead to education and training opportunities. References need not be an issue, as these could be provided by SWVG members.

Anita has procured 10 bikes from Sustrans and has some community funding.  People are offered a bike on the understanding they commit to 2 hours of volunteering. Anita suggested that instead of just giving people things, these are offered in exchange for a commitment to 2 hours’ volunteering, enhancing the value of both.  This encourages people to try volunteering and experience the pleasure and reward it can bring.

Anita has used Motiv8 and Banana Cycling for bike repair and maintenance.  People need helmets, high=vis jackets, lights and the council has given free locks.  We spoke about Kieran Phelan’s work for SWVG in the same vein.  Anita was part of the team setting up the ‘Find Your Feet’ project in Southampton.

SWVG members spoke of other opportunities in Southampton, such as: the Southampton Wood Reclamation Centre in Woolston, care homes and care settings, playground assistant, food banks, visiting old people, by chatting on their doorstep, RSPCA, charity shops such as the British Heart Foundation, Salvation Army.  We also mentioned the SWVG allotment.

It was agreed that Anita visit Avenue St Andrews Multi-cultural Centre (AMC) on a Friday and, perhaps, have a volunteering desk there once a month to advertise her work.  She would be warmly welcomed.

6 September 2021 The new Nationality and Borders Bill with speakers William Brook-Hart, Lesley Sheldon-Browning and other members. We ask for everyone’s support to get it changed. The Borders Bill (in its present form) will make life much harder for the people who SWVG helps, who come to the UK and claim asylum.  People who need sanctuary will instead be put in “accommodation centres”,  threatened with imprisonment and removal to another country,  and will never be allowed full refugee status. It will not achieve its stated objective of a “fairer” asylum system: quite the opposite. The Bill goes to parliamentary committee stage in October, which is an opportunity for changes to be made to it.  SWVG is part of the nationwide coalition “Together with Refugees”.

7 June – Leave to Remain and all that follows. So much effort and energy is invested in the process of seeking asylum and being granted Leave to Remain, but what happens when this is actually granted?  The Right to Remain Toolkit (https://righttoremain.org.uk/toolkit/) gives a comprehensive summary of and guidance to navigating the asylum system in the UK, but what next?  How do people navigate the bureaucracy and demands which follow, especially if they have very little money and no recourse to public funds? 

12 April – Safeguarding, led by David Retter, SWVG Trustee and safeguarding lead at the time.. David summarised and explained the SWVG safeguarding policy and how it affects each of us, whether offering or receiving support. People seeking asylum can be vulnerable to abuse for a whole range of reasons and in a variety of ways, from name-calling to other psychological and physical harm.  Those who visit, teach or support others in any way can also be exposed to risk.  We all need to be aware of our responsibilities and safety measures and know how to respond and who to tell if we feel uncomfortable about ourselves or others.  We cannot remain passive. This meeting addressed the safeguarding of all members of SWVG, including those seeking asylum, those granted Leave to Remain, those visiting and those teaching others.  

See David’s presentation. He suggests watching this video on people being reluctant to report hate crimes to the police.

Concerns have been raised in the recent past on the entitlement of children of people seeking asylum and their access to early years, school and post 16 learning. The meeting also discussed issues in relation to the children of people they are supporting. See also this list of designated Schools of Sanctuary.

22 March – A workshop on mental health and wellbeing. Find lots of useful resources on our page on Mental Health and Wellbeing.

1 March – Support for pregnant mothers and those with young children. Kerry Godden, Family Support worker, and Zaria Crowther,  Specialist Health Visitor, from the Homeless Healthcare Team, on their work and local services of interest to people seeking asylum who are pregnant or who have young children. See notes of the meeting.

1 February –  The challenges and rewards of teaching in a Southampton hotel. SWVG’s teaching group spoke about teaching people seeking asylum housed in hotel in Southampton, both classes and one-to-one students.  See notes of the meeting.

2020

  • 16 November 2020 Annual General meeting 7pm – by Zoom. Details
  • 5 October 2020 – Jo Renshaw, SWVG legal adviser, gave a legal update, including the impact of Covid-19 on workload and timeframes; key developments from cases (eg medical claims, fee waiver, no recourse to public funds policies, country guidance ); the future shape of immigration law. See Jo Renshaw notes and summary of meeting by SWVG 
  • 7 September 2020Muslim beliefs, traditions and practices – Rashidul syed Islam, secretary of the Muslim Council of Southampton, gave a basic introduction to what it means to be a Muslim.  Preceded by a brief introduction to Winchester City of Sanctuary and what this means by Terri Sandison and Elizabeth Flint. Agenda 7 September 2020   Winchester City of Sanctuary leaflet 2020 .
  • 3 August 2020: Discussion meeting on SWVG’s work with asylum seekers, focusing on two aspects:

(1) Lockdown – learning about the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees in Southampton, and the ways SWVG volunteers supported people during coronavirus.

(2) Making everyone’s contribution matter: a discussion about how SWVG can ensure that everyone has a stake in SWVG – volunteers, asylum seekers, refugees and those with leave to remain working together.

  • General meeting 6 July 2020 – “The Syrian conflict: the human impact”. Revd Dr. Andrew Ashdown described the complex, diverse religious and social landscape of the country, some of the realities on the ground during the war, and the human impact of the conflict.  Andrew has made multiple visits to Syria since 2014, and has travelled extensively in Syria during the last few years as a guest of local Church communities.  He has visited communities close to the frontlines and most affected by the war, including many internally displaced, and refugees in Lebanon and Iraq.  See this note of the meeting with a brief summary of what he said, and his slides with maps, hoitos and quotations from Syrian people. 
  • General meeting 1 June 2020 – Belinda Pyke talked about three months as an Ecumenical Accompanier (human rights observer), her experience and some of the Palestinians and Israelis she met. See this note of the meeting including her slides, a brief summary of what she said, and what you can do.

  • General meeting 6 April 2020 – cancelled because of COVID lockdown.

  • General meeting 3 Feb 2020 – “What’s in a story?: The importance of trauma awareness” by Devendra Rajwani and Rebecca Wilkinson, Public Health Registrar, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

2019

  • Annual General Meeting 2 December 2019. Sir Mark Lowcock, then UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator,  spoke on Refugees and people displaced in their own country: the world’s unluckiest and most vulnerable. Agenda. Minutes of 2018 AGM, approved.
  • General meeting 5 August 2019 – member website introduction, and difficult conversations. Agenda
  • General meeting 3 June 2019: Drama group on Parenting as experienced by asylum seekers and refugees, and discussion on confidentiality and keeping records safe. Agenda
  • General meeting 1 April 2019: presentation by Julie Shanley of the Medaille Trust on Trafficking – what it is, signs, psychological effects, and the work of Medaille
  • General meeting 4 February 2019 – experiences of volunteering abroad, and the role of co-ordinators. Agenda

Last Updated: 04/01/2024 – Next Update Due: