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.

Supporting Refugees – A guide for Oxfordshire Churches

Supporting Refugees

A Guide for Oxfordshire Churches

What can I do to support refugees? – Information for churches in Oxford

Material Support

Fundraise for a local refugee support group or charity

Hold a concert, sale, tea dance, quiz night … (the possibilities are endless) or take part in a sponsored challenge event, with the proceeds going to a local charity or group supporting refugees, e.g. Asylum Welcome, Refugee Resource, or Sanctuary Hosting. Ask for the charity’s support in organising this.

Luci Ashbourne, Asylum Welcome (www.asylum-welcome.org)

development@asylum-welcome.org 01865 722082

Refugee Resource (www.refugeeresource.org.uk) info@refugeeresource.org 01865 403280

Sanctuary Hosting (www.sanctuaryhosting.org) info@sanctuaryhosting.org 07818 555986

Collect food and toiletries for Asylum Welcome clients

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and often have very limited funds. Place a box in the church for collecting food and toiletries for asylum seekers in Oxford. Asylum Welcome can provide labels for collection boxes and a list of most needed items. Encourage the whole congregation to donate items and when full deliver it to Asylum Welcome’s office at 7 Newtec Place, Magdalen Road, OX4 1RE, open weekdays from 9.30am to 4.00pm. Alternatively order online for direct delivery: instructions are at http://www.asylum-welcome.org/donate/food-donations.

Asylum Welcome (www.asylum-welcome.org) food@asylum-welcome.org 01865 722082

Prepare food for refugees in northern France

Spend a few days, or more, as a kitchen volunteer in Calais with a charity providing food for displaced people living rough in difficult conditions in northern France.

Refugee Community Kitchen (www.refugeecommunitykitchen.com) refugeecommunitykitchen@gmail.com

Donate to help refugees and internally displaced people overseas

The vast majority of refugees are hosted in countries near their country of origin: most Syrian refugees, for example, are in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Many charities are working to assist refugees and internally displaced people in the countries hosting them. These charities include:

  • All We Can (http://allwecan.org.uk/give/current-appeals/refugee-appeal/)

  • British Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Emergency-response/Current-emergency-appeals/Europe-Refugee-Crisis-Appeal)

  • CAFOD (https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Refugee-action)

  • Oxfam (http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/emergency-response/refugee-crisis)

  • Save the Children (https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/how-you-can-help/emergencies)

  • Tearfund (https://www.tearfund.org/en/give/)

Personal Support

Help with social activities for refugees

Social activities are great for individuals’ wellbeing, improving language skills, and integration and also help promote community cohesion. Help with existing activities or start something new.

Volunteer with Asylum Welcome

Asylum Welcome is the largest charity supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Oxford. With a small team of staff and trustees and over 150 volunteers it provides a wealth of services and advocacy. You could volunteer on reception (half a day a week) or provide information, advice and support to asylum seekers and refugees who come to the office (two half days a week). Training is provided. Asylum Welcome is also looking for people to join the fundraising and comms team. If you are interested in any volunteer role with Asylum Welcome, attend one of the information sessions held every few weeks – dates and further details on the website (www.asylum-welcome.org/volunteer)

Asylum Welcome volunteer@asylum-welcome.org 01865 7220

Help with reception and administration at Refugee Resource

Refugee Resource needs more volunteers to help in the daytime with reception and administration (a few hours per week or as a more substantive role). Training provided.

Refugee Resource   FabiodiDonato@refugeeresource.org 01865 403280

Mentor a refugee

As a volunteer with Refugee Resource, meet with a refugee for about 2 hours a week or fortnight in the daytime. Listen, help and support people as they seek to gain access to services, social activities, education and work. Training is provided.

Refugee Resource ruthh@refugeeresource.org 01865 403292

Educational mentoring for young people

As a volunteer with the Refugee Support Network, meet for an hour a week with a young unaccompanied refugee (aged 15 to 21) to help them progress in education, e.g. by working on an aspect of their homework or classwork which they find challenging.

Torie Stubbs, Mentoring Coordinator – Oxford, Refugee Support Network (www.refugeesupportnetwork.org) tstubbs@refugeesupportnetwork.org 07562262718

Give language help to resettled Syrian families

If you speak Arabic, volunteer to assist support workers with recently resettled Syrian families. Or if you have an ESOL qualification, volunteer to teach them English.

Connection Support (www.connectionsupport.org.uk/projects/svprs) volunteer@connectionsupport.org.uk 07799110037

Tutor a refugee family member

If you are a university student in Oxford you can register as a volunteer tutor and be linked with a refugee family.

Talisu (www.tasilu.org) tasilu.tutoring@gmail.com

Host a homeless asylum seeker, refugee or vulnerable migrant

Many refugees in the UK experience destitution, for example when their asylum claim is refused or when they are granted refugee status but are then left without any benefits or housing. Award-winning local charity Sanctuary Hosting can help you host a homeless asylum seeker, refugee or vulnerable migrant rent free in your spare room for an agreed period of time. Share not only your home but also social and cultural experiences, supported throughout by a volunteer support worker.

