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Leave a gift in your Will

Asylum is a human right. Help us always provide it. Throughout history, for reasons of war, conflict, disaster and persecution, people have been forced to flee their countries. In 1951 the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was established, giving everyone the right to asylum. We have been offering refugees sanctuary ever since. In the 62 years since the convention was established, the Refugee Council has been committed to supporting refugees. Whilst governments and political agendas change, the need to provide asylum does not.

to seek asylum in the UK. Though we can make sure that anyone who arrives in the UK seeking sanctuary gets the support and care they deserve, so they can start to rebuild their lives in safety.

Update Latest news for our supporters

Leaving us a gift in your Will means that we can continue to be a lifeline for vulnerable refugee men, women and children. You can give them someone they can turn to. Someone they can trust.

To find out more about including the Refugee Council in your Will, We cannot predict the wars, conflicts, oppressive please call 0207 346 1205 or visit regimes or natural disasters that will force people

The Refugee Council PO Box 68614 London E15 9DQ T: 020 7346 1205 E: Registered charity number 1014576

The truth about asylum

October 2013

In good health? p8 Conflict and migration p12 Stories have powerinterview with Tina Gharavi p4


The truth about asylum

Whether advising and supporting individual asylum seekers and refugees, or convincing Government and other authorities of the value of improving refugees’ access to vital services, the Refugee Council transforms lives.

At the Refugee Council we regularly see articles in the press about refugees and asylum seekers that distort the truth and focus upon negative issues. This is not a new phenomenon, and as newspapers are key in shaping the debates about migration, it’s worrying that there tends to be a trend of negative reporting.

This edition of Update provides an insight Xxxxxxxxxx into how we do that, day in and day out, particularly for those whose mental and physical health has been affected by their experience of persecution, or who have been trafficked into the UK. It’s genuinely inspiring work, none of which would be possible without your support.

In August, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford published the findings of their research analysing newspaper articles that included the term ‘asylum seekers’, and found that the most common word associated with it across all newspaper types was ‘failed’. In recent months, we have seen many stories focusing on how ‘immigrants’ get access to public resources such as the NHS and social housing in the lead up to the publication of the Immigration Bill. Many cases do not give a balanced view and imply that asylum seekers get preferential treatment, which is absolutely not the case.

Our vision is of a country that provides a welcoming place of safety for people forced to flee from their home countries because of persecution or human rights abuses. We intend to realise that vision, not only through the support we give to individuals, but also by playing a pivotal role in creating a vibrant, inclusive and influential refugee rights movement in the UK and by strengthening the influence and involvement of refugees in shaping the decisions that affect their lives.

In the lead up to the European elections next year and the general election in 2015, we will continue to tell the truth about asylum, and we hope you will join us by using our booklet ‘Tell it like it is – The truth about asylum’ which is available to download from

We are committed to making this vision a reality and in doing so we draw immense strength and encouragement from your continuing support.

Many cases do not give a balanced view and im ply that asylum seekers get preferential treatm ent, which is absolutely not the case

With very best wishes and thanks,

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive

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A young client 4 2


A friend in need

In good health? Earlier this year, we launched our ‘Dignity in Pregnancy’ campaign calling for changes in the asylum system to ensure that the health of mothers and their babies are not put at risk. Thank you to all of you who wrote to your MP asking them to take action on this issue. As a result, the Home Office are now carefully considering the recommendations of our research report, ‘When Maternity Doesn’t Matter’. They have agreed to re-write their policy of dispersing pregnant women to different parts of the country, which often separates them from their maternity care as well as their friends and family. As part of the process of developing the new policy, the Home Office is consulting with maternity and health professionals, one of the recommendations in our research report.

project funded by the Department of Health’s ‘Health and Social Care Volunteering Fund’ to deliver a volunteer befriending scheme to help refugees and asylum seekers access health and social care services.

However, this July, the Department of Health and the Home Office announced plans to charge migrants for using the UK health system. The proposals include charging for GP services as well as potentially charging for emergency treatment in hospitals.

We know that depriving people of healthcare doesn’t make health problems go away. Restricting access to one part of the health service is simply likely to result in a higher use of more costly emergency provision later on, with potentially devastating consequences for the health and well being of refugees and asylum seekers.

Refugees, as well as those still waiting for a decision on their claim will be exempt, but many refused asylum seekers who are often destitute, unable or too scared to return to their home countries, will be charged. If implemented, the proposals will create further barriers for pregnant asylum seeking women accessing maternity care.

