“The only difference between them and us is luck” | Spotlight On: Refugees
Updated: Aug 17
WCWD’s Spotlight series shines a light on the issues the UK is facing and presents bitesize, easily digestible facts to help you feel more informed and empowered to make change. These quick reads will direct you to specialist resources and groups for more information, and highlight ways you can get involved to make a difference.
Each week we will be looking at a different topic, kicking off with some key facts on our social media, followed by an article with direct links to ways you can do your bit.
This week we are taking a closer look at refugee issues.
Following our social post highlighting the facts and figures, in this article we direct you to practical ways you can help and support refugees in the UK and abroad.
The refugee ‘crisis’ isn’t over yet. Many refugees continue to die at sea. In January, 11 people, 8 of which were children, drowned in the Aegean. The recent massive explosion at Lebanon has left 135 people dead and 5,000 injured. This occurred during an economic crisis, which pushed many Lebanese and refugees into deep poverty. Floods in Somalia have pushed 650,000 people from their homes in 2020. In a camp hosting 800 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Cameroon, an attack occurred, leaving 18 people dead and 1,500 people to flee.
This is a humanitarian crisis and has led to an increasing number of people fleeing to the UK and other countries for safety and opportunity. However, the hostile and sensational language when discussing these crises contributes to negative attitudes and perceptions of refugees, as well as physical harm (check out @caimproject for information about gender-based violence towards refugees). The truth is that refugees are people like you and me; the only difference is that we’ve been luckier.
What can you do to support refugees?
1. Get Informed
One of the main ways people learn about social issues is through the news, but when it comes to refugees, this can sometimes be problematic.
The UK hosts only 1% of the world’s refugees and forcibly displaced people yet the media favours terms like “crisis”, “invasions” of “illegal” refugees and illustrate their articles with images of people on boats, border control guards and swarms of people. This language fosters negative attitudes of refugees often viewed as “burdening the NHS”, “benefit scroungers” or contradictorily “taking all our jobs”. It is therefore important that we read the news on refugees critically.
We should listen to real refugees to understand their stories. One way to do this is by checking out the Refugee Voices Scotland podcast.
You can also help change the way our media reports on refugees by using Choose Love’s letter template to complain to the BBC and Sky News about recent dehumanising and sensationalist coverage of refugees struggling to cross the channel in dangerous ways.
Understand the real facts and figures from our Spotlight on refugees social post and learn more directly from Refugee Action, Refugee Council, UNHCR , UNICEF and the British Red Cross. Many of these also publish reports on their work which are often free to download. You can read the UNHCR’s 2019 Global Report here.
For specific UK information on education options for refugees, have a look at Refugee Support Network’s information, and check out Refugee Pathways for their work on Academic Scholarships, Family Reunification, Humanitarian Visas and Private Sponsorship for Syrian refugees.
Get Proactive and Campaign For Refugees
Add your name to the open letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel to provide refuge for those risking their lives to come to the UK. There is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker and we need to stop punishing them for trying to search for refuge and safety.
Join the Refugee Council’s Lift the Ban campaign and download their ‘Local Activism Pack’ to help asylum seekers gain the right to work whilst they wait on their refugee claim.
Sign Freedom From Torture’s petition calling the government to increase the weekly asylum allowance which currently sits at less than £37 a week for a single adult.
Sign this petition to allow people to claim asylum at UK border points, to ensure the most at-risk individuals are identified and relocated.
London Must Act’s petition calls on Mayor Sadiq Khan to pledge London's support to refugees and safety from unsafe island camps. London Must Act is part of Europe Must Act’s #citiesmustact campaign, asking cities to support the immediate relocation of asylum seekers on the Greek islands. There are also local branches in Leeds, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cambridge, Hull & East Riding, Manchester, York, Birmingham and Oxford.
Safe Passage’s petition calls on the government to ensure it sticks to its commitment to make reunification a mandatory obligation, and keep reuniting child refugees with their families after Brexit. Never miss a chance to campaign with Safe Passage by signing up here. You can also email your MP and support Amendment NC29 and save child refugees.
Sign the Children's Society's petition demanding that the Education Secretary permanently extend free school meals to low-income migrant families.