Elaine Savage, Service Coordinator, Sanctuary Hosting (www.sanctuaryhosting.org)

info@sanctuaryhosting.org 07818555986

Community Sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family

Form a group offering full support to enable a Syrian refugee family to be resettled to Oxford under the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme. Groups need to work under the auspices of a charity and are responsible for organising accommodation, welcome, orientation, English language instruction, and help accessing services and employment. This may sound daunting, but there is much assistance and advice available from Sponsor Refugees and Blackfriars Oxford, a local church which has already done this, as well as from Oxford City Council and local refugee support charities. Community Sponsorship is a really tangible and personal way of responding to the needs of refugees and can be an extremely positive experience for the group too.

Shirley Hoy of Blackfriars Refugee Aidsenteniaconsulting@gmail.com

Blackfriars case study: www.ccow.org.uk/what-we-work-on/refugees-and-forced-migration/

Bekele Woyecha at Sponsor Refugees (www.sponsorrefugees.org) communitysponsorship@citizensuk.org 07504001756

Reset Communities and Refugees (www.resetuk.org) enquiries@resetuk.org 020 3582 9882

Advocacy & Awareness Raising

Organise an event for Refugee Week

Refugee week, in June each year, is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and promotes better understanding of why people seek sanctuary. Get ideas and tips on organising your event, as well as events listings, from the Refugee Week website.

Refugee Week (www.refugeeweek.org.uk) brightonandhove@cityofsanctuary.org

Campaign on behalf of refugees – petitions, letters, lobbying MPs and Councils

Refugees suffer many injustices and hardships, overseas and in the UK, and there is much which needs improving. You can help change policy and practice affecting refugees. Keep informed of the issues and latest petitions and campaigns by signing up for CCOW’s quarterly email Refugee Support Newsletter and/or emails or mailings, from refugee charities.

CCOW (Christian Concern for One World) (www.ccow.org.uk) joanna@ccow.org.uk 07774474601

Refugee Council (www.refugeecouncil.org.uk)

Safe Passage (www.safepassage.org.uk)

CTBI (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland) Focus on Refugees

(www.focusonrefugees.org)


This resource was prepared by Christian Concern for One World (CCOW) & updated in July 2019.

For over two decades, CCOW has been working with Christians who seek to discern what ‘doing justice,’ ‘loving kindness,’ and ‘walking humbly with God’ mean for us in our globalised world.

For further information or to request that information be added to future editions of this resource, please contact Joanna Schüder, CCOW’s Churches Refugee Networking Officer on joanna@ccow.org.uk or 07552948688.

Giving to support refugees in other countries

Most displaced people are living either in their own countries or as refugees in the countries nearest to them.  Uganda is currently hosting more than a million South Sudanese refugees; Lebanon over a million Syrians; Bangladesh almost three quarters of a million – over half a million of whom have arrived within a very few weeks.

It’s vital to get resources to places where there is most need. Here are some organisations to which you can contribute in order to help. The links go directly to pages listing their appeals or work with refugees.

 

Featured Image: ‘Getting Syria’s children back to school in Lebanon‘, Russell Watkins/Department for International Development, used under Creative Commons License

Helping Syrian Refugees

Introductory Resources

UK Government – Syria Refugees: What you can do to help

Introductory UK government information for people wanting to help Syrian refugees (Nov 2015). Covers a wide range of opportunities and contains links to other organisations

Refugees Welcome
National campaign by Citizens UK networking and giving advice, support and training for local groups welcoming refugees. Offers statistics, guidance in formulating a refugee welcome plan, campaigns materials, stories, access to training, links to local and national groups, etc. You might want to take a look at the Welcoming Syrian Refugees: An Introductory Guide booklet Citizens UK produced with the Rural Refugee Network and others.

Resources on Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme and Community Sponsorship

Local Government Association
Guide (Spring 2016)  “for all those in local authorities who have a role in leading, planning, delivering and continually seeking to improve services for resettled Syrian refugees” Helpful information to give background on local authority options and to offer to local authorities new to the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme.

Reading Borough Council
Report (16.01.17) on Reading’s participation in the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement (SVPR) Programme: useful as it gives details of the programme, including budgets, partners and their contributions, etc.

UK Government – Community Sponsorship Overview
Community Sponsorship Scheme for refugees in the UK, launched July 2016 – includes link to application form & guidance for full community sponsor and resettlement plan template

UK Government – Community Sponsorship Guidance
Government publication (July 2016) “Full Community Sponsorship – Guidance for prospective sponsors” for community groups wanting to apply to welcome & support resettled refugee families

Sponsor Refugees 
Citizens UK Foundation for Community Sponsorship of Refugees offers support and training for faith and community groups considering or going through the process of becoming a community sponsor. Their website has information on this support, as well as stories of what groups involved are doing.

Caritas Social Action Network

Caritas Salford, the first organisation to welcome a Syrian family to the UK under the Community Sponsorship scheme, has produced a guide to help those considering Community Sponsorship think through the process and develop a sound plan.

 

Image: ‘Refugee milestone‘, Scottish Government, used under Creative Commons License