Since I have been [Farid’s] Health Befriender, I have accompanied him to all his appointments

There has been huge demand for Health Befrienders; our clients often find it difficult to register with a GP and get the healthcare they need, even when they are entitled to it. Every time the rules are changed, people are wrongly refused.


Over the last year, Laura has been Farid’s Health Befriender, who fled torture in Afghanistan and claimed asylum in the UK. Laura’s story

She has given me hope to live this world, which has been very cruel to me

our clients often find it difficult to register with a GP and get the healthcare they need, even when they are entitled to it



The Refugee Council responded to the proposals with evidence from our Health Befriending Network. This is a Refugee Council

Laura is a retired GP who has been volunteering as a Health Befriender in London since January 2012. Her role is to enable refugees and asylum seekers to understand their entitlements to health and social care and how to access them. She also helps them to experience less loneliness by making links with local communities. Her work, which is usually on a one-to-one basis, improves the health and well being of those she works with by providing practical and emotional support for refugees with physical and mental health issues.

You can read the full Refugee Council response to the Department of Health’s consultation on charging migrant access to the NHS at healthconsultationresponse

“After fleeing Afghanistan where he was subjected to unspeakable torture, Farid, this multi-talented mountaineer and musician, sought asylum in the UK. Before he was given status he enrolled in college where he was progressing extremely well in his chosen course. He made close friends and was enjoying as near to normal a student’s life as was possible given his circumstances. Unfortunately, just when Farid was beginning to find his feet in the UK, he was mugged. This has a huge impact on his mental health. He attempted suicide and spent time in a psychiatric unit. When he came out, he bore


Refugee Week June 2013 Laura has accompanied Farid to appointments with his GP, to the hospital and to the psychiatrist

little resemblance to the young man who so bravely started a new life here some months earlier. Farid was attacked on two further occasions near his home. Since then, he has been unable to leave the house by himself. He sits with closed curtains and has panic attacks when the doorbell rings. He is terrified of strangers and needs a companion to attend appointments with his GP, at hospital and with his psychiatrist. There have been two more suicide attempts and he is plagued by flashbacks and nightmares. His friends take care of him, although they live some distance from him. Most nights he stays with them, too frightened to stay in his own home. I remember when I met Farid for the first time. I found him extremely anxious and withdrawn and his voice diminished to no more than a faint whisper. Since I have been his Health Befriender, I have accompanied him to all his appointments, including the GP, hospital, psychiatrist and to the council to re-house him nearer his friends. Although he still has a long way to go, in some ways there has been marked improvement. He has no fear of me and has given me his trust (initially he fears strangers). To see him animated and smiling is wonderful. He is showing signs of wanting to get better which is encouraging, as he had no wish to live a year ago.” 6

Feedback from Laura’s client about the support that she has provided him “I am really fortunate to have Laura. She is the most kind and caring person I have ever met in my life. She has given me hope to live in this world, which has been very cruel to me. She listens to me with her whole attention and accepts me as a normal human being. I was so frightened to go to my GP or psychiatrist by myself. Now I have her, she always makes herself available to go with me to my appointments. Now I don’t get panic attacks when I visit them because I have Laura by my side. When she visits me at home and talks to me I feel at peace. We discovered that we both enjoy a particular writer so we spend some time reading his works, which bring back some very happy memories of the time I was healthy and had my parents around me. I also want to thank from the bottom of my heart the staff of the Refugee Council Health Befriending Network that is supporting vulnerable people like me and giving me hope to live. Many people like me would have been in mental health hospitals if we had not had their support. I hope one day I get better and to contribute and give back.” Laura’s and Farid’s names and photos have been changed to protect their identities

Refugee Week (17th – 23rd June) continues to be one of the most important events in our calendar, giving us the opportunity to celebrate the achievements and contributions of refugees to the UK. Here’s what we got up to this year… We kicked off with the Leeds Refugee World Cup! Now in its 6th year, this event brings together refugee communities for a friendly football tournament. 16 teams played in total, and the Kurdish team, Baban FC, won the tournament 4-3 against the Iranian team, Caspian FC. At Celebrating Sanctuary on London’s South Bank, we showcased the craft work of our Therapeutic Casework Unit’s Creative Focus Group. The group uses activities such as Our Therapeutic Casework crochet, sewing, knitting, Unit’s Creative Focus Group embroidery, art and at Celebrating Sanctuary beadwork to encourage women to explore and re-engage with their potential as individuals while they go though the difficult asylum process. Our long serving volunteer, Jade AmoliJackson launched her poetry book, ‘Moving a Country’. The collection of poetry and prose tells the story of her life in Uganda and as a refugee in the UK. Jade’s book has been highly acclaimed and is deeply moving, humorous and intelligent. We also held a RefuTEA party in a shopping centre in Hull! With local performers from Congo, Sierra Leone, China and Kurdistan who