What Can We Do To Help Yemen Refugees?
Yemen is suffering the greatest refugee “crisis” at the moment, reeling from a 5 year war. 70% of the population is lacking access to food, safe water and adequate healthcare. This has only worsened during COVID-19 having overwhelmed hospitals.
10.2 million children don’t have access to healthcare in Yemen, 3.76 million Yemenis fled their homes and around 200,000 are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
Check out Care UK for a series of infographics and educational videos on this issue.
Donate to the UNHCR, one of the few on the ground organisations helping in Yemen. £69 will help families access medical care, clean water and safe shelter. £138 can help provide a family with an emergency COVID-19 payment.
£25 to Islamic Relief can give essential hygiene kits to a displaced family.
Support Refugees and Make Connections
It’s important to remember that refugees are people, not just statistics. Part of what we can do is treat them as such and welcome them and recognise their potential. There have been some amazing initiatives aimed at welcoming refugees and making them feel comfortable and less lonely in recent years.
Refugees often face isolation even outside the COVID-19 lockdown. Feel isolated yourself and want to make a connection? Then sign up to TimePeace, a platform connecting refugees and locals to hang out (virtually for now) and make friends. You can even learn a new language from a native speaker with Chatterbox.
Shop and Support Refugees
The British Red Cross’s online shop sells tea towels or tote bags designed by refugees who participated in their art therapy programmes. Help Refugees’ Choose Love online store sells real items that refugees need, from hot meals, nappies, warm clothing and tents through to women’s safe spaces, trauma support and education. You can also buy yourself a stylish t-shirt from the Choose Love charity clothing store, choose from their classic designs or special pride tees.
Love Welcomes sells items made by refugee women living in Greek camps. These include welcome mats, handmade from the life vests and blankets worn by frightened and exhausted refugees as they arrived in Europe.
Using Your Money Wisely
Refugee charities rely on donations to be able to continue their life saving humanitarian work. All of the charities and groups below have been vetted by us so you can be sure your money is going to the right place. Can’t donate yourself but still want to help? Consider running your own fundraiser!
£25 to the Refugee Council will pay for a child refugee to attend a group session, where they have the chance to make new friends!
COVID-19 has exacerbated the risks refugees face in unsafe and unsanitary living conditions, The Help Refugees Coronavirus Emergency Appeal increases their support to medical organisations, providing emergency isolation accommodation for the sick and distributing soap and hand sanitiser.
Donate to Collective Aid’s ‘No Events=No Tents’ campaign to raise £30,000 to buy tents and sleeping bags for Calais. With no festivals taking place this year refugee camps are struggling to find tents to house and protect refugees this winter. By donating £30, you could provide warmth for 4 displaced people this winter season.
The British Red Cross allows you to buy a phone and mobile data for refugees for £47.50.
Donate to The Baytree Centre to help refugee girls into school through their Into School programme. £19 will ensure a refugee / migrant woman or girl receives twice weekly online English classes. Read more about them and their work in The Baytree Centre | Voices of Change blog.
The Children’s Society helps refugee children find accommodation, overcome language barriers and rebuild their lives. £10 starts a child’s journey to recovery by paying for 3 support sessions.
Give Your Time
Volunteers are an intrinsic part of charities and organisations working to support refugees. It also gives you an opportunity to see first hand what is happening, gain some valuable insights and directly change lives.
Become a mentor with the Refugee Support Network and help support a young refugee in the UK.
Volunteer for Refugee Council and befriend refugees or give English language lessons.
Help a refugee build their skills to enable them to find a job in the UK by volunteering with Breaking Barriers. You can also donate £10 and help a refugee attend an employability workshop with Breaking Barriers.
Many local areas in the UK have set up their own Refugees Welcome charities in support of Syrian refugees and are always looking for volunteers. These Include: Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees, Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees, Bath Welcomes Refugees, and Hammersmith and Fulham.
If you would like to add anything or have something to say then do contact us, we love to hear from you.
A special thank you to Anabel Lee, Medani Amina Imtiaz and Anaïs Richmond for contributing to this blog and to Emily Hodson for editing.
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