Refugee Support Newsletter – June 2020

In this newsletter

  • Interview with Vanessa Faulkner of Marlow Refugee Action

  • Resources

  • Actions

  • Upcoming Events

Interview with Vanessa Faulkner

“Establishing a law centre in Samos is probably the thing that as a group I’m most proud of … From Marlow there are three young volunteers in their twenties who have done amazing things .. Just step out, be brave and do something …”

Listen here to some short items from an interview with Vanessa Faulkner, co-founder of Marlow Refugee Action. Hear what motivated her to get involved, highlights of Marlow Refugee Action’s activities, her reflections on the impacts of COVID-19, how local churches have become involved in Marlow Refugee Action’s work … and more.

Resources

The organisers of Refugee Week have produced a pack of Activities for Children and Young People.

Awareness-raising resources for schools, around refugees and children in migration, including video testimonials of young refugees now in the UK, have been produced by My Bright Kite.

Free Movement have put together many free resources on asylum law on their Asylum Hub and have released five short introductory videos on refugee law.

Two Oxford Brookes Sanctuary Scholarships are offered to asylum seekers for 2020/21. Applications, accompanied by a referee supporting statement, can be submitted until 6th July 2020.

A new website, Refugee Action Good Practice, has information for organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. This includes practical guidance on best ways to make destitution payments during the pandemic and ways to prevent digital exclusion.

Particular problems experienced by refugees, asylum seekers and others at this time, and recommendations for the authorities, are highlighted in a report by Doctors of the World “An Unsafe Distance: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Excluded People in England”.

At the end of an article on integration, Sponsor Refugees gives links to six free online courses provided by various universities and the British Council, e.g. Working Supportively with Refugees, Migrants and refugees in Education, Refugees in the 21st Century.

report by the Home Affairs Committee on the Home Office’s response to the impact of Covid-19 on the immigration and visa systems was published on 16th June. Further changes it recommends include the temporarily lifting of the No Recourse to Public Funds condition and the widening of the free visa extensions for NHS medical staff to all NHS employees and social care workers, as lower paid staff such as hospital porters are currently not eligible. The exemption of NHS staff and social care employees from the NHS surcharge announced on 21st May was welcomed, but this doctors and nurses report that they continue to have to pay it and are uncertain whether the payments will be refunded.

Actions

With the government announcing on 8th June that asylum support allowance would be increased by just £1.85 a week, 220 organisations wrote to the Home Secretary urging her to reconsider. You can add your name to the Refugee Council’s letter to the Home Secretary calling for immediate changes.

The Government’s position in Brexit negotiations with the EU, as shown in documents released in May, is that refugee children in Europe will not have the same rights of reunification with family in the UK as they currently do. Safe Passage is calling on people to sign a petition to the Home Office to keep reuniting child refugees with their families after Brexit, for this to be a mandatory obligation and the right to appeal protected.

As normal events are not possible at the moment, many refugee groups and charities have created some imaginative initiatives to raise awareness and funds, which you could try, e.g.

Upcoming Events

We’re coming to the end of Refugee Week, a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. This year it is being held online, so there are still many events you can get involved with – see their events calendar. Join with Christians from across the UK for a National Refugee Prayer Hour on Saturday 20th June, World Refugee Day.

 

Wednesday 24th June – The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture – Mobility and immobility in the time of coronavirus: reflections from long-term study of migration and displacement (Refugee Studies Centre)

Wednesday 1st July – 17th IMISCOE Annual Conference (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe) )

Wednesday 22nd July – Online Training For Church Refugee Workers – Rebuilding your team after lockdown (Welcome Churches)

The CCOW events calendar is updated regularly with events of interest on this and other topics. Take a look!

Subscribe to this quarterly email Refugee Support Newsletter at: www.ccow.org.uk/manage-your-preferences/.

We also regularly post on Twitter about refugee issues, campaigns and events. Follow @CCOWinfo.

Refugee Support Newsletter – Interim Bulletin May 2020

Sign up here to receive our Refugee Support Newsletter by email once every three months
 

In this newsletter

  • Refugees’ Needs at This Time

  • Resources and Ideas

  • Items of Good News

We normally only send out a newsletter every three months. But as these are fast-changing times we felt we should send this interim bulletin, in order that the information and resources are timely. We hope that it will be useful.
With the usual forms of face-to-face meeting and networking not possible at the moment, we would really value your thoughts on what we at CCOW can do to help people stay connected and to share information. Please contact Joanna with suggestions: joanna@ccow.org.uk 07774 474601.

 

Refugees’ Needs at This Time

There is concern about inequalities experienced by people in the UK because of their immigration status –
  • A number of organisations are calling on the government to grant Leave to Remain to everyone with insecure immigration status – see the petition signed by the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network and others and also the letter from the Jesuit Refugee Service together with 30 other organisations written to the Prime Minister.

Globally refugees could be some of the worst hit by Covid-19 and many agencies, charities and support groups are responding with emergency medical, hygiene, shelter and food supplies and are appealing for donations, e.g. UNHCR , Donate4RefugeesMed’EqualiTeam.

>Following recent devastating fires in the refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos, Samos Volunteers sent an open letter to the European Commission calling on them to urgently assist Greece in evacuating the 38,700 people living in the camps of the Aegean Islands.

Resources and Ideas

At CCOW, we have been busy updating the resources on the Refugees and Forced Migration page of our website and creating some new ones.

  • You can find information about what local refugee charities and groups are doing at this time and how you can get involved, as well as up-to-date sources of information, in the updated document In response to Covid-19.
  • Our latest website post Supporting Refugees Locally at a Time of Coronavirus gives additional information, prayer points and actions, primarily around current needs of refugees and other vulnerable migrants in the UK during the pandemic.
  • Some basic facts and figures now contains the latest available statistics and our Guide to online worship resources has some new items and links.
  • We have also kept adding to our Events calendar as there are lots of interesting seminars, training opportunities and meetings now happening online. Look out especially for this year’s Refugee Week, 15th -21st  June, including film screenings and discussions.

