There are many reasons why people follow FC St. Pauli. One of the most common is an appreciation for the longstanding efforts of supporter groups, and on many occasions the club itself, to actively combat bigotry and to actively make welcome all those who also oppose discrimination. Just as in Yorkshire, there are many refugees in Hamburg and solidarity with newcomers to the city has been a key part of the club’s identity. Two recent examples: Ultras Sankt Pauli run a project to visit refugees held in centres outside the city and to organise tickets/transport to FCSP matches ( http://usp.stpaulifans.de/category/antirazzista/ ) meanwhile the club itself, theough its Kiezhelden project, has been organising practical support, football matches and entry tickets for African refugees who had been expelled from Italy ( http://www.kiezhelden.com/geben, background information in English here: http://lampedusa-in-hamburg.tk/ )
Following discussion within the Yorkshire St Pauli membership, we voted to investigate what we could do to help refugees in Yorkshire based on the inspiration of our club and fellow supporters in Hamburg. We decided in particular to support the work of PAFRAS, a Leeds based charity who focus on the needs of perhaps the most unjustly treated of all – destitute asylum seekers. Due to unfair regulations on applying for asylum as well as an asylum determination system that regularly denies asylum to those most in need, a significant proportion of refugees in the UK are actively denied public funding for food, drink, accommodation, clothing, transport, legal and other advice whilst also being banned from working.
PAFRAS runs a twice-weekly drop-in, at which they provide a hot meal and casework support amongst other services. They currently receive an average of just under 700 visits each month. The drop-in service is run every Tuesday and Thursday morning at a church hall in Harehills, Leeds. At the drop in sessions, individuals can receive food parcels, meals, clothing and essential toiletries as well as advice from PAFRAS, British Red Cross and various health agencies. All of these workers are a first port of call and often have to make referrals to more specialist services (if their rules actually allow them to help a destitute asylum seeker) including the LASSN Grace Hosting project which organises volunteers to provide short term emergency accommodation (http://lassn.org.uk/short-stop/). Given this, PAFRAS also provide money where possible for destitute asylum seekers to travel to important appointments. All of this is expensive and by law cannot be funded by any part of government. All contributions that go directly to the individuals themselves are vital. The current charitable funding situation however means that the funding for the people who actually organise and deliver all of this is also running out fast.
For more information, see here: http://www.pafras.org.uk/
– Yorkshire St Pauli will donate £2 from every £3 membership fee to PAFRAS.
– Yorkshire St Pauli will regularly collect at our events donations of non-perishable food, clothing and toiletries for distribution to those in need via PAFRAS.
– Yorkshire St Pauli will regularly invite guests from PAFRAS to our streams of FCSP matches.
– To launch our welcome for destitute asylum seekers in Yorkshire, we will be meeting up with guests from PAFRAS and funding their travel to a football tournament organised by friends at FC Republica ( http://www.republica-i.co.uk/ ) followed by watching FCSP’s match with Union Berlin together at Wharf Chambers this coming Saturday from 16:30.
– We will also consider in future other ways of raising funds, offering practical support and raising awareness of issues affecting refugees in Yorkshire.
We hope that this is a start, not just of actively welcoming refugees to be part of Yorkshire St Pauli, but also of our role in combating racism and injustice in our part of the world.