Refugee Council: A look through the archives - Refugee Council

Refugee Council: A look through the archives

The Refugee Council has proudly been supporting refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK since 1951. For as long as we are needed we will help refugees to find protection and rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. Take a look back at our work through the decades.

1951 - A global commitment to protect refugees

Founding minutes of the Executive Committee

A momentous occasion - the Refugee Convention was signed in Geneva, setting out the rights that should be afforded to refugees.

In the same year, two charities were formed to support refugees in the UK that would later merge to become the Refugee Council.


The children of five families playing in the garden of their accommodation in Hitchin

In the 1950s we supported 2,000 east and central European refugees and a further 17,000 from Hungary alone.

A residential home was set up in 1957 for older refugees, many of whom were Holocaust survivors.


The "W" family in their Steyning flat

In the 1960s we supported over 900 refugees from Czechslovakia.


Vietnamese refugees learning to use English money at the market

In the 1970s we supported 5,619 refugees from Vietnam and South East Asia and a further 2,000 refugees from 48 other countries across the globe.

Following a coup in Chile, we started supporting more refugees from Latin America.


Refugees taking adult education classes in the English language

Lord Alf Dubs, one of the first child refugees of the famous Kindertransport, became Chief Executive in 1988. He is now a patron of the Refugee Council and remains an avid and vocal supporter of refugees.

Issues around admission policies, detention and removal of Tamil and Kurdish people seeking asylum played a significant part in the decision to strengthen our advocacy work.

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People seeking asylum at a Refugee Council night shelter

In 1993, the Refugee Council and the British Red Cross set up a programme to receive and settle Bosnian refugees.

In 1994, we started the only national service working to improve the lives of unaccompanied child refugees in the UK.


People seeking asylum use computers to access information

We responded to the Government's decision to disperse people seeking asylum across the country by extending our services to locations such as Birmingham and Leeds.

The Government introduced a new programme to resettle refugees called the Gateway Protection Programme. We helped a group of Liberian refugees settle into their new homes in Sheffield through the programme.


Sam, a refugee from Syria, takes part in the Starbucks employment programme

We successfully called on the Government to launch a life-changing resettlement programme for Syrians.

We helped win a case at the High Court that stopped unaccompanied children having their age judged based on appearance alone.


A refugee helps his neighbors with shopping during Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the world, imposing greater challenges on refugees. We quickly adapted our services to meet social distancing restrictions.

We called on the Government to increase financial support to people seeking asylum in line with an increase made to Universal Credit.

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The Refugee Council has proudly supported refugees since 1951. Help us meet the continuing and changing needs of refugees by making a monthly gift.

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