Refugee Action has created a Coronavirus Asylum Handbook as a collaborative resource for organisations supporting refugees in the UK. It shares practical tips on how organisations are adapting at this time with links to useful websites.

Refugee Council has created a “Your questions answered” page where you can watch their Head of Advocacy giving clear and succinct responses to e.g. Why don’t asylum seekers in the UK have the right to work? How will the asylum interview process continue during COVID-19? What will be the major changes to the UK asylum policy after Brexit?
They are also offering a free My Refugee Friend activity to teach children about the challenges that refugee children face.

Doctors of the World is working with the British Red Cross and others to provide COVID-19 guidance in 51 languages.

The Book of the Month from Oxford University’s Social Science LibraryThe health of refugees: public health perspectives from crisis to settlement, whilst written pre Covid-19 pandemic is particularly relevant at this time.

Right to Remain has developed an online version of the Asylum Navigation Board game. Information Cards and Problem Cards help participants to understand each step of the UK asylum system and what people can do to be in a better position.

Oxford City Council’s Activity Hub has links to a wealth of events and activities online, as well as commuity volunteering opportunities and advice for wellbeing at this time.

Details of two university scholarships for asylum seekers – application deadline 16 th June – are publicised by Refugee Support Network. These can make a huge difference to someone’s life who would otherwise not be able to get higher education, being ineligible for student finance.

Items of Good News

Hear how one local charity is adapting its services to continue to support refugees – an interview with Refugee Resource’s children’s psychotherapist on BBC Radio Oxford (skip to 1:25:30, 2.5 minutes long).

Asylum Welcome has welcomed their new director, Mark Goldring, and is providing ongoing support for clients.

Safe Passage now has a Young Leaders group made up of 16-25 year olds from refugee backgrounds. Despite not being able to meet in person after their inspiring initial training session they are continuing to develop their skills in campaigning and advocacy through weekly online meetings.

Campaigning by Safe Passage culminated on 11 th May with 47 people from Greek refugee camps being reunited with family in the UK

Imix, a group of communications professionals trying “to change the conversation about migration and refugees to create a more welcoming society” shared  stories of acts of kindness by refugees and migrants around the world during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Supporting Refugees Locally at a Time of Coronavirus

Refugees, here in the UK and around the world, need our support more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic.

People who have fled their homes are often living in crowded camps or rough settlements, unable to self-isolate, practise social distancing or wash hands regularly. The majority are displaced within their own countries or in neigbouring countries, many of which have healthcare systems unable to cope with COVID-19, through the effects of war or longterm economic weakness. With borders closed many are trapped, such as on the Greek islands, unable to continue their journey.

Those who are now in the UK often find themselves isolated, as their social networks are still limited and refugee charities have been forced to scale back their services. Access to appropriate housing, healthcare and vital supplies and services is now a problem for many, particularly for asylum seekers and others with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). Many people, including the Mayor of London and migrants’ rights charities are calling for a suspension of NRPF, and the Home Office is rethinking this policy but the Home Secretary’s current position is that since people with NRPF are eligible for some of the government’s Covid-19 support measures and some individuals can apply to have their NRPF restriction lifted,this is sufficient. Refugee Charities are also calling on the government to increase asylum support payments in line with the increase in Universal Credit which was made in response to the pandemic. With regards to healthcare, whilst treatment for COVID-19 has been made free to everyone, treatment for underlying health conditions would still need to be paid for by some people, deterring them from seeking medical care. So Doctors of the World, the BMA and refugee charities are calling on the government to suspend NHS charging regulations.

What can we do?

Pray

  • for measures to help protect refugees from COVID-19 to be implemented

  • for those in the asylum process whose immigration interviews have been suspended at this time and those for whom the process of family reunion has stalled

  • for those in need of a safe place to live – give thanks that those in UK asylum accommodation have been permitted to stay there for the next 3 months, that all those on the streets are to be housed by local authorities and that many have been released from immigration detention centres. Pray for all who are still in shared accommodation.

  • for those with No Recourse to Public Funds and those prevented from accessing healthcare due to NHS Charging Regulations

  • for refugees who are qualified health workers but have not yet completed the process of registration in the UK – give thanks that they can now work in the NHS as Medical Support Workers, but pray they may soon get registration so they can use their full skills at this time of urgent medical need.

…and act

In response to Covid-19 UPDATED 28.04.20

Refugees are particularly vulnerable during this pandemic. For those wishing to help we offer the following suggestions for action at this time

Support refugee charities and groups

Many local and national charities and smaller community groups continue to work with and for refugees in the UK and overseas

Asylum Welcome is prioritising its most vulnerable clients, giving essential services, alleviating destitution, with reduced hours and appointments only. Email advice@asylum-welcome.org if you know of anyone else needing help. Most face-to-face work by both staff and volunteers is suspended in favour of telephone advice and help through hardship payments. Supporters can donate online or by bank transfer. Mark Goldring started work as the new Director of Asylum Welcome on 20th April.

Red Cross operational staff and volunteers are working from home and providing a remote casework service focussing on those most in need (e.g. service users affected by safeguarding issues, domestic abuse, homelessness and destitution cases). They are also conducting welfare calls to ensure service users have up to date information on the virus and how to keep themselves safe. Currently methods of getting destitution support to those most vulnerable such as through posting/delivering supermarket vouchers, cash-based assistance cards and emergency provisions are being explored. Contact Refugee Support Thames Valley Helpline on 0300 333 5393 (answered Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) or email tvrefugeesupport@redcross.org.uk
You can donate to support their work.

