Stand #WithRefugees on World Refugee Day 2018
Refugees have endured an unimaginable amount of trauma by the time they step foot on British soil. They may have lost absolutely everything, including family, friends and companions. Many have encountered waves of violence and abuse that no human should ever be put through. Some have seen and been through mutilations, decapitations, rapes, murders, the destruction of entire villages, the wiping out of entire communities. Their lives remain in danger if they dare to return to the place they used to call home. These experiences create not only a physical but also a mental toll on people, who are in dire need of support, community and a comfortable, welcoming environment. But many refugees, upon landing on British shores and seeking asylum are welcomed with scenes like this: Squalid living conditions, detention in centres that disregard mental wellbeing with no upward limit to how long people can be detained, lack of access to education and hostility from members of the British public.
It is our responsibility to make sure that refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed and given the right support in this country. The government has continually proven to be hostile towards refugees, from the multiple atrocities reported at Yarl’s Wood Detention centre to the inadequate housing, lack of access to education and financial services offered to refugees and asylum seekers.
This World Refugee Day, why not be proactive and give to a cause that helps refugees feel welcome in this country? This can be anything from giving up your time to volunteer, donating money to charities that support refugees or raising awareness both publicly and directly to your MPs to make sure that the refugee crisis remains a top priority. But in order to make real change and ensure that your actions are going towards a good cause, you need to understand the barriers that refugees and asylum seekers are faced with in the UK.
The Language Barrier :
The British system continues to fail refugees and asylum seekers through inadequate access to english classes, training and employment. Having a good command of english can change everything for a refugee in the UK, giving them greater confidence in engaging with public services, increasing the quality of exchanges with other people and enabling greater access to the UK job market.
“It’s a real challenge. I can’t communicate with people. I just don’t want to leave the house. Sometimes, I walk in the street on my own and I end up talking to myself. I walk into a shop to buy something, but I can’t explain to people what I want. Sometimes, I just cry”. - Mountaha, Syria
To combat the language barrier, there are several organisations working to provide professional and conversational english classes:
Know a refugee who you want to help teach english? Check out these free English learning resources by the British Council:
ESOL Nexus Videos
ESOL Nexus Website
Why not sign a petition to bring this to your local MP’s attention?
Refugee Action Petition :
You can also volunteer to provide english learning support for refugees:
English Learning Union
Or make a donation:
Migrant Help UK
Child Care and Support :
Carers, most often refugee mothers, are at most risk of isolation when no child care facilities are provided. Considering that the average UK childcare costs per week are £232.84, and asylum seekers receive just under £40 a week, it’s clear that childcare is simply not an option. Refugee mothers are then unable to leave the house, attend english classes or pursue their careers because they don’t receive enough money to pay for childcare, therefore creating a vicious circle of isolation and dependence.
“My challenge is being a single mother; it is hard not having support with the children. It would be good to have someone to talk to”. - Naseen, Somalia
Organisations that Support Refugee Parents:
Over 90 percent of homeless and destitute asylum seekers are wrongly denied emergency support they are legally entitled to from the Home office. Meanwhile, those who manage to get the housing they are entitled to end up living in ‘squalid, unsafe slum conditions’. Asylum seekers are in vulnerable positions when they come to the UK, and generally have little power to combat the unacceptable living conditions they are forced to live in. From children living side by side with rats and mould, to ceilings literally caving in, the housing situation for refugees in the UK is frankly a disgrace.
“After my mother claimed asylum, we were put on a bus and sent to Manchester. The house we were put in was in a horrible state. It had no electricity or heating. There was water seeping through the ceiling and it was damp everywhere. We spent all our money calling the landlord”. -Sisay, Eritrea
“Having lost contact with her family in Eritrea, Seble struggled to provide evidence of her nationality to the Home Office. Her claim was refused, and she became homeless, sleeping in train stations and in the offices of a small local charity”. - Seble, Eritrea
As an asylum seeker you receive just £36.95 per week to cover transport, clothing, toiletries, food, and recreation.
Once you are granted refugee status, your Asylum Support stops 28 days after the decision, and you will have to move house if you’ve been given somewhere to live as an asylum seeker.
Essentially, once you’re granted refugee status, you’re suddenly left to your own devices in this foreign land where you may not speak the language, have no one to turn to or understand what support is available to you.
“While she waited for the Home Office to decide on her asylum application, her first application for emergency financial support was refused. It left her and her boys without any source of income. She was unable to pay her rent and her landlord tried to evict her.” - Basirat, Nigeria
Organizations that support Refugees by providing support and advice for refugee employment and allowance:
Refugee Council: Refugee Employment Advice & Support Service
Renaisi : Helping refugees overcome barriers to employment.
These are just a few of the barriers that refugees face when trying to rebuild their lives in the UK. They’ve been through enough trauma, we need to make their transition to life in the UK as easy and carefree as possible, rather than throwing massive hurdles in their direction. Refugees are part of our society, they’re part of our families, part of our lives. They are a huge part to what makes the world go round. Let’s not forget them. Let’s not disown them. Let’s not let them down.
“I really appreciate the help I have received in this country, but please don’t ignore asylum seekers. Interpreters like me helped you, so you should help us. We’re not extremists, we’re not criminals, we’re just people who had to flee our homes. If you’d been through what we went through, you would give us asylum straight away, but I wouldn’t want you to suffer like we did. You’re my family now”. - Mohammad, Afghanistan
Show your support and sign the #WithRefugees petition to send a clear message to decision makers that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility.
Monday 18 June, 12:45 Liberia Language Labs
Monday 18 June, 19:00 Human Flow Screening
Wednesday 20 June, 19:00 Creative & Positive Responses to the Refugee Crisis
18-22 June Imad’s Syrian Kitchen Take Over
Article by Chanju Mwanza