Settling into a new country can be a challenging experience for many refugees. When you consider the language and cultural barriers, personal trauma, and a combination of racism and stigma associated with the label ‘refugee’, it is easy to understand why this can be so daunting. Fortunately, there are many organisations working in the UK to assist refugees in their integration, offering employment opportunities and safe spaces where they can socialise.
Migrateful began through conversations with refugee women who were struggling to integrate themselves and find work in the UK despite the range of skills they had. What many of these women had in common was that they were fantastic cooks. Now Migrateful empowers refugees to lead their own cooking classes, sharing both their culture and delicious cuisine! So far, 57 refugee chefs have led Migrateful classes, which has widened their social networks, provided a source of income and helped them develop their professional skills.
The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN)
So far, TERN has supported 210 refugee entrepreneurs to start-up and grow their business, and aims to launch 2000 refugee-led businesses by 2025. In giving refugees a helping hand to see their business-plans come to fruition, TERN illustrates the creativity, passion and skill that refugees can offer UK businesses.
TERN has also introduced the Anqa collective, an online marketplace where refugee entrepreneurs can sell their products. At the Anqa Collective you can shop for clothes, food, homemade crafts and experience days, all whilst supporting refugees and small businesses.
Through their personal profile pages, TERN and the Anqa collective give their entrepreneurs the opportunity to share their stories as both refugees and business people.
The Hummingbird Project
The Hummingbird Project, based in Brighton, has been working to support young refugees, empowering them to use their voices as advocates for their own communities. The Global Social Club provides opportunities for young refugees to meet new people in their local areas, and the Homework Club creates a relaxed environment to catch up on education they may have missed as a result of language barriers or whilst fleeing their homes.
The Hummingbird project has also developed a Young Leaders project in which young refugees are trained in public speaking, leadership, and advocacy. This project provides participants with the skills and confidence to speak with members of parliament, journalists and other charities about the refugee experience.
Refugee Council champions the rights of refugees. Their current projects include ending refugee homlessness in London: according to Refugee Council, refugees are not supported properly to find a secure place to live. Currently, it is common for asylum seekers who are fleeing war and persecution to find themselves on the streets. This is because they only have 28 days before they are evicted from asylum accommodation, and then face huge barriers in attempting to access private tenancies. Refugee Council are pressing the Mayoral Office- ahead of this year’s election- to end refugee homelessness in London.
Refugee Council are also part of the Families Together Coalition, made up of over 50 organisations. The current law deprives child refugees of the right to be with their family, unlike the guidance on adult refugees. Tragically, this results in many families being split up. Refugee Council are calling for child refugees to be able to sponsor their parents and siblings under the age of 25; adult refugees to be able to sponsor their parents, their children under the age of 25, and their siblings under the age of 25 and; the reintroduction of legal aid for refugee family reunion.
Refugee Council are also advocating the lifting of the current ban on people seeking asylum from working. They are forced to live on less than £6 a day. Lifting the ban would allow people seeking asylum to contribute to society and begin to lay the foundations for a new life.
Women for Refugee Women
Women for Refugee Women empower women who have sought asylum in the UK, especially those who are seeking refuge from persecution, including rape and torture. Women for Refugee Women states that vulnerable refugee women are subjected to the three D’s: disbelief, detention and destitution. This is especially the case if they are denied asylum. One refugee woman who benefited from the organisation stated that:
“Women for Refugee Women helps me to understand my potential. Coming here allows me to be in my element with people around me who understand what I have been through.”
One project the organisation is working on is called Survivors Behind Bars. Between January 2019 and September 2020, 4102 people who were referred into the UK’s modern slavery framework were locked up in the detention. In 2020 alone, despite a significant reduction in the use of detention due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 969 people with trafficking indicators were detained. Women for Refugee Women aim to put an end to a culture of locking up refugees.
Refugee Action help people who have survived some of the world’s worst regimes. They provide basic support that they need in order for them to live with dignity. After which, Refugee Action helps them build safe, happy and productive lives in the UK. Refugee Action state that their vision is to see refugees and people seeking asylum be welcome in the UK:
“They will get justice, live free of poverty and be able to successfully rebuild their lives.”
One project Refugee Action are working on is to increase funding for english language courses for refugees. They state that often refugees cannot access the english classes they need because of government funding cuts. Learning english is vital for refugees, as it will allow them to feel more comfortable in the community. It is key for finding work, studying and talking to their neighbours. Refugee Action state that politicians say they want everyone in the UK to be able to speak english. They want to see these words turn into action.