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Top 100 Changemakers 2020: Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Welcome to The Big Issue's Changemakers Top 100: celebrating the thinkers, creators and agitators. Here's our rundown of the the heroes fighting to improve the situation for refugees and asylum seekers in 2020

Changemakers 2020 refugees and asylum seekers

Routes

The Year Here fellowship is renowned for nurturing a new generation of social leaders. In 2018 it brought together Leyla McLennan and Daisy Jacobs who, along with non-executive director Kelly Bewers, subsequently established Routes – a direct response to the many and varied barriers faced by women who are seeking safety in the UK. Routes connects refugee and asylum-seeking women with professionals for four months of one-on-one mentoring as well as working with a host of theatres to boost representation. So far, Routes has empowered disadvantaged women to open catering businesses, head to university and exhibit artwork at public shows. There is more to come in 2020 and Routes’ founders have issued a rallying cry for us all to connect with our neighbours in our communities.

Breadwinners

It’s estimated that 95 per cent of people in London buy bread every day. Here’s an idea. Wouldn’t it be great if all these sales could somehow help the most vulnerable in society? It’s here that grassroots social enterprise Breadwinners comes in as the best thing since sliced bread. The organisation provides training and jobs for refugees across their London-based farmers’ market stalls. Breadwinners offer a first job for people who have already attained status as well as the Risers Programme – early intervention support for 16 to 24-year-olds seeking asylum, allowing them to get work experience, transferable skills and grow their networks.

Govan Law Centre

Law centres are vital for those who can’t afford a lawyer, and yet few centres can claim to have helped their communities with the rigour of Govan Law Centre. As well as their work challenging poverty, discrimination and disadvantage, the organisation remains a crucial ally in the fight against multibillion-pound national security company Serco’s campaign of lock-change evictions against asylum seekers in Glasgow. GLC’s reputation in delivering high-quality, innovative services to the most disadvantaged people in their community continues to be an inspiration to others, even as they enter their 25th year. The advice they give on housing, homelessness, welfare rights and debt aid is priceless to people who otherwise would be stranded.

Pia Klemp

The death toll in the Mediterranean continues to grow as people desperately brave the crossing in search of a new life. So 36-year-old German-born boat captain Pia Klemp’s unwavering commitment to saving lives is an inspiration. Despite facing “up to 20 years in prison and horrendous fines” (the terrifying words of her lawyers, not ours) Klemp continues to fight the Italian government over her alleged crime of assisting in the rescue of more than 1,000 people at risk of drowning as they crossed open waters, in unsafe dinghies, in a bid to reach the promised land of Italy. Klemp’s ship, the Iuventa, has been impounded since summer 2017 and her legal fees are mounting in what she describes as “a show trial”. There is some good news, though. To help fund the lawyers for Klemp’s case, a local beer – ‘Pia-Bier’ – has been launched in her hometown of Bonn. We stand with you captain.

Bread and Roses

Taking their name from a line in a speech coined by American women’s suffrage activist Rose Schneiderman in 1912, social enterprise Bread and Roses’ founders Olivia Head and Sneh Jani-Patel have been helping refugee women blossom since 2016. The partners have strived to readdress the shocking statistic that 60 per cent of those earning less than a living wage in the UK are women. They’ve done this by training refugee women in floristry, believing the process provides them with the space to learn English, develop skills and build confidence. Sales from their shop fund training programmes, meaning a bouquet from Bread and Roses smells sweeter than any other florists’. Bread and Roses are smashing financial and social isolation, one petal at a time.

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