Under the current circumstances Connection Support is not visiting the Syrian refugee families it supports. But they would are looking for volunteers who could spend time phoning the families just for everyday conversation. Also helping families with the children’s school work via whatsapp or other similar social media facilities. Anyone interested should contact their volunteers coordinator on kevinburrows@connectionsupport.org.uk

Marlow Refugee Action continues to raise awareness of the situation of refugees and to supports various projects locally and in Europe, with personal connections to work in northern France and on the Greek island of Samos. Follow MRA’s facebook page for the latest information. Together with similar groups across the South East of England they recently contributed to Donate4Refugees’ Covid 19 emergency appeal and have sent funds to Med’EqualiTeam on Samos

Reading Refugee Support Group has suspended all face-to-face activities including their Monday & Wednesday Drop Ins and their Homework Clubs. They are working to continue their Pop-up English Conversational Classes using videocall technology. Their first Digital Drop In using Zoom enabled 16 people to talk, listen and laugh together. You can donate online to support this work.

Refugee Resource‘s offices are currently closed but they continue to provide remote support. Many fundraising events have been cancelled, but the Oxford Half Marathon in October is still going ahead for now. So any runners who are keen to keep their fitness up & work towards this please consider signing up to run on behalf of Refugee Resource. They would also welcome donations to support the loss of income from community fundraising

Refugee Support Network is trying to provide support round-the-clock for vulnerable, isolated refugees and asylum seekers at this unique time. Lockdown can be a very challenging time for those with recent experience of such/being unable to escape, and isolation can be very difficult for those recently arrived who have a very limited social network. RSN is also keen not to lose momentum on its building campaign to bring a unique refugee education centre and social impact hub to one of the most deprived areas of London. You can support the Refugees during Covid-19 campaign to keep key services running, join the 2.6 challenge with a fundraising activity for RSN and support the Sending Solidarity campaign, in which members of the public can, beyond making a donation, send a postcard or photo of to a vulnerable or isolated refugee who RSN works with. See also RSN’s new Connected Through Covid page.

Sanctuary Hosting is continuing to actively support their 12 guests, while also ensuring hosts and support workers can continue in their roles. A number of hosts have had to end their placements due to being in the vulnerable category with regards to Covd 19, so new hosts are needed for these guests. and also for 5 people on the waiting list. Sanctuary Hosting is increasing the weekly stipend to their guests who are destitute to £30 weekly to cover higher food prices. So if anyone could help by donating £10 per month that would be tremendously helpful.

Refugees in the UK will have smaller local networks and may not be sure who they can go to for support during the Covid19 pandemic. Many will be feeling very isolated and far from home. It is more important than it ever has been for churches to reach out to refugees and asylum seekers in their communities. Welcome Churches are producing new resources regularly to help churches do this: welcomechurches.org/covid19. Please give to help them develop more ways of supporting refugees across the UK during this time at . Thank you.

Wycombe Refugee Partnership< has welcomed their 21st refugee family to Mellor House and are putting the father of their 22nd family into temporary accommodation while he waits for his family to be allowed to join him. WRP were delighted that people quickly volunteered to shop for one of their refugee families who are self-isolating due to having a vulnerable child. People in High Wycombe can join the group’s facebook page to check for ongoing practical needs of these local refugee families.

Keep informed

The Refugee Council provides daily updated information on Changes to Home Office Asylum & Resettlement policy and practice in response to Covid-19

Right to Remain also gives a summary of Changes to the asylum and immigration process due to Covid-19

And further up-to-date information on Coronavirus and the UK immigration system is provided by Free Movement

Refugee Resource Centre for Churches has written a Guidance for Churches working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Follow local, national and international refugee groups, charities and agencies on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news and information on the situation of refugees and what is being done.

Follow CCOW on Twitter and check the Refugees and Forced Migration page on the CCOW website regularly for new resources.

Stay connected

cWhile it is not possible to meet in person we can connect with others, such as refugee families or refugee supporters locally, via email, telephone or video conference. Some people are using Zoom, others (liked CCOW) other services such as Go To Meeting or Microsoft Teams. There are many providers of free video call technology and some refugee organisations are now organising virtual meetings, e.g. TimePeace which facilitates connections between locals and refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, and Charlbury Refugee Action which recently held a virtual Easter Tea Party. Welcome Churches recently held a lunchtime conference call using Google Meet to share ideas about how to serve isolated refugees and asylum seekers and is now offering free online training for church refugee workers using Zoom, once a month beginning on 18th May.

The British Red Cross invites others from the voluntary sector to join two open google groups, overseen by their policy and advocacy team, for feeding into and tracking issues. These are firstly : Google group for third sector operations people/organisations and secondly a Google group for third sector policy people/organisations You will need a google account to register.

Pray

Amid all this activity we should not forget the importance of prayer.

Suggested prayers and guidance from a number of different churches can be found on this webpage.

We also offer the prayer below for the current situation –

Dear Lord,
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues we pray for refugees, asylum seekers and all displaced people. We ask that those in authority would act to improve their living conditions, remembering especially those in refugee camps and sleeping rough. Give government leaders and all in authority wisdom and motivation to do all that is possible to protect these people – and all people – from illness and suffering.

We also ask that you will grant wisdom, protection and resilience to staff and volunteers of refugee charities and groups, who are striving to continue to support their clients in the current difficult circumstances.

Help us all not to be afraid, but to continue in times of rapid change to love our neighbours as ourselves, trusting not in our own understanding but in your unchanging love and mercy.

Amen.

Refugee Support Newsletter – March 2020 (Part 2)

  • Updates on local groups

  • Online resources and opportunities

  • Prayers

Welcome to Part 2 of our March newsletter with information to help us stay connected and continue to support refugees in these challenging times.

 

Updates on local groups

 

 This week Asylum Welcome is almost entirely closed, prioritising a list of around 40 of their current most vulnerable clients for ongoing help. Please help keep the pressure off their reduced team: no drop ins! Email advice@asylum-welcome.org if you know of anyone else needing help. Supporters can donate online or by bank transfer.

British Red Cross is currently updating information on the availability and contact details of their serices due to coronavirus. You can still donate to support their work.

