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THE ASYLUM SYSTEM IN THE UK, AND THE WORK OF CARAS by Eleanor Brown (Managing Director - CARAS) Refugees arrive in London from a diverse range of countries and with a whole host of experiences of forced migration behind them. Many have made exceptionally long and difficult journeys overland, forced into hiding and travelling by night, and at the mercy of traffickers and agents who control the routes. Only a few come in via planned routes on resettlement schemes or for family reunion. The vast majority who we see at CARAS are young, alone and at the end of a long and traumatic journey which has seen them cross continents, conflict zones and dangerous seas, surviving to reach safety and begin the slow and often painful task of rebuilding a life. At CARAS, we support refugees and asylum seekers from conflicts in South Sudan, Syria, Kashmir and Palestine; people fleeing political and religious persecution in Eritrea or Iran; and children fleeing forced recruitment into militia including the Taliban in Afghanistan, forced marriage, or FGM. On arrival in England, support is patchy and difficult to access. The type and level of support vary according to the age of the individual: adults receive very little support, currently limited to a weekly stipend, ‘no choice’ accommodation that could be anywhere in the country, and legal aid that covers 5 hours with a solicitor to make an asylum claim. Children arriving and making a claim alone have different provisions made for them. They are looked after under children’s law, rather than being viewed primarily as an asylum seeker. They will be allocated a social worker, and, depending on age, may be housed with a foster carer. Support is very patchy: in London and the south east, and in the big cities, there are a patchwork of small community groups and charities who fill in the gaps in support. Whilst statutory support ensures that people have access to a bare minimum, there are still people who fall through the gaps. Homelessness and destitution are a common outcome for newly recognised refugees who are not given support to find employment or stable housing; English language lessons are not provided for asylum seekers; and, somewhat predictably, mental health care is not offered as part of a standard package of support. In a context of long-term austerity and the decimation of the public sector, coupled with long-running xenophobic narratives, the outcomes for asylum seekers could be desperate. The voluntary sector links together to counter this as best we can, offering things that help people feel fully human again. We aim to run holistic provision which supports people in their social opportunities, health and wellbeing, language and learning, and with support to understand and progress through the current challenges they face. We want to help build a thriving, outward looking, fully inclusive community which is able to welcome refugees and to see potential in everyone. We aim to be a lively centre, full of warmth, welcome and an offer of belonging. We constantly learn from each other, and continue to develop positive responses that stand in contrast to the traumatic experiences of people in their countries of origin, on their journeys, and in the dehumanising and drawn out asylum process in the UK. We would like to have no need to exist, but whilst there are refugees facing isolation, exclusion and marginalisation in our local area we will be here.

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Profile for Border_Crossings

THE PROMISED LAND: Intercultural Learning with Refugees and Migrants  

Project e-book for THE PROMISED LAND - a cross-sectoral project funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union. The book explores...

THE PROMISED LAND: Intercultural Learning with Refugees and Migrants  

Project e-book for THE PROMISED LAND - a cross-sectoral project funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union. The book explores...

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