Together Liverpool: working with asylum seekers
Liverpool recently became the last port of call for asylum seekers on their last appeal. The journey for asylum seekers is long, and fraught with difficulties. Churches in and around Merseyside, with the support of Together Liverpool, are working to create an open and welcoming space for people who have often fled extremely traumatic situations, beyond what we could ever imagine. Children and adults, old and young, male and female- there is little regard for human life in war and conflict.
For Christians this can be an opportunity to offer support, hospitality and understanding: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."- Matthew 25: 40
Issues faced by Asylum Seekers
Asylum seekers have to navigate a wide range of issues from social hostility to problems with housing…
Transport: living on £5 per day makes it difficult to pay for local transport to immigration interviews, food banks, voluntary placements, and even just to meet with others socially.
For Majid, this meant walking 12.5 hours on foot from suburban Manchester to the Home Office in Liverpool when his first asylum claim was rejected and he had no money for transport*.
Marginalisation and hostility: sometimes ‘local’ residents of an area view asylum seekers with hostility, not fully understanding the issues they are facing or the impact of their actions.
Housing and accommodation: asylum seekers have no say as to where they will be housed or the type of accommodation they will live in. Sometimes people from the same country, but on different sides of a conflict are placed in neighbouring apartments. This can be very traumatic and unsettling.
What are Together Liverpool doing?
Together Liverpool are liaising with, and briefing local councillors in the region by trying to encourage best practice and full comprehension of the situation.
They are working with universities and colleges to create a mentoring programme between students, tutors and asylum seekers. Asylum seekers can undertake ESOL and other short courses but have no funding.
Developing volunteers: although asylum seekers cannot undertake paid work they can volunteer. For many this becomes a real life line and a route into the local community. It is an important first step in social integration and the beginnings of a new life. Together Liverpool, with local churches, are looking to incorporate education and training in a volunteer programme.
Until the status of refugee is granted the waiting period is a time of limbo for asylum seekers. The support being given by churches, with Together Liverpool, during this period is crucial.
*Majid’s experience is from Refugee Action and can be found here.
**For more information about Asylum in the UK go to UNHCR here.
Author: Lynsey Robinson
Date: 25 August 2015
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