Under the current circumstances Connection Support is not visiting the Syrian refugee families it supports. But they could really do with people offering to volunteer who could spend time phoning the families just for everyday conversation. Also helping families with the children’s school work via whatsapp or other similar social media facilities. Anyone interested should contact their volunteers coordinator on kevinburrows@connectionsupport.org.uk

Refugee Resource‘s offices are now closed but they continue to provide remote support. Many fundraising events have been cancelled, but the Oxford Half Marathon in October is still going ahead for now. So any runners who are keen to keep their fitness up & work towards this please consider signing up to run on behalf of Refugee Resource. They would also welcome donations to support the loss of income from community fundraising.

Refugee Support Network is trying to provide support round-the-clock for vulnerable, isolated refugees and asylum seekers at this unique time. Lockdown can be a very challenging time for those with recent experience of such/being unable to escape, and isolation can be very difficult for those recently arrived who have a very limited social network. RSN is also keen not to lose momentum on its building campaign to bring a unique refugee education centre and social impact hub to one of the most deprived areas of London. You can support the Refugees during Covid-19 campaign to keep key services running and the Sending Solidarity campaign, in which members of the public can, beyond making a donation, send a postcard or photo of to a vulnerable or isolated refugee who RSN works with.

Sanctuary Hosting is continuing to actively support their 14 guests, while also ensuring hosts and support workers can continue in their roles. A number of hosts have had to end their placements due to being in the vulnerable category with regards to Covd 19, so new hosts are needed for these guests. and also for 5 peope on the waiting list. Sanctuary Hosting is increasing the weekly stipend to their guests who are destitute to £30 weekly to cover higher food prices. So if anyone could help by donating £10 per month that would be tremendously helpful.

Refugees in the UK will have smaller local networks and may not be sure who they can go to for support during the Covid19 pandemic. Many will be feeling very isolated and far from home. It is more important than it ever has been for churches to reach out to refugees and asylum seekers in their communities. Welcome Churches are producing new resources regularly to help churches do this: welcomechurches.org/covid19. Please give to help them develop more ways of supporting refugees across the UK during this time at welcomechurches.org/donate. Thank you.

Wycombe Refugee Partnership just welcomed their 21st refugee family to Mellor House and are putting the father of their 22nd family into temporary accommodation while he waits for his family to be allowed to join him. WRP were delighted that people quickly volunteered to shop for one of their refugee families who are self-isolating due to having a vulnerable child.

Online resources and opportunities

 

Recent articles have highlighted the particularly difficult situation for refugees as the Covid-19 pandemic spreads – those in refugee camps and rough settlements around the world, refugees in Europe, especially unaccompanied children, and here in UK immigration detention centres.
Many refugees and people with insecure immigration status in the UK are at particular risk, due to lack of or restricted access to healthcare, housing and other services. So JCWI, Migrants Organise and Medact have produced a short Guide for Supporting Migrants During Coronavirus.
The Refugee Council provides daily updated information on Changes to Home Office Asylum & Resettlement policy and practice in response to Covid-19 and further up-to-date information on Coronavirus and the UK immigration system is provided by Free Movement.
On 16th March the Home Office published a Statement of policy in relation to family reunion of unaccompanied children seeking international protection in the EU or the UK. The details are yet to be negotiated, but should mean rights at least equal to now.
As we all become more aware of the importance of staying connected with loved ones when physically distanced, through Phone Credit for Refugees people can donate to top up a refugee’s mobile phone.
Many people are finding it helpful at this time, while it is not possible to meet in person, to connect with others via video conference. This could be a way of keeping in touch with refugee families or other refugee supporters locally. One relatively easy and effective way is using Zoom. This can be used on a laptop, computer, ipad or mobile phone and only the “host” of the conversation needs to create a Zoom account. Here are beginners’ step by step instructions for participants.
Coronavirus and your wellbeing advice from Mind may be useful for yourself and any refugees you support.

Prayers

 

Anyone wishing to pray in the current situation may find this Churches Together in England webpage helpful. It gives links to suggested prayers and guidance from a number of different churches.
An additional prayer is below:
Dear Lord,
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues we pray for refugees, asylum seekers and all displaced people. We ask that those in authority would act to improve their living conditions, remembering especially those in refugee camps and sleeping rough. Give government leaders and all in authority wisdom and motivation to do all that is possible to protect these people – and all  people – from illness and suffering. 
We also ask that you will grant wisdom, protection and resilience to staff and volunteers of refugee charities and groups, who are striving to continue to support their clients in the current difficult circumstances.
Help us all not to be afraid, but to continue in times of rapid change to love our neighbours as ourselves, trusting not in our own understanding but in your unchanging love and mercy.
Amen.

Refugee Support Newsletter – March 2020 (Part 1)

Sign up here to receive our Refugee Support Newsletter by email once every three months

In this newsletter

  • CCOW’s new booklet for Oxfordshire churches

  • Other Resources

  • Actions

Because of the current public health situation, we are cancelling the ‘Churches Supporting Refugees’ event on 24th March. We intend to hold it at a future date and will let you know when we are able to reschedule.

The situation is changing very rapidly – this is, therefore, the first part of a two-part email. Next week we will send an update on local groups and how you can continue to support them at this difficult time, as well as introducing new prayers and online opportunities to keep us all connected.

Churches Supporting Refugees – new booklet for Oxfordshire churches

CCOW, in collaboration with partners from a number of local and national refugee chatities, has produced “Supporting Refugees – a guide for Oxfordshire churches”, which has been sent to over 300 churches. Please contact joanna@ccow.org.uk for more copies. We hope it will help churches discern how they can support refugees locally.

Resources

Chatterbox is an online language learning service taught by refugee professionals who are native speakers. The University of Reading recently joined with Chatterbox to connect students with refugee coaches.

Sponsor Refugees has produced safeguarding resources for Community Sponsorship groups – useful guides and templates, helpful for anyone working with refugees.

