It’s been a busy and challenging year for the Refugee Council. We welcomed our new Chief Executive Maurice Wren in March in the midst of austerity cuts and an increasingly hostile environment. Here, we reflect on our achievements and impact.
In the last financial year (April 2012-March 2013) we provided:
- Approximately 50,000 advice and support sessions for adult asylum seekers.
- Over 4,000 advice sessions for unaccompanied children, and on their behalf with official agencies and foster carers.
- A welcoming drop in at our London day centres to over 500 destitute clients, providing them with emergency provisions and advice.
- Support to 40 refugee doctors in their journey to re-qualify in the UK. So far, 21 have gone on to become paid doctors.
- A range of employment support activities to approximately 120 people, 25 of whom have so far secured sustainable employment.
- Intensive emotional and practical support to more than 30 women who were victims of trafficking.
- Over 2,400 therapeutic counselling sessions.
- More than 140 clients with specialist housing information, advice and guidance.
- Support to over 300 people struggling to access healthcare services. This included 275 clients being befriended by our team of brilliant volunteers.
We’ve been able to change people’s lives for good, on a daily basis, but we’ve also campaigned for changes which will bring longer term improvements for asylum seekers and refugees.
In the last calendar year we:
- Supported the Women’s Asylum Charter’s Missed Out Campaign which highlighted the lack of provision for women seeking asylum in the Government’s strategy for dealing with violence against women in the UK. We asked for a series of commitments from Government and got them all. Now more resources have been committed to women and asylum than ever before.
- Achieved a fantastic campaign victory when the European Court of Justice ruled that children should not be returned to other EU countries where they had first claimed asylum if it was deemed not to be in their best interests.
- Launched a special campaign, Dignity in Pregnancy, in partnership with Maternity Action to address the inhumane treatment of pregnant women and new mothers in the asylum support system. Over 1,300 people contacted more than 400 MPs about the issue. The Home Office have agreed to write new guidelines to address the problems raised by our campaign in consultation with health practitioners, one of our key recommendations. Campaign success!
- Published a report with The Children’s Society, Still at Risk, which highlighted that child victims of trafficking were still not receiving the right support. Together, we called for all children to have legal guardians appointed to safeguard their best interests. The Government is considering these proposals as it seeks to bring in a new Modern Slavery Bill.
- Continued to see our recommendations and evidence taken on board by key people. The influential Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on Asylum, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’s report into Unaccompanied Children and the Joint Committee for Human Rights’ report into the human rights of unaccompanied migrant children in the UK all reflected our key policy recommendations.
- Produced additional research reports, including A Lot to Learn which examined refugees’ and asylum seekers’ experiences of accessing post-16 education
- Called on the UK Government to offer resettlement places to the most vulnerable people fleeing the Syrian conflict. 16 countries have so far signed up to offer resettlement places but sadly, the UK isn’t one of them. If you haven’t already, please write to your MP today and ask them to support our campaign.
- Continued to raise awareness of the issues facing asylum seekers and refugees with the general public, often through significant media coverage. This included the long anticipated release of Leave to Remain, a film about unaccompanied children seeking asylum which we worked with producers on, running workshops and sessions which enabled our young clients to help in its production. We also worked in partnership with Suitcase 1938, a site specific theatre production which brought the story of the Kindertransport to station concourses across the UK.
We’re proud of what we’ve achieved, but this is no time to rest on our laurels. We must raise our game, focus our attention and energy on what matters most to asylum seekers and refugees in the UK and prioritise activities which really make a difference to their lives.
We’ve begun that process by recently refreshing our vision, aims and objectives.