Next Saturday, the Ruby Lounge in Manchester is playing host to a day that will include live music, stalls and a raffle to kickstart a fundraising drive to help refuge students through university by providing text books and equipment.
Already, the University of Salford and the University of Manchester have signed up to a unique bursary scheme to cover tuition fees for those seeking sanctuary in the UK. Salford will support three students, while Manchester will support one student per year.
"It's long been known that potential students who are in the process of seeking sanctuary in Britain face particular and often unfair circumstances" says the University of Salford's Vice Chancellor Professor Martin Hall, adding "The Helena Kennedy Foundation is meeting a key need through this programme and we welcome the opportunity of working with them."
Salford University is set to officially launch its support at a special event to mark Human Rights Day on Saturday December 10th.
Article 26 takes its name from the article in the Convention on Human Rights stating that access to higher education should be based on academic ability, and those seeking sanctuary are unable to access student finance whilst their applications are assessed by the Home Office. They face huge overseas rated tuition fees and no student loans. In other words, no higher education.
Article 26 has already helped students like Maral Esfahani, who arrived in London, aged 15, having fled Iran where her mother was an anti-government political activist.
Having got GCSEs and A Levels at what is now Manchester College, Maral was able to progress to Manchester University via involvement with the Article 26 project.
"Article 26 helped me understand how the system works when it comes to asylum seekers, to know what options I had" she recalls "I was advised on which universities accepted asylum seekers and was given help with my tuition fees for my first year, before I was given status as a refugee. I also enjoyed emotional support because I got to meet fellow Article 26 students who were in the same position…Without Article 26 I don't think I would have been able to go to university that year."
Maral got her degree this year and now works as a charity fundraiser. She's also had one of her plays put on at Contact Theatre.
The Article 26 day at the Ruby Lounge next Saturday aims to help others in Maral's situation – and the raffle has some top prizes, including tickets for sold out shows by The Courteeners and The Saturdays, signed copies of Charley Borrman's Road To Dakar and Jamie Oliver's Great Britain. Plus the chance to win free meals at Aumbry Restaurant, Barburrito , Imli, La Haweli and OAST Restaurant. There's also a full line up of entertainment and loads of stalls.
Article 26 Day
Saturday 26th November from noon
Ruby Lounge Manchester
For further details on the Helena Kennedy Foundation go to www.hkf.org.uk