Category: Refugee services

The British Red Cross’ refugee services cover a wide range of needs for people seeking asylum in the UK. We help with housing, emergency food parcels, casework to fill in forms and application, and emotional support. We also help reunite refugee families and speak out to approve the asylum system.

Voices against immigration detention: Isabella’s story

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An LGBT+ asylum seeker who experienced immigration detention, Isabella and her friend Joyce stand with their arms around each other at Pride in Glasgow.

Isabella, right, and her friend Joyce at Pride in Glasgow

“I had to leave my family, my country and my life because of my sexuality.”

As a lesbian, Isabella faces restrictive laws and prejudices in her birth country, Namibia, not least from her own father.

“My father believes that if I sleep with a man, I will be ‘cured’ of my sexuality,” Isabella said. She is afraid that if she returns home, her father will force her into an arranged marriage.

Isabella came to the UK in October 2017 to claim asylum. Since then, she has become an active member of the LGBT+ community in Glasgow, where she lives.

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International Women’s Day: an ‘ordinary’ woman speaks up for refugees

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Shamila Dhana wears a British Red Cross jacket with the refugee women's group sitting at a table in the background

Shamila Dhana, an ‘ordinary’ woman doing extraordinary things

“I believe in … making ordinary people extraordinary.”

Every day, Shamila Dhana does this as a volunteer at a women’s group for refugees and asylum seekers run by the British Red Cross and our partners Stop Domestic Abuse.

Together, they tackle some of the most difficult issues these vulnerable women face.

Hate crime, honour, domestic and gender-based violence, social isolation, mental health and education are all on the agenda.

“To me, ordinary women are unsung heroes,” Shamila said.

“They are the woman that must get up and take the kids to school despite her period pains.

“The woman struggling to put food on the table because she is unable to work.

“The woman who is trying to navigate a complicated asylum process when she speaks little English. These women inspire me every day”.

As someone who considers herself to be an ‘ordinary woman’, Shamila felt shocked and honoured when she won the Pamodzi Creative ‘Inspirational Women’ award.

Many people had nominated the 36-year-old for Portsmouth’s first Inspirational Women Award to mark International Women’s Day 2019. 

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“We want to learn about refugees”: opening students’ minds and hearts

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“It is important to learn about refugees because people don’t really know about it and they start making assumptions,” said Alesia, a student Park High School in Stanmore.

Alesia and her class recently took part in a lesson using the British Red Cross Refugee Week teaching resource.

When young people hear news reports about refugees, they can sometimes be hard to understand. People may find it hard to empathise with what refugees are going through.

But teaching young people about refugees in the safe environment of school can really open their minds and emotions.

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“I know I have a lot to give”: a young asylum seeker’s story

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A young woman from the Surviving to Thriving project looks away from the camera

A young asylum seeker at a Surviving to Thriving group © Dan Burwood/British Red Cross

Dalia* was just 16 when conflict forced her to flee her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  She is now 18 and is getting help from a Red Cross project in Birmingham to share her experiences and thrive in her new life.

“I didn’t know where I was going when I left Congo,” Dalia said.

“I was living my life normally, like every child, and my life changed suddenly.

“My uncle said I had to be safe. I tried to ask about my family but he said ‘you just have to go. The rest is not your problem, just go’.”

Dalia’s uncle sent her away with one of his friends, who brought her to Angola before continuing on to Europe.

“Arriving in the UK was so scary”

When Dalia got to England, she was given to someone she didn’t know. “He drove me to the police station and he told me I would be safe there,” Dalia remembered.

“Then he left me and he was gone.”

“It was difficult because I don’t know the country, I don’t know the city, I don’t know which language to speak.

“At the police station I just said asil [asylum] in French because I couldn’t even say that in English.

“I was really afraid because I didn’t know if the police would return me the same day.  I thought maybe today I’m going back to my country.

“I stayed for many hours waiting at the police station and I didn’t know if I was going to prison. I didn’t know what they would do with me.”

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David’s story: why immigration detention needs to change

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“I left Kenya because I was fleeing not only persecution but unjust abuses. It’s still happening now. It’s even worse.”

Before he left Kenya, David worked for the Kenyan Election Board. “I was being forced to do illegal activities… to steal the election,” he said.

David was attacked and stabbed when he was still in Kenya. Later, his former manager was murdered.

He is also gay and spoke out for the rights of the LGBT+ community while in Kenya. But homosexuality is illegal there.

“People are assaulted in gay prides,” David said. “People have to wear masks.”

David is now claiming asylum in the UK. If the Home Office decides that his case is strong enough, he will be allowed to live in Britain as a refugee.

Like many people in his position, David has to report to the Home Office regularly.

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“We are a family again”: Syrian refugees start a new life in Glasgow

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Syrian refugees now living in Glasgow, Mohamed, Amina and their five children stand together and smile at the camera.

Mohamed, Amina and their children © Emma Levy/British Red Cross

“We are a family again.”

Amina smiled as she described how it felt to be reunited with her husband Mohamed after years of being apart.

“The children were always asking about their dad.

“I sometimes didn’t know how to explain our situation to them. It was very difficult. I felt I wasn’t living – I was just existing.”

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“In the UK there is humanity”: how a young man is building hope for the future

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Three teenage boys play Jenga, a game in which they build a tabletop tower out of wooden blocks, at a group for refugees

A Surviving to thriving project group for young refugees © Dan Burwood/British Red Cross

Seventeen-year-old Hama* prefers not to talk about being forced to flee his home country of Iraq.

Instead, his focus is on his new life in the UK.

“Arriving in the UK, I was born again,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier. There is a lot of badness in my country but in the UK there is humanity.”

Hama came to the UK from Calais last year. He was one of the unaccompanied children transferred here when the “Jungle” camp closed.

Arriving in a new and unfamiliar country was a strange and exciting experience for him.

“I saw the cars drive on the opposite side of the road from my country. It was different and a bit strange for me. That was the sign that I knew I’m in England now. I will never forget that moment.”

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