entertained with music and dance. Shoppers were really interested in the backgrounds of the refugees and stories of how they ended up in Hull! Our Children’s Section’s refugee cricket team played a match against the Free Foresters. The young cricketers attend the Refugee Cricket Project, which is jointly run by our Children’s Section and Cricket for Change. We partnered with Bridge + Tunnel Productions to show a screening of Tina Gharavi’s BAFTA nominated film, ‘I am Nasrine’, in London (see feature on page 12), and in Sheffield we screened the brilliant Moving to Mars film about our Gateway project. We concluded the week with a football match at Under Hill Stadium, where over 3,500 people came to watch Mo Farah’s Arsenal Legends team take on Fabrice Muamba’s World Refugee IDP XI. The European Azerbaijan Society hosted the event, making a generous donation to our work. Sports journalist Tom Watt commented “it is for a fantastic cause, we have raised a few bob and perhaps more importantly raised the profile. ‘Refugee’ is a bit of a loaded word in this country for all sorts of reasons, and I think events like today help people understand what the Refugee Council is all about. It was a double success.”

Our Chief Executive collects a generous donation on behalf of the Refugee Council with Fabrice Muamba and Mo Farah 7


Conflict and migration


1 War and conflict continues to be the main reason a person has to flee their home country. We have seen a huge increase on refugee numbers from Syria this year and last, due to the brutal conflict. Last year, in addition to Syria; Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Sudan† had record numbers of citizens having to seek refuge due to violent conflict in their countries. This meant 2012 saw the highest rise in global refugee numbers since 1999. The majority of people having to flee will have to endure life in emergency refugee camps, usually situated on their country’s borders. The small percentage of people who are lucky enough to find passage to countries like the UK, will have to endure a different kind of hardship. With help from data compiled by UNHCR in their Global Trends report, we have highlighted how ongoing conflict has affected migration from these countries in 2012, including statistics on those who have made it to the UK. Unfortunately, conflict will continue to be the main reason why people need to seek sanctuary. History has shown us that. Therefore we must always be there to provide support to those that need it while their countries are being torn apart.

 he top five source countries of refugees in 2012 – UNHCR Global T trends 2012. All refugee data used in this article was taken from the Global Trends report


The countries detailed are the top five countries that sourced the highest number of refugees* in 2012. Each of these countries appears in the list of top ten on-going conflicts that have each caused at least 1,000 violent deaths in 2012**

2 3 1


Conflict Name: Iraqi Insurgency (post U.S. withdrawal) Start of conflict: 2011


Number of Iraqi refugees worldwide in 2012: 746,400 Main country where Iraqi refugees resided in 2012: Syria, 471,418


Number of Iraqi refugees in UK in 2012: 5,752


Conflict Name: Syrian Civil War







Start of conflict: 2011 Number of Syrian refugees worldwide in 2012: 728,500

Conflict Name: Conflict in Afghanistan

Main countries where Syrian refugees resided in 2012: Turkey, 248,466 and Jordan, 238,798

Start of conflict: 1978

Number of Syrian refugees in UK in 2012: 1,713

Main countries where Afghan refugees resided in 2012: Pakistan, 1,637,740 and Iran, 1,027,577


Number of Afghan refugees worldwide in 2012: 2,585,600

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2 3

Number of Afghan refugees in UK in 2012: 9,842



Conflict Name: Inter, Intra and nomadic Sudanese conflicts


Start of conflict: 2009/2011

Start of conflict: 1991

Number of Sudanese refugees worldwide in 2012: 569,200

Number of Somali refugees worldwide in 2012: 1,136,100

Conflict Name: Somali Civil War

Main country where Sudanese refugees resided in 2012: Chad, 306,960

* Those that have been granted refugee status in another country

Main country where Somali refugees resided in 2012: Kenya, 512,069

Number of Sudanese refugees in UK in 2012: 3,748

** A categorisation used by the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme which is recognised by the United Nations

