In 2016, the number of applications for asylum in Europe reached close to 1.3 million. With Germany and Greece taking on 64 per cent of these applications, the pressure on their legal administrations to process these cases is mounting. Coupled with the need for translators to facilitate action, and the lack of funding to do so, the quantity of individual cases can appear overwhelming.
Grassroots non-profit fundraising group SolidariTee raises money for Advocates Abroad to provide Human Rights lawyers for refugees in European camps. The group sells t-shirts designed by Hossein Ismaili, an Afghani refugee in Germany.
Founder of the SolidariTee campaign Tiara Ataii worked with Ismaili as an interpreter when volunteering in the camp. The t-shirt design depicts Ismaili’s journey from Afghanistan to Germany in search of refuge for himself and his son.
The campaign is leading up to national SolidariTee day on November 24, when people across the UK will wear their t-shirts as a mark of solidarity with forcibly displaced people.
SolidariTee was born out of a very personal connection between founder Tiara Ataii and her work as a Farsi interpreter in Calais, Dessau, and Chios. Ataii describes her reaction to the lack of legal support in camps:
“It shocked me – especially as a naïve student – that asylum seekers, stranded on Greek islands, and often with highly complicated cases, had no legal representation in what would be the most important few months of their lives.”
Ataii embarked upon a campaign by using links with other universities across the UK. Students from the University of Edinburgh were quick to get on board with the project. Since they launched their campaign in October, SolidariTee Edinburgh has received support from students, MPs, MSPs, university societies and members of the wider public.
Their photo campaign has started off strong, with Labour MP Ian Murray joining members of the SolidariTee team outside McEwan Hall to wear their brightly coloured t-shirts and promote the national campaign. Members of the Scottish Parliament, including Labour’s Daniel Johnson and the Liberal Democrats’ Tavish Scott, have shown their support in buying and wearing SolidariTee t-shirts for the photo campaign and for the cause. MPs and MSPs have been signing a novelty t-shirt which is touring the city’s politicians and will be auctioned off later this year.
Amid European state nationalism and stringent control over inter-state movement of people, the SolidariTee campaign demonstrates the capacity for today’s youth to reach out across borders and support our fellow people.
SolidariTee t-shirts cost £10 to buy which pays for a night’s stay for a Human Rights Lawyer in a Greek Refugee camp. To support their campaign, visit the SolidariTee Edinburgh facebook page.
Image: Caitlin Deery