Latest News

The West End Methodist Church

Saturday 3 November 2018

The West End Methodist Church hosted a three day Christian Aid exhibition  and invited ASHA to display our Women’s Group Craft Work on the final day Those who don’t know the church and its community centre and café won’t know that not many moons ago it was the very dilapidated West End Pub! It is now a superb community hub with a whole variety of activities to engage every age group.

ASHA was delighted to attend and pleased to report that the craft work raised £33.



There are around 950-1000 asylum seekers in the City and until now a large number have been required to report regularly to a local reporting centre. Without warning the centre has been closed and asylum seekers must travel to Salford to report. For many this will mean a journey of several miles to Stoke Station to get a train to Manchester and another to Salford, often for a reporting time of 10.00 am.

An individual’s weekly allowance is £37.75 and some may not have enough money on their card to buy tickets. Moreover, there is little certainty that the travel cost of approximately £21 will be quickly reimbursed which may well result in many going hungry.

It matters to an asylum seeker to maintain a perfect reporting record because failure to do so will jeopardise their application for asylum.

Please write to the Home Secretary (Office of Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF) and to your MP to protest this Ill-considered decision and urge that the Stoke-on-Trent Reporting Centre be reinstated without delay




Central BristolChris and Gwyn Gwyntopher []

The reporting centre in central Bristol was moved to Patchway out on the northern fringes of the city. It is hard to get there for anyone placed in south Bristol. Not a bad as north Nottingham to Loughborough however. Bristol City of Sanctuary are fund raising to pay bus fares for those not on NAAS support.


Nottingham/Derby/Leicester Sheila Mosley <

They rationalised reporting services in our area a long time ago such that everyone from Nottingham, Derby and Leicester area have to report at Loughborough. They said no-one should travel for more than 15 miles.


PortsmouthMichael Woolley <

The Reporting Centre in Portsmouth was closed some time ago and everyone made to report in Fareham. There are 200 dispersed asylum seekers in Portsmouth, none in Fareham. The Border Agency has an office in Portsmouth but not in Fareham, it’s a nine mile journey which inconveniences everybody and costs over £5 return on the bus. After protest the Border Agency started providing bus passes but not for people making fresh claims or freshly arrived in the city (though they are expected to report). Friends without Borders pay these fares at the cost of £100 to £125 a month. We have protested but to no effect.  (ASHA


Birmingham and Coventry report to Solihull


CASE STUDY of Asylum Seeker experience reporting to Salford 2018 on 28 August

 It took a full day for SM to report to the Salford Centre.  She had been there before and thought she knew the way. Her journey from Stoke-on-Trent to Salford was as follows:

9am leave home for train station

11.30 am arrive at Reporting Centre. Join long waiting queue


2.30 Leave Centre

SM had been given a bus ticket on her previous visit but returning to Manchester Piccadilly Station required two buses.  She mistakenly got on the wrong bus and had to rely on advice from strangers who were helpful.

7.00pm Finally arrived back in Stoke-on-Trent

Comment What would have happened if SM had children to pick up from school or nursery?


Concert in aid of Asha at Trinity Church Leek

For some time now Trinity Church and the Methodist churches in the Staffordshire Moorlands Circuit have committed to supporting ASHA in various ways as part of their mission plan (awareness raising, volunteering, fundraising, befriending, donating money, food, clothes and bicycles)

On Saturday 20thOctober Hannah Turner and Young Phoenix singers combined forces to put on a concert of varied vocal and instrumental music in aid of the ongoing work of ASHA, which receives no permanent funding and relies on small grants and donations.

Hannah performed a variety of solo pieces, some new and others well known and Young Phoenix chose a selection of mainly unaccompanied songs from their growing repertoire. Their programme was very much enjoyed and Trinity is grateful for their willingness to come along and help raise money in such a good cause.

The event attracted a good audience from local churches, the Methodist circuit as well as the wider local community.  A group of volunteers and asylum seekers from ASHA also attended, which included a trio of drummers form various parts of Africa who welcomed folk as they came into church with a burst of drumming .They also performed three pieces half way through the programme .Their enthusiastic drumming and singing complemented the typical English programme really well and afterwards everyone from ASHA enjoyed meeting with folk from Leek which they don’t get much of an opportunity to meet.

One of the asylum seekers had brought for sale a number of his paintings evoking scenes from his home country, which were sold in aid of ASHA.  It is hoped that more of these will be available on Eva Massey’s craft stall at Wednesday Coffee mornings at Trinity.

In the absence of Angela Glendenning a Trustee at ASHA  ,who was feeling under the weather that day ,Godefroid Seminega concluded the evening by explaining what ASHA is all about and the huge gratitude felt for the moral and financial support that evenings such as this provided.

A total of £419 was raised

Maureen Wisken







Progress Report from Paul, Refugee Action

[] 5 November 2018


It’s only three weeks since the launch of our #LiftTheBan campaign to give people seeking asylum the right to work.


With your help, we’ve shown millions of people – including senior politicians – that the case for lifting the ban is undeniable.