Number of Somali refugees in UK in 2012: 15,132


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Revealed: more support for trafficked children needed Trafficking is a terrible trade that deprives children of their childhood, removes them from their families and subjects them to experiences that no child should be exposed to. Whether trafficked to the UK to work in the sex trade, in cannabis factories or in domestic servitude (including working in restaurants and nail bars), this experience affects every aspect of their health and well being. They often face a long and difficult journey to be allowed to remain safe in the UK to start to rebuild their lives. The Refugee Council has just released the findings of the review, commissioned by the Home Office and delivered in partnership with the Children’s Society. We interviewed a number of trafficked children, local authorities and safeguarding boards. The study shows that, while some progress has been made in recent years, there’s much more to be done to provide adequate support to trafficked children. The complexity of the processes they have to go through, the lack of support and issues finding appropriate accommodation and accessing education all combine to make life even more difficult for children who have been through such traumatic experiences. One of our key recommendations was the appointment of an independent trusted adult to support every trafficked child, who would give a child the practical support they need as well as helping them understand their rights and ensuring that their voice is heard in decisions that affect them. Long delays in Home Office decisionmaking and recent changes to legal aid are making life even more difficult, but the Refugee Council is determined to be there to provide desperately needed support. We started our work with trafficked girls over 10 years ago. Recent referrals have come from countries including Vietnam, Nigeria 10

There is the danger of an assumption that . . . trafficked children . . . are not seen as children in the first instance Professional respondent

and Uganda. The traffickers of two girls in separate cases have recently been arrested and prosecutions are likely to follow. Last year, we also supported three girls to testify against their traffickers – a very difficult experience, but one that has not only helped them move forward, but also sends a message to traffickers that their actions will not go unpunished.

While this work is challenging, the progress of girls we have been working with inspires us to continue. Patience, who we started working with in 2009 has finally received her documents after waiting for nearly a year, and has secured a good job. And Constance, who had never been to school and was barely literate when she was trafficked here, has just received a raft of awards from the college she attends for both effort and attainment, and hopes to go on to study nursing.

My case was from one person to another so I didn’t really know who I’m going to talk to because I didn’t have anyone who really knew my case Josephine

The whole experience with social services looking after me, I didn’t really trust them at all Anne

Recent funding from Comic Relief means that we are also now able to work specifically with trafficked boys. Many of whom are brought from Vietnam to work in cannabis factories and who end up prosecuted for their involvement, despite the fact that they have been trafficked. A recent Court of Appeal ruling has clearly stated that victims of trafficking should not be

Long delays in Hom e Office decisionmaking and recent changes to legal aid are making life even more difficult, but the Refugee Council is determ ined to be there to provide desperately needed support criminalised for offences committed as a result of their trafficking, but this now needs to be implemented consistently. The risk of the boys returning to their traffickers in fear of what might happen to their families if they don’t, is high, so we are working closely with social services and foster carers to ensure that they remain safe. All this is testament to the support of Refugee Council staff and the incredible resilience shown by these remarkable young people.

u You can read the full report on our website at 11

Stories have power – interview with Tina Gharavi During Refugee Week we were lucky to partner with Bridge + Tunnel Productions and screen writer/ director Tina Gharavi ’s film, ‘I Am Nasrine’. The film tells the story of a teenage girl who is arrested for riding on a boy’s motorcycle, and is sexually assaulted in detention. She then flees to north-east England with her brother, where she finds their immigrant lifestyle far harsher than the middle-class existence they had enjoyed in Tehran.

‘I Am Nasrine’ was nominated for Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director or Producer at this year’s BAFTAs

Tina Gharavi, writer and director of ‘I Am Nasrine’

Tina kindly agreed to be interviewed for this edition of Update. When you set out, what did you hope to achieve with the making of the film? I made the film after making a Channel 4 documentary about my return journey to Iran. I wanted to explore the stories of migrant children, third culture kids, neither from the East or the West who were trapped between two cultures: their parents’ culture and the cultures of the places their families had migrated to. I found a new, contemporary context for these stories. These new refugee stories were different to my own experience of exile in the 1970s. In those days, fleeing oppression meant you were welcomed with open arms and congratulated for rejecting oppressive regimes. Today it’s so shockingly different. Migrants were treated with such low regard, despite the incredible journeys they had taken to reach to the UK. I wanted to humanise these stories for a wide audience. Why do you think it is important to tell refugees’ stories? It’s incredibly important to be able to tell one’s 12

story and to see your story reflected in society. Especially in a world where most of the stories we hear are about white heroes or champions. If people don’t encounter stories similar to their own projected, the trauma continues. We need stories to survive. I am passionate about empowering people to tell their stories; stories have power and power value; stories are political. While working with the participants who collaborated on the film (Gharavi worked over a period of 8 years with a group of refugees and asylum seekers to devise the film) I spent time training them to make and share their own films and use the cameras to tell their stories. It was one day when one of the participants said, “doing this saved my life” that I realised we tell stories to save our lives and to heal. What would you hope people who watch ‘I Am Nasrine’ think and feel, once they have seen it? A number of people told me that they cried at the end of the movie. To be moved by what you see is a tremendous thing to achieve as

