Refugees and Asylum Seekers
65 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, the UN estimates that 86% of those people are sheltered by developing countries. How can we play our part?
Birmingham has received asylum seekers through Government dispersal since 1999. The refugee crisis in mainland Europe heightened concern about people fleeing persecution and seeking sanctuary in other countries. Refugees have often experienced loss and trauma and yearn for inclusion and support from their new host community.
The Facts and Analysis
Approximately 65 million people in the world have been forced to flee from their homes. The UN's Refugee Agency estimates that 86% of the world's refugees are sheltered by developing countries, often the countries bordering those of conflict. Comparatively few people are able to make it to Britain in their search for safety. In 2016 over 1.2 million people sought sanctuary in Europe, around double the number who had asked for protection in 2014. Britain received just 38,878 asylum applications, including dependants. We are ranked 17th in Europe in terms of asylum applications per head of population.
World events often correlate directly with asylum applications. On-going conflict in the Middle East and South Sudan and people fleeing tyranny in Eritrea led to rises in applications from those nationalities. The top 5 nationalities applying for asylum in Britain last year were: Eritrea, Iranian, Sudanese, Syrian and Pakistani.
The picture of Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian child washed up on a Turkish beach last September, stirred many hearts and led to a public outpouring of goodwill. Our Government has promised to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. That is 4,000 a year. There are 4.7 million Syrian refugees. Citizens of Birmingham lobbied the City Council following the Government's commitment to resettlement and the Council agreed to receive 50 Syrians in the first year. These families have arrived and are settling into their communities through the help of organisations like Refugee Action, Spring Housing, Amirah Foundation and Restore. The Council has further pledged to receive another 100 in the next year.
Alongside this action, Community Sponsorship is being explored nationally. The Birmingham Methodist District may pilot the welcoming of a Syrian family into our city through Community Sponsorship if the Council and Home Office give approval.
Birmingham has long received asylum seekers into the city as Asylum Dispersal was initiated in 1999. The Initial Accommodation hostel for newly arrived asylum seekers in the West Midlands is located close to Birmingham city centre. People are accommodated in this hostel for a few weeks before being placed in shared houses procured by G4S, which has the Home Office contract to provide welfare for asylum seekers. Some of the new arrivals will stay in Birmingham, others are sent to cities in the West Midlands or beyond. They receive £36 per week, are not allowed to work or attend language classes for the first 6 months and follow the process of applying for asylum.
The key reasons for referral of asylum seekers to Restore at this stage are 'loneliness and depression', 'need for social interaction and English language practice'.
Befriending support can make a big difference as volunteers come alongside refugees and asylum seekers listening, signposting to local services, offering recreational activity and helping with conversational English.
We would like to encourage everyone to get involved in some small way with supporting Asylum Seekers and Refugees in our communities. We have highlighted four different ways in which you might be able to get involved.
One of the most important things we can be doing is praying. We suggest that you pray for our nation for a generosity of spirit in welcoming people who have suffered loss and need to rebuild their lives, as well as most importantly praying for those who come, that they will find safety, support and friendship.
There are several different charities that we can recommend you get involved with if you are interested in supporting Asylum Seekers and Refugees in our city.
- Restore - This great charity, which our circuit supports and is a charity created by Churches Together Birmingham, is a great place to offer support. Restore is always looking for more people to befriend people. You can find them online here, or you can get in touch via email or give them a call on
- St Chad's Sanctuary - Another great place to offer support, St Chad's Sanctuary is on the look out for volunteers to help teach English, help with their drop in, or help with sorting out donations.
If you don't have much time to offer as a volunteer, perhaps finance is a way you might like to help. We recommend the following charities to support with your money if you would like to give.
- Restore - Financial support goes towards the costs of social activities for lone asylum seeker men and women.
- St Chad's Sanctuary - Helps them support those who come and for providing clothing.
- Hope Projects - Supports this charity as they respond to destitution of asylum seekers.
If you would like to get involved in campaigning around refugees, Christian Aid's - 'Change the Story' has a new focus on refugees.