The Missing Migrants Project tracks incidents involving migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, who have died or gone missing in the process of migration towards an international destination. Data from 2014 to 2020, broken down by month, region and is shown in charts.

Redcliffe College, a Christian mission training centre, has a new online Refugee Worker Training course. Over four sessions (minimum 3 hours each) it aims to develop understanding of the refugee experience as well as self-care. Cost £80.

R2C2 Refugee Resource Centre for Churches has produced two Quick Guides – on the asylum seeker in your church and persecuted Christians and new converts with advice on how best to help them. R2C2’s website is also regularly updated with research, reports and briefings from the refugee sector.

Sanctuary Hosting recently reached two significant milestones – since it began in 2015 volunteers in the Thames Valley have now hosted more than 100 guests (refugees and other vulnerable migrants), providing more than 20,000 nights of accommodation. Hear an interview with a volunteer host broadcast on Radio Oxford. Watch the 8-minute film “A Road to Oxford”, produced with the help of Sanctuary Hosting, of Rawan from Syria telling his story. Sanctuary Hosting has made available the short country guides for hosts which it has produced on Albania, Afghanistan, Eritrea and The Gambia (the top four countries from which guests come)– helpful for better understanding people from these countries.

Refugee Support Network (RSN) has put together advice and information for asylum seekers and refugees interested in going to university in the UK, specific to the person’s immigration status. RSN also provides a personal higher education advice service. Those unable to access student loans because of their immigration status may be able to apply for scholarships like the UCL Access Opportunity Scholarship.

Read RSN’s Catherine Gladwell’s article “Accessing and thriving in education in the UK” about the barriers faced by refugee and asylum-seeking children and what the authorities and schools can do to help.

Short article and infographic “15 Facts about asylum-seekers and refugees” for use in myth-busting and addressing negative stereotypes. Also a myth-busting 2-minute video clip “Why do refugees want to come to the UK?” showing the destinations of refugees who cross the Mediterranean.

The British Red Cross has released a new report “The cost of destitution: a cost-benefit analysis of extending the move-on period for new refugees”. It explains why an increase from 28 to 56 days is needed, in the time allowed to transition to mainstream benefits or employment when refugee status is granted.

Bridget Walker of the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network has written a handout on Asylum Seekers and the Militarisation of Borders. Contact walkernind@icloud.com for a copy and/or to talk to her about this. See also Saferworld’s report on this issue.

Migrant Help has been working with Doctors of the World and British Red Cross to put together Coronavirus (Covid 19) advice in a number of languages. So far there is English, Albanian, Dari, French, Pashto, Portuguese, Bengali, Vietnamese, Kurdish Sorani, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish and Farsi, with Malayalam, Amharic, Tigrinya and Somali coming soon. Doctors of the World will replace documents with any new advice as updates come in. To be notified of these updates email yciftci@doctorsoftheworld.org.uk with the word ‘subscribe’ in the subject line.

Actions

With the ongoing offensive in Idlib province in Syria continuing to force people to flee their homes (almost a million have fled since December alone) continue to call for action to stop the bombing and provide humanitarian assistance, e.g. by signing The Syria Campaign’s petition.

Since Turkey opened its borders at the end of February many are trying to reach Europe, increasing the overcrowding in Greek island refugee camps. Sign the petition to the EU leaders calling for immediate decongestion of the Aegean islands. Support one of the charities providing practical help there and seeking legal routes to sanctuary, e.g. Help Refugees or Safe Passage.

Now added to the problems for those living in overcrowded, unsanitary refugee camps is the likely spread of the corona virus Covid-19. With a confirmed case on Lesbos there are concerns for the refugee camp there, and the refugee population throughout the Middle East is particularly vulnerable. Refugees worldwide risk being further stigmatised by this situation and host countries need help. Pray for wisdom for those in authority and support UNHCR’s Covid-19 appeal.

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Supporting Refugees: A Guide for Oxfordshire Churches

Would you or your church like to stand alongside refugees in Oxfordshire … but aren’t sure where to begin? Take a look at our new guide, produced with our local and national partner agencies, including Asylum Welcome, British Red Cross, Connection Support, Refugee Reesource, Refugee Support Network, Sanctuary Housing and Welcome Churches.

You can download it here – or email us to ask for hard copies.

 

Refugee Support Newsletter – December 2019

Sign up here to receive our Refugee Support Newsletter by email once every three months

In this newsletter

  • Feedback from CCOW’s ‘Changing Landscape’ conference

  • News from Local Groups

  • Resources

  • Actions

  • Upcoming Events

Bicester Event

Feedback from CCOW’s ‘Changing Landscape’ conference

Thank you for all the helpful feedback about ‘Responding to the changing landscape for refugees’, our conference held on 5th October in Oxford. Your comments and suggestions will help shape future CCOW events. Attendees really appreciated the informative and inspiring speakers and workshop leaders, the networking opportunities and the delicious lunch. Comments on what was best about the event included: “Being part of a movement that wants to support and help refugees and asylum seekers feel welcome” and “Wonderful conversations had and much learnt”.

If you weren’t able to make it and would like to know more about the first plenary panel – which surveyed the changing landscape from a legal and campaigning point of view – do email us for notes.

News from Local Groups

Iraqi Women Art and War is a collective of Iraqi women artists and makers who live in Oxfordshire. It is led by Iraqi Community Ambassador Rana Ibrahim. They have come together to explore their shared experience of contemporary war, displacement, and forced immigration through art, sound and story. They are working towards an exhibition in 2020. .

Brightwell Supporting Refugees’ Night of Jazz, Soul and Blues on 27th September was a great success, their biggest fundraiser yet, raising £1,638.

Wycombe Refugee Partnership‘s 20th family (comprising 7 people) arrived safely and moved into Mellor House in November.

