Community Cooking Initiative

SOAS Detainee Support is looking for volunteers to help set up and run the Confidence and Community Cooking Initiative for ex-detainees

We have received some funding from Unlimited to set up this cooking project that we have tried to get started for a while now. However we need some volunteers who could help with:

-Starting up the project (finding spaces, networking with ex-detainees, buying the initial supplies etc)
-Running the project (organizing the cooking with ex-detainees, liaising with venues/events, transport of food)
-Training ex-detainees in relevant skills to make the project sustainable.

We prefer if you have some background in working with asylum-seekers and or other migrants however everyone who can help is encouraged to get in touch.
The funding we have would cover the costs of getting Health and Safety Food documents and buying relevant equipment and food.

The date by which we would really like this project running would be late April. If you are interested please get in touch with Ernestine on

Confidence and Community Cooking Initiative

Summary: SOAS Detainee Support Group aims to set up a community kitchen to engage ex-detainees and the general public with the debate on immigration control.

The project entails ex-detainees cooking together with students to cater for a variety of events, preferably relevant to the field of Immigration. We believe this initiative will greatly benefit both the ex-detainees and the students or concerned individuals for several reasons. After being released from detention many ex-detainees continue to feel isolated and don’t always have a close community or network to return to whilst the experience of detention might have lefts its marks. Furthermore immigration regulations stipulate that asylum-seekers and other migrants are prohibited from working while their cases are being processed. This often leads to extreme forms of destitution but also a profound loss of purpose for the individuals in question. Lastly it means that migrants’ valuable skills are lost, as they are not applied in the job market. In order, to empower ex-detainees, keep them abreast of their skills and support closer integration between ex-detainees and the local community, SDS proposes the Confidence and Community Cooking Initiative.


SOAS Detainee Support Group (SDS) is a student-led initiative founded at the School of Oriental and African Studies in 2005.  SDS works in solidarity with migrants and asylum seekers in detention centres. It aims to reduce isolation through visits, to empower detainees and to lobby for an end to immigration detention.

In order to achieve its objectives, SDS has two core activities

v  Visiting – Being detained can be a very isolating and traumatic experience. Many detainees are in a vulnerable position and many do not know anyone in the UK. Thus, visiting is a central feature of the group’s activities. SDS volunteers visit removal centres on a weekly basis. They are a source of contact with the outside world and provide practical support. For example, the group offers companionship, helps detainees find a solicitor or medical expert and brings toiletries and other essential items. SDS has established a rapport visiting detainees at Yarl’s Wood, Colnbrook and Hammondsworth. Membership of the group, which started at SOAS, now includes students from other London universities and non-students.

v  Campaigns – Another part of SDS’ work is campaigning to change harmful immigration policies. There is a two-tier approach to SDS campaigns. Firstly, campaigns are about empowering detainees. If migrants visited by SDS wish to establish a particular campaign, either to halt a removal or obtain leave to remain in the UK, SDS channels the necessary skills, resources and people power. Secondly, SDS campaigns aims to inform the general public about immigration detention. As such, SDS works with partner organisations to develop cohesive and countrywide campaigns against immigration detention. SDS has taken particular interest in the detention of children and families.

Following from its core goals to reduce isolation and empower ex-detainees, SDS is keen to launch the Confidence and Community Cooking Initiative. Due to our visiting activities we have a broad network of ex-detainees whom we are still in regular contact with.

Confidence and Community Cooking Initiative

The project involves ex-detainees designing menus and cooking dishes from their culture to serve at events, initially within the student and refugee-aware community.


The Confidence and Community Cooking Initiative has three main goals:

v Reduce isolation – This project will promote the integration of the ex-detainees in to society at large through close contact with a supportive community. It will attempt to accomplish this through promoting joint cooking between students and ex-detainees and providing detainees the opportunity to socialise with ‘customers’. One predicated outcome is that through this experience ex-detainees will feel more confident in navigating their lives in the UK.

v Empowerment and skill-building– It is known that the UK asylum process can take a number of years, period in which the claimant is not allowed to work. A consequence of this restriction is that much of asylum seekers’ knowledge and expertise obsolete as they do not have an opportunity to use their skills in practice. This project will allow ex-detainees to take a lead in a ‘business venture.’ In addition to cooking, they will be required to use their organisation skills, teamwork and time management. Detainees should acquire valuable CV worth experience. They will then have transferable skills which will increase their likelihood of being successful in finding a decently paid job afterwards Furthermore many processes of immigration control lead to migrants feeling a profound loss of self-worth. The intention is that this initiative will accord the ex-detainees a significant amount of say by allowing them to make key decision in the process and by truly being equal members. Hopefully at some point the scheme will be fully run by ex-detainees without any need for outside assistance. This thus will also empower detainees to feel confident about their skills and the important roles they can play as members of society.

v  Raise awareness – Finally, the scheme will raise awareness of immigration detention. It will also allow these ex-detainees to raise awareness of the consequences of detention by personally engaging with students and those whom they are catering to. The interaction with ex-detainees and knowledge of their stories will expand the number of persons informed about the plight of migrants and asylum seekers in the UK .

Targeted audience

The scheme will try to start in places where members already have the networks in place to arrange catering events. Thus initial targets will be SOAS societies and London-based activist organisation especially those who deal with matters of Immigration. However the intention is that the scheme will spread onwards from that point.

Meetings and functions are organised on a weekly basis by SOAS societies. A tasty solution to catering for these events would be the Confidence and Community Cooking Initiative.

Refugees’ organisations will be targeted at a later date as the project increases resources to cater for larger groups.


All undertakings by the Confidence and Community Cooking will respect the relevant UK legislation.

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