Today (April 25) the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees published the report 'Refugees Welcome?'. The group, consisting of MPs such as Caroline Lucas and Lord Alf Dubs, examined the experiences of refugees in the UK, with a specific emphasis on their experiences after gaining refugee status. The report highlighted the many individuals, communities and projects working hard to integrate and support refugees. However it also demonstrated the barriers refugees face.
The report found evidence of a two-tier system. When entering the UK refugees either go through the asylum process, having arrived in the UK and submitted an application or they will have been brought to the UK directly from another country through one of the Government-led resettlement schemes. Refugees arriving through the resettlement route are provided with support to find services, employment and accommodation. However, for those who have gone through the asylum system, there is no support, and they have to rely on local services that vary from location to location. One of these services is TimeBank’s innovative mentoring project Time Together operating across the West Midlands.
Working together with different referral partners, such as refugee and migrant centres, LGBT centres and faith-based and non-faith based organisations, we recruit a diverse range of people who have been or are going through the asylum process, who we then match to a volunteer. The volunteer then meets with their beneficiary for five hours a month, over a six month period. This has the aim of increasing wellbeing, reducing isolation and helping the individual to settle into UK life.
We’re only seven months into our project, but we are already seeing successes. One beneficiary is hoping to access a barbering course in a year’s time, so his mentor is assisting with improving his English language skills; one mentor is supporting an individual to find local voluntary work to utilise his skills and knowledge of ICT, whilst another beneficiary with the help of his mentor has just become a member of the local library which has led to him finding out about an English conversation class. This goes to show the impact that local volunteers are having on the lives of refugees, and we at TimeBank strongly agree with one of the report’s many recommendations that includes furthering support to individuals who have recently been given refugee status.