The desperate images of asylum seekers trying to enter Europe, which have recently swept across our media, have shone a light on how we as a country deal with and welcome those seeking refuge here. The images have also made many of us ask the question: how can we help?
The issues are not new. Refugees and asylum seekers have for a long time been one of the most vulnerable groups in the UK. Unable to work whilst their status is processed, and unable to access the mainstream benefits system, for long periods of time asylum seekers have to rely on “Section 95” provision, which often only offers about half of what a comparable UK family would receive on income support. This lack of financial support, often coupled with bad-quality housing, a lack of quality healthcare and community resources, can force asylum seekers to live on the ‘margins of the margins’, and often pushes them into destitution.
Through our Together Network we know that churches across England are already working hard to support asylum seekers and refugees. These efforts are as diverse as the people whom they are seeking to help. Below are just some of the encouraging examples:
The Rainbow project is supported by the Diocese of Nottingham and provides practical help to destitute asylum seekers including visiting and providing food parcels, as well as befriending, signposting and providing advocacy support with claims.
Open Door (North East) is a Christian charity that provides holistic support for asylum seekers and refugees living in Teesside. It provides crisis support for those left destitute, whilst also providing a number of services to help refugees rebuild their lives and create sustainable livelihoods here in the UK.
West End Refugee Service in Newcastle offers practical help, advice and advocacy to refugees and asylum seekers through its daily drop-in advice sessions, as well as home visits for those who are less mobile. Emotional support is also offered through an accredited befriending scheme and their ‘Time to Talk’ programme where clients have the opportunity to talk to trained volunteer listeners.
What can I do?
Since the recent refugee crisis, we’ve seen many more resources spring up about how churches can actively and effectively support asylum seekers themselves. Some of those resources are listed below:
Asylum seekers and the Church - Training day
On 21st November, Transforming Communities Together, our Joint Venture in Lichfield Diocese, is holding a training event for churches who want to know more about supporting refugees and asylum seekers.
"The conference will help you to better understand the asylum system, reflect on the theology of the stranger, listen to stories of people seeking asylum and to take part in workshops to better equip you and your church for offering welcome and support. There will also be a chance to meet organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers locally."
To find out more about the day and to book your ticket, vist http://asylumandchurch.eventbrite.co.uk.
If you’d like to support our work with asylum seekers and others, then please donate here.
O’Neill, M. & Hubbard, P. (2012) Asylum, exclusion and the social role of arts and culture, Moving Worlds: a journal of transcultural writing, Asylum Accounts, 12:2
Author: Ms Rachel Walker
Date: 17 September 2015
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