a filmmaker; this is what I hoped people feel: empathy for the character, a sense of the tragedy and a chance to see another viewpoint. How do you think the current UK government’s and the media’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers will affect their experience settling in the UK? Even as someone who is secure in my status and with a UK passport, I am so hurt by the current messages that the UK government are brandishing. They are really saying “you’re not British. Go home”. It seems as if we have returned to the time of Enoch Powell. It’s offensive. If I was a recent migrant today, I would be terrified and insecure. How would I expect to build a life in this environment? Immigration control should not be about bullying or creating fear. What more could we all do as a community to make the UK a safe place to seek sanctuary? Offer a cup of tea! We need to tell stories and hear more (refugee) stories and have the opportunity to share them. We are all

ambassadors (perhaps an unfair burden) but we too need to reach out and share. The wider community should also challenge the xenophobic media. It is unacceptable in a modern democracy to have newspapers scaremonger, inciting racial hatred, and passing off incorrect information as news to sell papers. Why should the good British people accept this? Their xenophobic coverage is not acceptable, morally nor legally. I am surprised it has gone on so long, unchallenged. What projects will you be involved in next? I am involved in a new feature documentary on the privatisation of prisons in the UK. I am also making a gangster film with a larger budget! Both will be a challenge in different ways.

u ‘I Am Nasrine’ will be showing at various venues in the UK. To find out where, visit: 13

Supporter spotlight

Get active and get involved!

Update on our Syria appeal

Ann Stieglitz’s BIG birthday

This summer you may have received our Syria appeal, which told Hassan’s story and how he was arrested for demonstrating against the regime at home in Syria, and how after he fled to the UK to seek asylum, he was imprisoned again and ignored by officials.

For Ann Stieglitz’s BIG birthday this year, instead of having a traditional birthday celebration, she generously decided to collect donations for our work in place of birthday presents.

In June this year, two of our supporters, Paul and Christa, took on the challenge of the London Nightrider to fundraise for us. Not only did they cycle a 100K loop around London by night, but they also did it all on a tandem bike! They raised a massive £695 for our work – thank you both!

Thanks for all you do on our behalf Sadly, as you will have heard from the news, the conflict in Syria is showing no signs of abating, and more and more people are fleeing for their lives. Our Syria appeal has seen a fantastic response from our supporters so far, with over 1,600 donations made to the appeal and more than £78,000 raised in total!

I am happy to send you this £80. Thank you for all the hope you bring

Thank you to all those who have listened to Hassan’s story and donated to help Syrian refugees find somewhere to turn.

Thank you for all you do at the Refugee Council. May Hassan thrive and find happiness


“The work of the Refugee Council echoed with me, especially as my parents were refugees from Nazi Germany.

Upcoming challenges:

11 JAN 2014 BUPA Great Winter Run Edinburgh, Scotland

Ann Stiegtlitz

I am well aware of the situation of asylum seekers and refugees today, and the sorry situation about Britain’s lack of compassion. Where Britain was once known throughout the world as taking in asylum seekers and refugees, this is no longer the case and I am furious about it. This is why I have chosen the Refugee Council and hope to support it again in the future. Good luck with your difficult and marvellous work!” Ann exceeded her fundraising target and raised over £500 for our work! Thank you, Ann, and happy birthday from the Refugee Council!

Paul and Christa’s Nightrider challenge

If you missed out on the London Nightrider this year, browse our upcoming cycling challenges using our search filter at Or why not create your own fundraising event? You could organise a quiz night, set yourself a distance to swim, or get your friends and family together for a slice of cake and a cuppa and raise funds through a RefuTEA. Just order your RefuTEA host pack at

06 MAY 2014 Cycle Land’s End to John O’Groats Land’s End

10 MAY 2014 Just Walk

If you haven’t yet donated to the Syria appeal, you can still donate online at or call us on 020 7346 1205

To find out more about fundraising for the Refugee Council, or if you’d like some guidance for your own fundraising event, get in touch by emailing or call us on 020 7346 1205

Goodwood Racecourse, West Sussex

You can also get involved by following us on Twitter at @refugeecouncil and liking us on Facebook at


Update newsletter october 2013  
Update newsletter october 2013