Oxford City of Sanctuary relaunched as a cooperative at a public meeting on 13th October. They are now a Community Benefit Society, with membership open to both individuals and corporate body members. They are the first group in the national City of Sanctuary movement to take this step – and will continue to act as an ‘umbrella organisation’, including  many of the other groups & charities working alongside asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

You can now buy Refugee Resource’s new recipe book online. It is compiled by members of their Women’s Service and all proceeds from sales go directly to support the Women’s Service activities.

Resources

Over 100 refugee organisations have signed a letter to the government drawing attention to severe failings with the new systems for asylum support. There has been a huge increase in delays in the asylum process and people being left weeks without any support.

The UK government published its latest immigration statistics up to the end of September 2019, including asylum applications, VPRS (Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme), immigration detention and returns. Further statistical analysis and background information regarding asylum seekers and refugees is in the Migration Observatory briefing.

The Refugee Studies Centre have published the results of their initial research: “Integration of resettled Syrian refugees in Oxford: preliminary study in 2018″. Based on interviews with 14 of the families, as well as people involved with the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme from the Council, community groups and charities, the report looks at aspects of integration and what lessons can be learnt.

Resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020 (18th-25th January) are now available. Prepared this year by the churches in Malta and entitled “Unusual kindness” they include (on Day 3) a focus on responding to refugees.

The latest Aegean Boat Report monthly statistics show a sharp increase in the numbers of migrants arriving on the Greek islands – 54,386 so far in 2019, up 84 % from last year. A far greater number (99,554) have been arrested as the Turkish coast guard and police stop boats on their way towards Greece.

We’ve had two new book recommendations: (1) “What do we know and what should we do about immigration?” by Jonathan Portes, recommended and reviewed by immigration lawyer Colin Yeo, and (2) a novel about a thirteen-year-old Syrian refugee girl “A House Without Walls” by Elizabeth Laird, recommended by Helen Conor of Brightwell Supporting Refugees.

Three reports by UNHCR on unaccompanied and separated refugee children in the UK, whose numbers have increased in recent years, look at the children’s experience and how it could be improved.

The recent Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network conference ‘Envisioning a world that is open to all: let us see what love can do’, produced a reflective ‘Epistle’.

Parties aren’t the only groups that can produce a manifesto! The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has also produced one: “People Move – 12 steps to a fairer immigration system”.

Resources to help those working with refugees guard against stress and burnout are provided by Mobile Member Care Team and Headington Institute.

In preparation for the first Global Refugee Forum in Geneva (16th-18th December), the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre has prepared a briefing that contains seven articles contributing “Towards understanding and addressing the root causes of displacement”

Actions

Sign Freedom from Torture’s ‘Safe Space’ Declaration to state that you feel the UK should be safe space for torture survivors.

The Refugee Council and others continue to campaign for refugee families to be united and for asylum seekers to have the right to work. Find out how you can join the campaigns.

Refugee Action has a campaign calling for asylum seekers to have access to legal support as they make their asylum claims.  Could you write your new MP?

Upcoming Events

Tuesday 17th December – ‘Marhaba Sharespace’ – new music group (Oxford)
Saturday 11th January – Talk by playwright Mike Bartlett in aid of Brightwell Supporting Refugees (Brightwell-cum-Sotwell)
Monday 13th January – Asylum Welcome Charity Gala (Oxford)
Thursday 30th Jan – Training on Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children – Foundations of attachment (Oxford)

The CCOW events calendar is updated regularly with events of interest on this and other topics. Take a look!

Refugee Support Newsletter – September 2019

Sign up here to receive our Refugee Support Newsletter by email once every three months

  • ‘Responding to the Changing Landscape for Refugees’

  • News from local groups

  • Resources

  • Actions

  • Upcoming events

Changing Landscape

‘Responding to the Changing Landscape for Refugees’ –
Saturday 5 October, 9:30 to 4, Wesley Memorial Church, Oxford

It’s not long till our big event of this year! Hear national and local speakers with a wealth of relevant expertise and personal experience. Join in the discussion, workshops and networking; browse the information stands; and share a buffet lunch. Free to attend but suggested donation of £5 for lunch. Registration essential. Please spread the word and sign up now to come.

News from local groups

Sanctuary Hosting has published a study of hospitality in hosting by Dr Yasmin Gunaratnam from the Sociology Department of Goldsmiths College in London. It is based on interviews with fifteen of Sanctuary Hosting’s volunteer hosts and gives a good insight into their experiences.

Now that Campsfield House immigration detention centre (near Oxford) has closed the successor to the Close Campsfield campaign is Oxford Against Immigration Detention (OAID) which continues to campaign to close all immigration detention centres.

Asylum Welcome will shortly receive seven bikes renovated by The Windrush Bike Project in Witney, thanks to a £500 Community Activities Grant from West Oxfordshire District Council.

KAMA Oxford will be starting off the Autumn term with a second teacher training session at the Oxford University Department of Education, and an appearance at the County Library Open Doors event on the 15th September. For more details, to become a teacher mentor or to find out about upcoming courses, follow them on Facebook or sign up to their mailing list.

Marlow Refugee Action have another series of Syrian Pop-up Suppers (food provided by Syrian Chef Imad Alarnab who was one of the first families to be welcomed by the Wycombe Refugee Partnership) coming up on the 1st, 8th and 15th November. Contact tickets@marlowrefugeeaction.org for details or keep an eye on their Facebook page.

Wycombe Refugee Partnership‘s 19th family has now moved into a long-term rental flat, so Mellor House is now available as halfway accommodation for another refugee family. They need to have refugee status, to be willing to work, and to speak English well enough to cope with a job interview. WRP gives wrap-around support, including the loan of the deposit and up to two months’ rent when they move into their long-term house or flat.

Resources

A new website has been developed to promote Church of Sanctuary. “Hospitality and Sanctuary for All” and other resources can be downloaded there.

