SolidariTee, refugee

Durham students lead SolidariTee campaign to raise aid for refugees

Durham students are preparing to launch this year’s SolidariTee campaign.

SolidariTee is a nationwide student-led fundraiser which raises crucial funding and awareness for refugees travelling on a treacherous journey over to Greece.

The campaign’s ambition is clear and effective, they aim to sell their custom designed t-shirts worldwide to raise money for legal aid for refugees, whilst also inspiring a dialogue around the issue.

Zara Binji in a SolidariTee

This year the Durham team, led by Zara Binji, 19, will consist of 17 students across a spectrum of years and colleges. The official Durham launch will be in at the beginning of Epiphany term.

There will also be SolidariTee events and collaborations with other societies, such as Arab Society, and Team Durham will swap their stash for SolidariTees.

Zara stated that it was “great that our reps come from all over the University, most year groups and colleges are represented, so I’m hoping that most students will have a representative that they can approach directly to buy a shirt from.” T-shirts will be sold through college reps or on Depop at @solidariteeuk for £10 and all proceeds go to legal aid for refugees.

An ambition to mobilise this energy manifested in the ‘idea of the shirts which are a show of solidarity and have the potential to effect change through the money which is donated from their sales.’

SolidariTee was founded in January 2017 by Tiara Sahar Ataii in response to a dramatic decrease in media coverage of the refugee crisis and ideas that were floating around the student consciousness about the power of the student voice and activism. Tiara told Palatinate that she remembers a “tangible sense that energy and enthusiasm didn’t necessarily translate into the most effective change.” An ambition to mobilise this energy manifested in the “idea of the shirts which are a show of solidarity and have the potential to effect change through the money which is donated from their sales.”

Tiara further noted how ‘all money goes to legal aid for refugees (which is funding a lawyer or legal adviser) which we feel is the most sustainable way of alleviating the effects of the refugee crisis, as it gets people out of insecurity and the trauma of the camps, and into a new life.’ As too often many refugees get caught in a never-ending legal limbo during the asylum process.

“Having seen the amazing work SolidariTee
 has done so far, I am convinced that the provision of legal aid is absolutely crucial in granting lasting hope and security to those who so greatly need it”.

Zara added, “legal support was not something I ever really considered before, most of us rush to think of food, water and shelter as being the more obvious support systems.

“However, having seen the amazing work SolidariTee has done so far, I am convinced that the provision of legal aid is absolutely crucial in granting lasting hope and security to those who so greatly need it. By addressing a long-term solution, it truly equips people with the tools that they need to set aside their past ordeals and begin a new life.”

The campaign, which began in Cambridge University, has soon gained national, and now international, traction. The project has now expanded to 27 British Universities, four American, one French, one German, and one Australian. Over the first two campaigns, the student committees amassed donations and sales of over £45,000 and gained support from MPs nationwide.

This expansion, Tiara stated, was a “fairly organic” one, activating the power of social media by having the university representatives share posts and invite friends along. This ensures low administration costs, so more funding goes directly to the source, and promotes the central message that students have the potential to make real change.

The SolidaTee T-shirt designs portray a very poignant image of the struggle refugees face on a daily basis. The talent behind this year’s creation is Dar Al Naim, a “prolific and impulsive young” Sudanese-Spanish artist. Dar Al Naim’s ambition with these symbolic designs is the “hope that they will bring awareness to a major crisis – forced human migration.” The portrait silhouette immersed in waves provides a shocking reminder that “the sea is not just for holiday but the only road to freedom from death and destruction for thousands of people.” It also highlights the strength and resilience so many show in embarking on this extremely difficult journey.

Tiara expressed to Palatinate how the campaign hopes to continue its expansion through ‘placing a greater focus upon demystifying the often jargon-filled information regarding the refugee crisis on the internet.’ The campaign enlightens upon incredible eye-opening facts such as that there are currently 25.4 million refugees in the world – the highest number ever seen. Or that in 2015, more than 1.4 million people took their chances abroad unseaworthy boats and dinghies in a desperate attempt to reach Greece, Italy and Spain.

Tiara remarked how the campaign has a ‘firm belief that knowledge engenders justice and therefore raising awareness is a cornerstone of our work.’

The campaign has launched a series of myth busters and infographics online and will be holding talks at universities and schools across the country. Tiara remarked how the campaign has a “firm belief that knowledge engenders justice and therefore raising awareness is a cornerstone of our work.”

To further continue funding legal aid for refugees SolidariTee will be launching a series of grants with NGOs whose names will be released shortly on their website.

If you are passionate about this cause and campaign and would like to donate or purchase a T-shirt, they can be found at https://www.solidaritee.org.uk/

Likewise, if you would like to become part of this student activist movement, applications can be sent to recruitment@solidaritee.org.ukas -they are always looking for team members!

To keep up with events and the campaign, follow SolidariTee https://www.facebook.com/teesofsolidarity

Photograph: Zara Binji

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