Thursday, 30 April 2009

What a difference a bicycle makes!

There are many ways in which having a bicycle helps Refugees & Asylum-seekers living in Bristol.

'Yad' originally from Ethiopia, currently lives on the outskirts of Bristol. Prior to having a bike he used to have to walk for one hour to get from where he lives to the college in the city centre where he is learning English and to visit the Refugee Welcome Centre in easton.

"I can now also visit friends that live in different parts of the city and stay in touch with people that i would not otherwise see if i didn't have a bike".

"Life is much easier now i have a bike", says Yafiet from Eritrea. "I can get into and around the city centre and it is a great form of exercise and helps me to stay fit. It stops me from ever getting bored and gives me a very positive state of mind".

Saturday, 25 April 2009

the bike project up and running!

Welcome to The Bristol Bike Project! We (Colin & James) have been up and running since the start of 2009, working to provide bicycles for Refugees & Asylum-Seekers in Bristol. We have had a fantastic response to our appeal for unwanted bicycles from the general public and have received and repaired all sorts of bicycles in various states of disrepair.

We are currently in the process of trying to obtain funding in order to make this project sustainable and if we are successful, have plans to extend this project to include other minority/underprivileged groups such as single parent families and detached youth. Please do get in touch if you have any suggestions for inner-city groups within Bristol that we could work with.

If you know a little about bikes and are interested in volunteering, please also get in touch!!

Friday, 24 April 2009

50 Bikes!

Woo hoo!! We are extremely happy to say that, as of this week, we have now overhauled and distributed fifty bicycles to refugees and asylum-seekers in Bristol (plus a couple of bikes for SPAN, the single parent action network in easton). We are so excited to have achieved this already and hope to carry on the good work that we are doing. This really could not have happened without the donation of so many unwanted bicycles from the general public, so a HUGE THANKYOU to those that have donated their bikes!

Please do continue to get in touch if you have any unwanted bicycles that you would like to see go to a good home:

email colin or james

Saturday, 18 April 2009

New Workshop Space

We are pleased to say that we now have a new workshop space in the Hamilton House building in Stokes Croft as part of the Co-exist community right next to the wonderful Jake's Bikes. We originally started this project in our back garden and then moved to an old horse stable and now we are here! Thanks to Jamie & Oli at Co-exist for having faith in us and giving us this opportunity. Our new address is:

Hamilton House

80 Stokes Croft

Please see the map below for directions:

Our motivation for securing a workshop space right in the centre of the city means that we are now able to invite people needing a bicycle to come and see us at Hamilton House and for them to spend a few hours working alongside Colin and myself, helping to overhaul their own bike. In this way, we hope:

-to only be supplying bicycles to those who both really need them and who are really committed to the responsibility of owning a bike and the general maintenance and security issues that come with it.

-to be encouraging people to learn new skills which they can share amongst their peer groups.

-to be helping people help themselves. It is all very well handing out free bikes as we previously did, but we truly believe that people will care about and take much better care of a bicycle that they have spent time fixing and working on themselves.

We are currently working at our workshop space on Wednesdays and Thursdays of every week and have 3 or 4 people coming down on each of these afternoons from the Bristol Refugee Rights Welcome Centre.

Your Unwanted Bikes Wanted!!

Please do get in touch if you have unwanted bikes in any state of disrepair. So many people have bikes collecting dust in their garden sheds or have bikes that need more work than they are worth. We will accept any bikes of any size or shape or age. If we are not able to repair the bike ourselves, we will almost certainly use various components and pass the frame onto Sylvie & kev at Dr Scrap who are doing great stuff for this year's St Paul's Carnival!! All of our unusable inner tubes and tyres go to Katcha Bilek who makes fashion accessories. We therefore recycle pretty much everything and do our best to prevent as much as possible from going to landfill.

Get in touch if you have a bike that you would like to donate:


Colin & James


The emphasis here at the Bristol Bike project is on skill-sharing and really encouraging people to get stuck in and to learn new skills. We hope that by doing this, people will become more knowledgeable as to how their bicycle works and more confident about working on it themselves, that they will develop a greater sense of their own ability and that they will also be able to share newly-learned skills with their peers.

Why Refugees & Asylum-Seekers?

"Swan eaters! Gun lovers! Housing queue jumpers! Granny thumpers! You name it - asylum seekers and refugees have been called it", which is why Refugee Action set up the nationwide Refugee Awareness Project here.
Please make time to find out more.

I have been volunteering at the Bristol Refugee Rights Drop-in Centre in Easton helping to teach English for almost one year now and it was during the Autumn of last year that i first became aware that many Refugees and Asylum-Seekers have to walk between one to two hours in order to reach the centre, as they are unable to afford public transport. By having a bicycle, they will have more freedom to get to and from the drop-in centre as well as to college and other voluntary work and also elsewhere within the city and it will undoubtedly bring with it greater independence and hopefully make their lives that little bit easier.

It really is so important to make the distinction between those people choosing to come to the UK seeking employment (economic migrants) and those that have been forced here out of fear for their lives - most, if not all, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers have fled their native countries for fear of persecution, torture and possible death. They have an incredibly hard time whilst seeking asylum here in the UK and we are pleased to be helping them in the little way that we can.

A few points:

  • Anyone in the world has the right to seek sanctuary in another country if they are suffering persecution in their home country. ‘Asylum’ is a form of legal protection granted by a state to refugees fleeing persecution. The right to seek asylum in other countries comes from the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and a protocol established in 1967 to extend its scope. A total of 145 countries have signed up to one or both of these, including the UK.
  • The UK only hosts 3% of the global refugee population (and the percentage is the same if you include asylum seekers too).
  • In 2007, the top five countries of origin for asylum applicants to the UK were Afghanistan, Iran, China, Iraq and Eritrea.

  • Most asylum seekers flee to neighbouring countries in the developing world and only a few have the resources to make their way to industrialised countries in Europe or North America. For example, by the end of 2006, 79% of refugees from Africa also found asylum in the same continent.

  • There is technically no such thing as ‘an illegal asylum seeker’ or ‘illegal refugee’. Asylum seekers and refugees are people who are part of a legal process and have made themselves known to the authorities