This week the charity Refugee Action launched a new report called “Slipping through the cracks: How Britain’s asylum support system fails the most vulnerable”. It highlighted some problems with the UK asylum process, which include:
- Delays in correctly assessing people’s need for support
- Overturning decisions on appeal
- How these delays are having devastating consequences on people’s lives
Through our Time Together project at TimeBank we are meeting asylum seekers every day who face these very challenges. A number of people we work with have been waiting many months for their initial Home Office interview, which can cause stress and anxiety. This coupled with the persecution and violence they faced in their home country and the often traumatic experience of their journey here can make a bad situation even worse. Often asylum seekers arrive with few social networks and a limited understanding of the UK and its asylum system. This means they have to rely on local services or individuals to support them as they settle into UK life, but these often vary from location to location. Through Time Together, we match refugees and asylum seekers to a local volunteer for a period of six months. Volunteers can have an important role whilst asylum seekers transition and adapt to life in the UK. They can use their local knowledge and signpost individuals to people with expert advice on immigration or housing, or they offer a listening ear when things get tough.
Our Time Together project in the Midlands continues to go from strength to strength. We’ve already recruited 20 volunteers who are supporting 14 refugees and asylum seekers as they settle into life in the UK. On our original Time Together project which ran from 2002–2010, 90% of beneficiaries said they felt at home in the UK and 98% reported an increase in their English language proficiency after mentoring. It’s clear that there is a real need for more services like ours.