Asha North Staffordshire
Asha North Staffordshire

Unit 7 Hanley Business Park, Cooper Street
Hanley, StokeonTrent ST1 4DW

[email protected]

Feburary 2023

The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking handheld out and waiting.
For we meet by one or the other
Carl Sandburg 18781867


Asha was surprised and pleased by an unexpected invitation to a Holocaust Memorial lecture at the V&A Wedgwood Collection at Barlaston and accepted with alacrity.

Archives assistant Michael Ruddy gave an illuminating account of how members of the Wedgwood family and the pottery factory helped refugees throughout 1930s and 40s to escape Nazi persecution. Member of Parliament Colonel Josiah Clement Wedgwood rescued 200 people fleeing
the Nazi regime and opened up his home at Moddershall Oaks to provide sanctuary. It became known as The Ark.

Wedgewood badge depicting a man in chains

Those attending the lecture gave a voluntary donation to Asha and £100 was raised. Asha is grateful to staff at V&A Wedgwood Collection for choosing Asha to be the charity to benefit from this event. Four members of Asha’s staff and one volunteer, a refugee from Iran, said a few words about the charity’s work at the close of the evening.


Ian Mood

‘For the last 12 months I’ve been lucky enough to lead art workshops with refugees and asylum seekers for Appetite.

‘Appetite’s Lunch Club provides biweekly opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers to explore and develop their creativity through working with an array of artists as well as a social space to share food and experiences. We offer a session facilitator who provides support with translation and transport. The sessions are totally inclusive with families and friendship groups all welcome, and everything is free. Our group has regular participants but also welcomes new members; we want to enable participants to feel part of something, like they’re engaging with people and are supported. The group have enjoyed outings to local exhibitions, plays and concerts. Our Lunch Club aims to nourish body, mind and soul!

‘Seeing trust, friendship & creatively blossom amongst a group who often don’t have a common language or background but connect through an enjoyment of making, storytelling & sharing lunch, has been one of the highlights of my art career.’


Banned from working from working asylum seekers rely on Asylum Support payments from the Home Office which are supposed to prevent destitution and provide for essentials.

 Before 2008 Asylum Support rates tracked mainstream benefits; it was less money than mainstream benefits but increased at the same rate. Since then, the cost of essentials has gone up year on year and asylum support has barely reason. A decade and a half of flatlining means it was less in 2022
than it was in 2008.

This is why Asha’s provision of donated food and clothing is so important. It may not be much but it can often make all the difference.

 From 15 January to 15 February, 274 individuals/families collected food from Asha and 76 had food home delivery, 113 attended a lunch club, and 277 received clothing.

 The Sentinel 31 January 2022 ‘ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE WELCOME IN CITY

 ‘It is one of the most controversial issues facing StokeonTrent but asylum seekers housed in a city centre hotel have been shown some support this week.

Campaigners and wellwishing Stokies dished out clothes, food and toys to asylum seekers housed in a Hanley’s Best Western Hotel. Those who turned out say they want to show families offered accommodation in the Potteries that they are welcome in the area.


A handwritten sign proclaiming welcome to Stoke, at an event welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to Stoke.

Sunday afternoon’s rally was put together by North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism & Fascism (NorSCARF) and Hanleybased charity Asha, which
supports asylum seekers and refugees. Those currently housed in the Etruria Road hotel, formerly the Quality Hotel, were given hot drinks, snacks and items including clothes, food and toys for children.

Those who have fled their home were told they were welcome in the city as campaigners spoke out over ‘divisive narratives’ following the decision to house many families in the Potteries.

The venue is one of two, the other being the North Stafford Hotel in Stoke, being used by Home Office contractor Serco as interim accommodation for asylum seekers, despite opposition from local people, councillors and MPs.

Charity Asha holds regular sessions for the new arrivals and those already here, to provide food and drink, along with handing out donations. Service manager Godfrey Seminega Godfrey, originally from Rwanda, said: “We’re so pleased with the donations to support these families. They’ll come to our charity and this is a chance to offer help to those currently staying in the hotel. They’ll get some breakfast in the hotel in the morning but then they come to us as they need drinks and things like that. They’ve been over the moon at the support shown to them. It was lovely to see the children recognise some of our members of staff and come across and hug them. These people risked everything to get here and only around 40 per cent survive the journey. They’ve lost loved ones and have nothing. The people of StokeonTrent are welcoming and generous. I know some are against it, but we see many people supporting us.”

