For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25 v 35, 36 (NIV)
Following the meeting on 16th October 2016, when Thangam Debbonaire gave us her account of the situation for refugees and asylum seekers in Bristol, and the subsequent meeting held in January, a small group has been meeting to explore what Redland’s response might be.
A number of groups work in Bristol to support refugees including Bristol Refugee Rights, Borderlands, Bristol Hospitality Network and b.friend. They work with and support the work of one another. Any of these groups would be grateful for help and financial support, though many have enough volunteers. Look at their websites (listed on the back page) for current needs.
Bristol Hospitality Network’s main brief is to provide accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees. Redland members already have links with them.
“I have had contact with this project since its earliest days and the growth is AMAZING! I think it is better for our church family to support a growing, established and knowledgeable project which has made, and continues to make, the complicated network links which help their clients through our immigration systems. No shame in providing regular income to them if that is what they most need. Redland individuals who want to volunteer or provide accommodation can then do so independently with the backing of the church.” Joanna Bacon.
The following is a summary of BHN’s work and support needs in their own words.
“BHN extends solidarity to people seeking asylum and experiencing destitution through accommodation and community involvement. BHN provides full board accommodation in host households or in its large house for men in Bristol and community volunteering opportunities and catering social enterprise (to raise funds) in solidarity with both male and female asylum seekers. We don’t accommodate children or families with children as the local authority has a duty to care for them. We urgently need cash donations (preferably by regular standing order) for our solidarity fund, meals at our Monday Welcome Centre, bills for our men’s house etc.
Once a refugee has been refused asylum (which normally happens when they first apply) their benefits cease and they are not allowed to work. The Red Cross provides £10 a week as emergency support for a number of months while more information is obtained from the asylum seekers own country to support their appeal for asylum. After that they are destitute. BHN tries to continue the £10 until asylum is granted. There is an opportunity for individuals to sponsor a destitute asylum seeker by giving £10 per week and at the same time praying for them.
There are three specific ways that you can get involved through BHN:
- Once the £10 per week from the Red Cross comes to an end, could you help one asylum seeker by donating £10 a week and at the same time pray for them.
- In Bristol, asylum seekers need to regularly report to the police station in Patchway. There are also dropins, language courses and help in preparation for employment, once the right to remain has been granted. To help in this, BHN when they have the funds, give destitute asylum seekers bus passes. A bus pass costs £66 per month.
- You could host a destitute asylum seeker or contribute to the cost of someone else hosting.
More information can be found on the BHN website bhn.org.uk