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A Magazine for Sheffield

South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group record another year of direct action

The action group founded in 2007 recently released their annual report detailing a number of campaigns

Sheffield town hall tower
Raygar He (Unsplash)

South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) have been working in South Yorkshire for 15 years. They recently held an annual general meeting (AGM) at FoodHall with a number of speakers, including journalist Matt Carr. The group is an excellent example of a network of volunteers that have been able to come together to resist the hostile environment and growing anti-refugee feelings. In the report from their AGM, SYMAAG emphasise how important collaboration has been for their growth. This includes Right to Remain, These Walls Must Fall, Migrants Organise, Asylum Matters, Justice for Simba, and Sheffield Against Asylum Evictions. They say:

People from other organisations join in our meetings and initiatives and we join in theirs. This collaboration is now central in our campaigning. It means that responsibility for some of the actions described in this Report was shared between SYMAAG and other organisations. It also means that on some occasions…we can mobilise an impressive mass movement.

What have SYMAAG been up to?

The Home Office’s racist Nationality and Borders Act has brought in a raft of changes which penalise asylum seekers arriving into the country via small boats. SYMAAG were able to write to local MPs and members of the House of Lords, join local demonstrations, and produced a briefing note when the act was still a bill. SYMAAG have also written letters to local officials about refugees produced from the US’ decision to retreat from Afghanistan, as well as the Ukraine refugee crisis.

SYMAAG also took part in a demonstration at Sheffield city centre for Kurdish people. The group used their Twitter account to document shocking behaviour from South Yorkshire Police at a demonstration which included children.

SYMAAG have also provided food and practical assistance via Yorkshire Refugees Foodbank. They’ve joined a number of other protesters outside Vulcan House in Sheffield, a Home Office processing centre.

Valuable work

SYMAAG does such important work in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. At a time when the hostile environment is ramping up even further, it’s more important than ever that organisations like SYMAAG show how to resist with direct action. That means mutual aid, collaboration, attending demonstrations, and highlighting your objections and resistance to government policies.

I spoke to Stuart from SYMAAG, who told me:

Sometimes I think our biggest success in these difficult times is just existing as we do. As you saw from our AGM we are a diverse group of activists from all over the world. We work well together despite the enormous pressures, particularly on our refugee and asylum-seeking members. We support and look after each other and I'm really proud of that.

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