Thanks to our supporters, and the more than 100 organisations backing the campaign, here are some of the things we’ve achieved in such a short space of time:

  • Media coverage including The Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Financial Times and New Statesman
  • A growing coalition of campaign partners as varied as the TUC, Ben & Jerry’s, Crisis, the Church of England and Amnesty International
  • The Labour Party has officially shifted its position to back our campaign
  • Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said she was ‘listening carefully’ to the arguments for lifting the ban, during a parliamentary debate on the campaign
  • Home Secretary Sajid Javid said ‘we are looking to see what more we can do’ in response to an Oral Question in the House of Commons
  • More than 16,000 people have signed our petition to give people seeking asylum the right to work


We’re overwhelmed by how strongly the public has come out in support of the rights of people seeking safety in the UK. Research shows that 71% of the public are behind us on this issue, but to see that put into practice is something else entirely.


There is still a long way to go, but we’re now more confident than ever that we can transform the lives of people seeking asylum by winning their right to work.


We could not do it without your help.


There’s a lot more to come from the #LiftTheBan campaign, so please keep helping us push to turn cross-party backing and public support into real change.


Bicycle Donation

Photo of Asha’s footballers playing and their bicycles donated by Asha to help them moving and to come to play.

Thank you for all of the donations. The bikes donated are regularly being used to help a number of refugees to access both programmes to improve health and wellbeing, socialisation and employment and volunteering opportunities.


Add your voice to the Lift the Ban Campaign.


At present people seeking asylum are only allowed to work if they have been waiting on a claim for 12 months or more and can fill a role on the shortage of occupation list, which includes positions such as classical ballet dancers and geophysicists. This means people are essentially banned from working while they wait months, and often years, for a decision on a claim, living on the £5.39 a day the government allows.

The number of people waiting for a decision on an asylum claim had risen from 14,528 by mid-2018, the highest since records began.  A significant number of these people will live in Stoke-0n-Trent.

ASHA sees at first-hand how demoralizing it is to live a hand to mouth existence, not knowing what your future holds and very often losing skills you hold dear. These men and women already carry a heavy burden of separation and loss and not being able to work takes a huge toll on their emotional, psychological and physical well- being.

People seeking asylum in Spain can work after six months, in Canada there is no waiting period and in Denmark asylum seekers can work subject to certain conditions. No other European country enforces such a restrictive waiting period as Britain.

Please sign the petition and write to the Home Secretary and your MP declaring your support for the Lift the Ban Campaign.  THANK YOU.

ASHA North Staffordshire, Unit 7 Hanley Business Park, Cooper Street, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 4DW


Matt Pointon of Unionlearn reports on another Community Learning Day for ASHA users

In late February Unionlearn delivered a second Festival of Learning with ASHA in conjunction with Unite. This event focused on apprenticeships, what they offer and ways that unions can support schemes.


The day built on an earlier event last year and was delivered by unionlearn project officers, Matt Pointon, Mark Rowe and Jane Warwick along with Mary Sayer from Unite and Robin Graham from Laughter Association UK.


The popular event was attended by 28 ASHA service users, all from various BME groups across the city. It was also supported by ASHA’s volunteers and paid staff. Clare White from the WEA also attended whilst Stoke-on-Trent College had a stand.


Prior to the event unionlearn met with ASHA trustee John Walsh to discuss which areas of learning would be most applicable.


Unionlearn’s Matt Pointon said: “John was eager to have an event focussing on apprenticeships as many refugees look to begin these once they get their residency status.”


“Also, ASHA was concerned about unscrupulous local businesses telling their clients that they were on an official apprenticeship whereas they were just making them work for less. Thus, the theme of the day was apprenticeships and Mark Rowe took the lead.”


The day was split into a number of distinct learning events:

  • What is an apprenticeship (and what isn’t)?
  • One to one ESOL sessions
  • Presentation & Q&A: Your Rights as an Apprentice
  • Laughter Yoga
  • Trade unions and your rights at work


Throughout the day unionlearn Project Officer Jane Warwick delivered one-to-one Value My Skills sessions with ASHA clients, which were well received and proved very popular in identifying areas that learners could build on.


Matt added: “In addition to these learning sessions, some of the ASHA service users used the budget which usually would have been used to purchase a buffet to prepare different foods for lunch as an additional learning and cultural experience. One additional reason for this was that many members had specific dietary requirements and so felt safer eating food that they knew had been prepared in accordance with those requirements.”


Fourteen men and 14 women attended from the following countries:

Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Ingushetia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Syria, Sri Lanka, Albania and Russia.

Participant’s comments included the following:

.’I never realised that laughter could make me feel so different.’ Victore

‘To be shown how my skills and interests could help me look for suitable employment was very helpful’. Sasangi

‘Thinking about what I will do when I get my visa in the future, I will certainly look for some form of apprenticeship.’ Haroun

‘I was very impressed by the knowledge the speakers have about working in England’.  Morad

‘Thank you for helping me understand this new country.  It is very different from where I come from especially about looking for work’.  Hamada

‘I liked being able to ask questions’ Osman



Staffordshire Vegan Festival Kings Hall Saturday 30 June 2018

ASHA was very pleasantly surprised to be invited to the Vegan Festival and even more surprised to learn that ASHA would be a beneficiary.  With support from ASHA trustee Cath Ralph, Manjula and a couple of other asylum volunteers ASHA set up a stall and took along some of the women’s craft work for display and sale.  The happy outcome for ASHA was a donation of just under £600.

We already have a date for the festival in 2019.  It is on Saturday 10 August.

Thank you Vegan Supporters.