Columbans support school asylum seeker advocacy

St. Ambrose Barlow Catholic Primary School in Birmingham had a Day of Action on Monday, where they contacted local businesses to ask them to support the ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign.

James Trewby with pupils of the school
James Trewby with pupils of the school

Currently, people seeking asylum are banned from working, while they wait months and often years for a decision on their asylum claim. It means people like barbers, medical staff, builders and chefs can’t work and are forced into poverty.

As part of Catholic Social Teaching, the school has been working with The Columbans, Stories of Hope and Home and Asylum Matters to learn about the experiences of people seeking asylum and why lifting the ban on the right to work for people seeking asylum would benefit the economy, businesses as well as the people themselves. Pupils wrote letters to businesses, their MP, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, wrote songs and made a short video as well as visited businesses on their local High Street calling for their support. Local businesses, including Bluewater Bathrooms & Kitchens and MSM Supermarket, showed support for the campaign and signed up as business allies.

James Trewby, Columban Education Worker, said: “It has been a privilege to accompany the staff and pupils of the school. They have learned so much, reflected deeply and put their faith into action. Well done to all involved!”

Bianca Hammondson, a pupil at the school, when asked why they wanted to do this, answered, “In my faith, we show respect for everyone, and we do not accept things that are unfair.” Oisin Finnegan, another pupil, said: “It’s common sense that everyone should be treated the same; people seeking asylum had to leave their homes and flee from persecution and live on a very limited income. If that was me, I don’t know what I would do.” When asked how he felt about the Day of action, he said, “At first I was nervous, but all the nerves went away because I was doing the right thing for the right cause; I felt relieved afterwards because I know it made a difference.” Pupil Amara Sandhu-Hicks said, “I support the campaign because we are all brothers and sisters and deserve respect.” Sadie Kelly stated, “We are working on the ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign because we want to be curious and active in our faith.”

Miss Laura Newman, one of the teachers, when asked what the children took from the day, gave an example: “The Head Boy said that, ‘normally when people write stuff they just write but today we meant what we were writing so it makes it so much more meaningful.”

Jon Clinton, Headteacher at the school, said: “We have done this as it fits in with our Catholic Social Teaching programme and how we treat others with dignity. We’ve looked at Love the Stranger with the staff and worked with the Columban Missionaries on an inset day. We – myself, the staff, the governors and the children – are all united in making the world a better place.”

Since 2018, a coalition of almost 300 charities, trade unions, businesses, faith groups, and think tanks called ‘Lift the Ban’, have all been campaigning to overturn the Government’s ban on people seeking asylum being able to work. They urge that people seeking asylum in Britain have the opportunity to work and support themselves and their local communities.

You can find out more about the campaign at

Source – Columban JPIC

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