Handwritten signs proclaim asylum seeker solidarity and no one is illegal at an event to welcome asylum seekers and refugeses.

Dave Lyddon, chairman of NorSCARF, has hit out at some of the language used to describe asylum seekers coming to the city and he wants to ‘make a stand’. He said: “We are here to show the asylum seekers that people do support them and wish them well in their bid for asylum. It is ridiculous to send them miles away to Rwanda.”

StokeonTrent City Council has called on other areas of the UK to match the city’s support for asylum seekers and objected to hotels being used to house
them. Leaders had raised concerns over the impact on services and said there were ‘many other places that haven’t done a fraction of the work we have’.

Meanwhile MP Jonathan Gullis has said hundreds had penned a petition calling on Serco to ‘end its abuse of StokeonTrent’ by housing asylum seekers and migrants in hotels in the city.’

Mr Lyddon added: “I can understand people’s concerns, but the reasons there’s not enough school places or there’s pressure on the NHS are down to Government policy. We know that once asylum seekers are settled they’ll find work, with many doing the jobs not everyone wants to do.

A crowd welcomes asylum seekers and refugees

Jason Hill, one of NorSCARF’s secretaries, said: “People have a legal right to claim asylum in this country. I disagree with the narrative, the reaction of those who are in the hotel and have come over to see us is lovely to see.”

NorSCARF volunteer Chris, aged 33, added: “Many of these people have been through hell and today is about welcoming them here. There’s been a really divisive narrative put out. When we did this at North Stafford Hotel they were so grateful.”

‘As reported by StokeonTrentLive at the end of September, there were 803 asylum seekers in dispersed accommodation in Stoke-on-Trent, equating to 31 per 10,000 residents, the 19th highest ratio in the country. Those attending Sunday’s event are keen to make sure those who have been sent to the Potteries are given a warm welcome until their futures are decided.

Placards were hung up on the donation tables with messages including ‘Asylum seeker solidarity’, ‘No one is illegal’, ‘Welcome to Stoke’ and ‘All asylum seekers are welcome here’.

‘Among those turning out with donations were sisters Jill Salt and Liz Hanley. Liz is a foster carer and brought along some items for the children. The 39-year-old of Bradeley, said: “Seeing two of the children with a Peppa Pig backpack and a Paw Patrol one that my children loved was so nice to see. They have come over here with just the clothes on their back – so why shouldn’t we help them? “I have had kids come to me with nothing and so why should these children be treated differently? One of my children made up little sweet bags for them. Their reaction has been lovely.”

‘As the session wore on, more families headed across the road from the hotel, and were shown the donations and offered drinks and food. Jill, of Biddulph, who is a councillor with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, added: “I saw it was happening and wanted to come along with some donations. We are all just human and want to help.”

‘The Asha charity is continuing to appeal for donations including clothes, toys, and food such as tinned goods, rice, coffee, sugar, and long-life milk. Anyone who is able to donate can do so by visiting the charity’s base at Unit 7, Hanley Business Park, Cooper Street, Hanley ST14DW.’


New Arrivals Volunteer

Eager to channel their energy and time into something useful new arrivals offered to help out at Asha. Miriam and Ryn enjoyed organizing an introductory session using games and icebreakers to help participants relax and get to know one another. The general requirements when acting as an Asha volunteer were explained and interest areas explored. There is now a Rota new arrival volunteers and a growing team spirit.


Neither the 1951 Refugee Convention, nor EU law requires a person to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach. People trying to cross the Channel can legitimately claim asylum in the UK if they reach it.

The Dublin Regulations is a system which allows one EU country to require another to accept responsibility for a person who has claimed asylum when specific conditions apply, including that the person is shown to have previously made a claim of asylum in another EU country. The intention is that asylum claims are then shared more evenly between EU countries.

The Dublin system only operates within the EU and it will almost certainly cease to apply to the UK following Brexit.
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Charity Reg. No. 11769634 (England & Wales) Company No. CE013097

Due to the impact of COVID 19, British Red Cross informed us they are unable to provide a service at Asha. They have moved to an online service.
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