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.

Why Bosnia urgently needs our help before winter

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In Bosnia, a group of men, who are migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from other countries, stand in a line to enter a Red Cross tent.

When we think of Europe’s refugee crisis, it’s easy to conjure up images of camps in Greece or Northern France. But Bosnia and Herzegovina is grappling with its own migrant crisis that very few people are talking about.

With other countries imposing stricter border controls, Bosnia is now one of the last hopes for refugees and migrants wanting to enter the EU. As a result, more than 23,000 people are thought to have arrived here since the beginning of the year.

Having just spent two weeks in Bosnia’s Una-Sana Canton region, I have seen first-hand the conditions that refugees and migrants living here are facing. Each day I witnessed something more shocking than the last.

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Why a lack of support is putting the most vulnerable at risk of trafficking  

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A young woman, who could be a survivor of trafficking and modern slavery, sits alone on a staircase outside a building.

Most people know the British Red Cross as an international aid organisation, supporting people across the globe affected by poverty, drought, tsunamis or hurricanes. What few people realise is that we also support victims of trafficking and modern slavery in the UK.

This largely involves providing people with clothing, food and emotional support immediately after they leave exploitation. But over the past year we have also been testing a model of long-term support to counteract the lack of government support available to survivors of trafficking.

Until recently, once someone is recognised by the Home Office as having been trafficked, they were entitled to only 45 days of basic accommodation and financial aid. After this period all support stops, but we know that survivors are still a long way from recovery.

Through our front-line work we see the affect that this lack of support has on people. It can leave them facing poverty, struggling to cope with complex mental health needs and – most worryingly – at risk of falling back into the hands of their traffickers.

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Dreams and hard work: refugee journalists share their stories

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Ahmad accepts his Scottish Refugee Journalism award.

Ahmad accepting his award, © Paul Chappells/British Red Cross

A life lived without a voice is like a bird without wings.

            – Mada, VOICES Ambassador, Glasgow

Refugees know better than anyone what issues they face. Recently, the Refugee Festival Scotland Media Awards gave refugees the chance to celebrate their own experiences in their own words.

Many were members of the VOICES Network, a British Red Cross project that helps refugees speak out for change.

Here are some of their stories.

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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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