Helpful resources for Community Sponsorship groups and others supporting resettled refugees to understand and apply for benefits: Tips for supporting a resettled refugee family with a Universal Credit claim by Jo Hayes of Peckham Sponsors Refugees; Training resources procuced by the charity ResetBenefits calculator by Turn2Us; Citizens Advice’s online chat function for help applying for Universal Credit.

An evaluation report by Birmingham University’s IRiS on Community Sponsorship in the UK, based on interviews with refugees, volunteers and thought leaders between January 2017 and January 2019. This shows the benefits of Commuity Sposorship for all involved as well as the challenges, and gives recommendations for improvement. IRiS has also produced a Toolkit with practical advice on Syrian resettlement for local authorities and practitioners.

Citizens UK and student researchers from UCL have produced a report Forgotten People – How the hostile environment impacts schools and children’s wellbeing. It is based on consultation with headteachers, teachers and pupils from seven London schools and includes many of their own words.

A five minute video: UNHCR’s global trends in forced displacement – 2018 figures provides a good introduction to the topic of refugees and forced migration. Helpful for raising awareness, clarifying the global picture and showing refugees as individuals.

Since the introduction of the UK government’s Hostile Environment policy many migrants have experienced increased difficulty accessing healthcare. Patients Not Passports, by Migrants Organise, Medact and Docs Not Cops, is a tookit of information and campaigning advice about immigration checks and upfront charging in the NHS. See also Medact’s briefing paper and City of Sanctuary’s Health Stream.

Right to Remain have produced four new 5-minute videos on the UK asylum system, available in English and several refugee languages: An introduction to claiming asylum in the UK, The asylum screening interview, The substantive interview and The UK asylum process: after an asylum refusal.

New Home Office Domestic Abuse Guidance gives greater protection to asylum seeking women who may now access refuge accommodation and support services – see the Refugee Council’s summary.

Policy briefing: Urgent Reforms Needed to Improve UK’s Approach to Statelessness by Consonant, Liverpool Law Clinic and European Network on Statelessness makes three recommendations, in advance of the intergovernmental meeting in Geneva on 7th October.

An open, joint letter to the Home Secretary from 38 migrant and refugee organisations, including Asylum Welcome and Churches’ Refugee Network, outlines the current pressing issues within the UK immigration and asylum system.

A government guide for asylum seekers staying in temporary accommodation while their claim for asylum is assessed, has recently been published in multiple languages.

Refugee Action and NACCOM have published a report Missing the Safety Net on the experience of people refused asylum in the UK but unable to leave the country. It highlights difficulties and delays in being given the minimal support to which they are entitled and calls on the government to fulfill its commitments, in order to prevent destitution.

Actions

Encourage your local school to become a Refugee Welcome School. This accreditation scheme, run by Citizens UK in partnership with NASUWT, recognises schools that have made a commitment to welcome refugees in their institution and community, educate all their pupils and staff about the importance of refugee protection over the course of a year, and participate in campaigns to improve the lives of refugees in the UK.

Sign Citizens UK’s petition to Stop Home Office profiteering from Child Citizenship fees. As highlighted in a recent article in The Times high fees, which have risen sharply in recent years, are stopping eligible people from gaining citizenship and participating fully in life in the UK.

Ask your MP to support the call for Youth Welfare Officers in UK asylum accommodation to support the health and wellbeing of 18 to 25-year-old asylum seekers – see the policy proposal by Refugee Rights Europe and Meena.

Get your local council to pass a motion against immigration detention and the hostile environment following the example of Oxford City and nine other English councils.

If you live or work in Oxford you can now add your signature online to Oxford’s commitment to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday 11th September – Open hearts and open doors – hosting talk and discussion (Marlow)

Wednesday 18th – Thursday 19th September – Conference: What is a “Church of Sanctuary”? (Salisbury)

Friday 20th September – Saturday 7th December – Act: Speak: Inspire – intercultural leadership programme (London & Calais)

Thursday 26th September – London Community Sponsorship Networking Event (London)

Friday 27th September – Sunday 29th September – Weekend Conference – Envisioning a world that is open to all: let us see what love can do (Birmingham)

Friday 27th September – A Night of Jazz, Soul and Blues – for Brightwell Supporting Refugees (Brightwell-cum-Sotwell)

Monday 30th September – The Asylum System – Churches’ Refugee Network Meeting (London)

Saturday 5th October – Responding to the changing landscape for refugees (Oxford)

Saturday 12th October – Churches welcoming refugees – by Welcome Churches (London)

Monday 18th November – Marlow Refugee Action AGM & World-Cafe 2019 (Marlow)

The CCOW events calendar is updated regularly with events of interest on this and other topics. Take a look!

Sign up here to receive our quarterly Refugee Support Newsletter by email.

Refugee Support Newsletter – June 2019

  • Save the date – Saturday 5th October – our big event this year!

  • News from Local Groups

  • Resources

  • Actions

  • Upcoming Events

Save the date – Saturday 5th October – our big event this year!

Following on from the success of ‘Partnerships of Hope – Working Together for Refugees’  last year, we’re delighted to announce another day conference.

‘Responding to the changing landscape for refugees’ is for refugees and all walking alongside or interested in doing so. It will take place at Wesley Memorial Church in central Oxford and will involve presentations from  national and local speakers with a wealth of relevant expertise and personal experience. There will also be workshops and opportunities for networking. See the  Eventbrite page for details and to register. The conference is free to attend, but we ask for a donation to cover the cost of lunch

  Bicester Event

News from Local Groups

Bicester Refugee Support had a stand at the Bicester Big Lunch (see photos). This community gathering, led by the Churches in Bicester, showcases what the community is doing. The stand had the theme of ‘Home from Home’ to celebrate the Syrian families that the group has been supporting through furnishing private rented accommodation. It included children’s creative activities, of which the most popular involved making a house into a home by cutting out and gluing the necessary furnishings. The Bicester families are making further progress with learning English, undertaking training, and making friends. Some are now in employment. The families are well supported by volunteers, managed by Connection Support and Hope Into Action. In January Cherwell District Council committed to supporting another six families, due to arrive during 2019,  through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

Asylum Welcome is delighted to have been chosen as one of the charities of the new Lord Major of Oxford who says “I specifically want to make Oxford a truly welcoming city”. As well as their new appeal “weaving nets of support” Asylum Welcome has also launched a new service – it is now one of a number of advice agencies across the UK that is going to be running a vital service for Europeanswho are unable to complete the EU settlement scheme registration without help.

