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.