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

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.

 

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.