Marlow Refugee Action‘s co-founder Tom Doust recently visited the Greek island of Samos, now home to 5,000 refugees, and met with people working there in very difficult conditions, including those working at the Legal Centre which MRA helps to fund. MRA is also helping local refugees to access English language tuition and get back into their professions. Hear an interview on Marlow FM‘s Mid Morning Matters programme (broadcast 3rd May: interview starts 96 minutes in).

Sanctuary Hosting is keen to send an inspiring speaker to groups, organisations and events to talk about hosting refugees and migrants. See their new flyer.

Wycombe Refugee Partnership has a new website and welcomed their 19th refugee family to High Wycombe at the end of May.

Resources

This year 23rd June is designated Sanctuary Sunday. Churches are asked to make a commitment on Sanctuary Sunday and encouraged to use a resource entitled Hospitality and Sanctuary for All compiled by Rev Inderjit Bhogal.

A recent report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration highlights a number of issues with UK fees for immigration and citizenship services. It recommends waiving child citizenship fees for those unable to pay. Citizens UK’s research found these fees (£1,012) to be five times higher than the European average. The vast majority of the fee is profit, as the Home Office itself estimates the processing costs to be £372. The situation is leaving thousands of young people who having grown up in this country without citizenship.

Immigration detention in the UK was severely criticised in a report by the Home Affairs Committee in March. The Guardian reports on the unlawful detention of vulnerable people, wider issues of poor asylum decisions and how millions of pounds could be saved by a 28-day time limit on immigration detention. See The Migration Observatory’s overview and statistics of immigration detention in the UK.

The Right to Remain Toolkit, a guide to the UK immigration and asylum system, is now available free online. Updated regularly, it contains detailed information on rights and options at different stages of the process, some in multiple languages.

Read about many new Community Sponsorship groups across the UK welcoming refugee families.

Recordings of the presentations at the Refugee Studies Centre’s March conference “Democratizing Displacement” are now available online.

A report by the Institute of Race Relations When witnesses won’t be silenced: citizens’ solidarity and criminalisation highlights a significant increase across Europe in prosecutions of people assisting and showing solidarity with migrants.

Some good news for child asylum seekers in the UK – councils will now receive more money to care for unaccompanied minorsand young asylum seekers should in future be less likely to be wrongly classed as adults, as the Home Office must rewrite its policy on age determination. But there is concern that unaccompanied child refugees in France may no longer be able to transfer to the UK under the Dubs scheme and Safe Passage’s report on Unaccompanied children in Greece in the Dublin family reunification process reveals difficulties they face.

The government has published the latest UK immigration statistics. The Refugee Council comments on these and, together with Refugee Action and the British Red Cross, is calling on the government to commit to continuing refugee resettlement after the end of the current schemes in 2020 and to expand this to welcome at least 10,000 each year.

Actions

Sign Amnesty International’s online petitioncalling on the UK government to stop thousands of children who are eligible for British citizenship being denied their right as they are unable to pay the fees of over £1,000. Use Citizens UK’s online petition and letter to your MP asking for child citizenship fees to be reduced.

Help Refugees’ “Choose Love Not Landfill” project salvages abandoned tents and sleeping bags after UK festivals and sends them to Calais, Greece and beyond for refugees. Join a team of volunteers for Glastonbury (1st -2nd July), Boomtown (12th -13th Aug), Reading & Leeds (26th-27th Aug).

Share UNHCR’s 1 minute video “8 practical ways you can help refugees”.

As a church join Welcome Churches’ network of churches around the UK committed to welcoming refugees. Sign up to give regularly to Welcome Churches and receive a free 40-day devotional book.

Take part in Concern Worldwide’s Ration Challenge to survive on the same rations as a Syrian refugee during Refugee Week (or another time).

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Upcoming Events

Thursday 13th June – Celebrate Eid at the ‘KAMA Cafe’ (Oxford) 
Friday 14th June – Workshop: Livelihoods and Socio-Economic Inclusion of Syrian Refugees in Host Countries (Oxford)

REFUGEE WEEK Monday 17th – Sunday 23rd June 2019:
Tuesday 18th June – Safe Passage demonstration outside Parliament for a legal route to safety for child refugees(London)
Wednesday 19th June – Come and meet with Lord Alf Dubs in Chorleywood(Chorleywood)
Wednesday 19th June – Film screening of “Female Voice” (Oxford)
Wednesday 19th June – Film – Le Havre by Aki Kaurismäki (Reading)
Thursday 20th June – On Her Shoulders (RRSG’s 25th Anniversary Film Festival)(Reading)
Thursday 20th June – Weaving Networks of Support – an evening of solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers everywhere(Oxford)
Thursday 20th June – Celebrate World Refugee Day (Milton Keynes)
Friday 21st June – On Her Shoulders (RRSG’s 25th Anniversary Film Festival)(Wokingham)
Sunday 23rd June – On Her Shoulders (RRSG’s 25th Anniversary Film Festival)(Newbury)

Monday 24th June – Multaka-Oxford Networking Day (Oxford)
Monday 24th June – Crochet with Souad – KAMA Oxford workshop (Oxford)
Friday 28th June – Access to HE for young refugees and asylum seekers: training for practitioners (London)
Monday 8th July – Crochet with Souad – KAMA Oxford workshop (Oxford)
Monday 22nd July – Crochet with Souad – KAMA Oxford workshop (Oxford)

The CCOW events calendar is updated regularly with events of interest on this and other topics. Take a look!