We were delighted to enter into partnership with the Leeds Church Institute this year. The Director of the Institute – pictured below with Dr Ann Marie Mealey – has funded an Masters by Research scholarship in order to enhance the understanding of faith across the city of Leeds.  The scholarship is the first funded scholarship for a faith-based piece of research to be carried out at Leeds Trinity University through the Directorate for Catholic Mission. 

Leeds Trinity University also hosted a ‘Seeing Asylum Exhibition’ in partnership with the LCI this year too. This was really well attended and many students, staff and external guests learned a great deal about the journey of those seeking asylum and what the exhibition wants to promote.

The exhibition highlighted the hidden stories of the women who have experienced human rights being violations, their possessions taken away from them as well as the actions they took to protest inhumane practices within the Immigration Removal Centre (IRC).

Students, staff and guests who visiting the exhibition in the Atrium, heard about the true stories of people who have experience the journey of seeking asylum.  They learned that asylum seekers can often be treated as criminals, as they are refused the rights to contact their family or friends. In addition to asylum seekers not having the option to contact their social networks, people are not allowed to visit IRCs, to see the practices that are happening inside.

By shining a light on these issues and practices that keep asylum seekers in positions of injustice and vulnerability, this event helped the university community to understand the difficulties that Asylum Seekers can face and the social isolation from their families and friends.

The exhibition had 12 visual pieces that show a depiction of the unfair treatment that 15 women experienced during their time in the IRC. This is accompanied with an audio version of one of the women’s experiences during the IRC and there is a booklet explains each of the 12 visual pieces in further detail.

LTU Executive and Leeds Church Institute in Leeds Trinity University Atrium..

Seeing Asylum Exhibition Artwork.

A personal reflection from Dwayne Hutchinson, Faith and Racial Justice Lead at the Leeds Church Institute


What an experience to host the Seeing Asylum exhibition at Leeds Trinity University. Dr Anne-Marie Mealey, Director of Catholic Mission, provided us with an opportunity to have the exhibition placed outside of the University Chapel. From the allocated space, the exhibition became a central point in that area, especially for staff members and visitors at the University.

It was great to see staff members engaging in conversations about the exhibition. Some staff members were only able to stay for a few minutes, as they were on their break. I realised from this experience that the few minutes of speaking to people about the exhibition still had a lot of value, as people still had the opportunity to hear the true stories of the horrific journey that people can go through whilst they are seeking asylum that they would not usually get to hear.

Lunchtime Discussion

The lunchtime conversation section was the first time that we had facilitated a conversational section as a part of the exhibition. The conversations were led by Dr Maria De Angelis, the Criminologist who interviewed fifteen women to create the Seeing Asylum exhibition. Now, if the women never agreed to share their stories with Maria, the exhibition would not be in existence. The staff, the students at Leeds Trinity University and the visitors would not have heard what happened to women in Leeds whilst they were seeking asylum.

Attendees at the lunchtime conversation section included a variety of professionals working with people seeking asylum, Faith Leaders, alongside Leeds Trinity professionals working in various departments. By hosting the lunchtime conversational section with the attendees, we were able to have in-depth dialogue and hear the personal experiences of supporting people seeking asylum. Some of the attendees were shocked by the truth of what is happening to people seeking asylum. It became more shocking for them once they realised that it is happening in Leeds. In the city that they work. In the city where they call home.

I have learnt that sometimes people can think that people seeking asylum are further afield and not have an association with their local surroundings. This can be true because the people have no direct connection with the issue or they do not have the opportunity to hear from the people going through the UK asylum system or they do not know the people working and supporting people seeking asylum. However, the lunchtime conversation truly provided opportunities for the attendees to share knowledge, increase their awareness about the issue, and make connections.


By the time we finished showing the Seeing Asylum exhibition for the day, we realised that people wanted to see more pictures, find out more about people seeking asylum so that they could understand more about people’s experience of seeking asylum in the UK.

I am learning that people do not get a lot of opportunities to hear the personal stories of people seeking asylum. People did not realise the traumatic experiences that people can go through whilst seeking asylum.

After hosting the exhibition at Leeds Trinity University, it is clear that a lot of people will only get to hear the narrative of people seeking asylum from the media, due to them having no connections to people working with people seeking asylum or knowing anyone seeking asylum. Sadly, the personal connections and stories from people remain untold to the public due to a lack of opportunities to share their experiences and some of the stories from the media lack the true stories of people with the lived experiences.

Reflection of Student and Staff Engagement

There is so much importance of speaking about this issue, even if it means that you only have sixty seconds to tell someone about the truth. Sometimes those seconds are enough to help someone see the story from another perspective. On the other hand, seconds are not enough. Sometimes, you need so much more time to talk with people for them to really see the truth.

Overall, hosting the exhibition at Leeds Trinity University really showed me the importance of providing University Staff and Students at an educational institution an opportunity to learn about social justice issues within their local city and beyond.

Thankfully, from the local initiatives supported by Leeds Trinity University and local support groups, people were able to find out what already exists in Leeds to support people seeking asylum and how they can get involved in the work, if they desired to do so. It is always a great moment when people can learn what they can do to act on the issues they have seen, as this is where the work of social justice continue.