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Stories of Welcome

We are all children of God (1 John 3:1) no matter where we are from. We are all children of God no matter how we got here. We love one another as God loves us. (John 13: 34-35).

This Refugee Week 2022 we want to tell different stories. Stories of welcome. We want to tell the stories of church communities across London and east Surrey welcoming refugees, migrants and asylum seekers from all over the world.

Stories of Welcome from our Church Communities

Throughout Refugee week we will have video stories of church communities across London and east Surrey welcoming refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.

Video 1 – Stories of Welcome (Compilation video)

Compilation video of stories of welcome from four church communities across London and east Surrey welcoming refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. Featuring:-

  • Welcoming families from Afghanistan at St Paul’s Marylebone
  • Hosting asylum seekers through the Jesuit Refugee Service ‘At Home’ project at St Mary of the Angels, Bayswater
  • Supporting asylum seekers in hotels at the Croydon Refugee Day Centre
  • Supporting asylum seekers from the LGBTQI+ community at St James’s Piccadilly

Video 2 – Afghan Welcome – St Paul’s, Marylebone

The Revd Clare Dowding and the Revd Donna McDowell of St Paul’s, Marylebone talk to us about welcoming families from Afghanistan.

Video 3 – Hosting asylum seekers – St Mary of the Angels, Bayswater

Fr Keith Baltrop, Parish Priest of St Mary of the Angels, Paddington talks to us about hosting asylum seekers through the Jesuit Refugee Service UK’s ‘At Home’ hosting project.

Video 4 – Supporting asylum seekers in hotels – Croydon Refugee Day Centre

The Revd Linda Fox talks to us about providing clothing and other necessities to people in Home Office accommodation with the Croydon Refugee Day Centre

Video 5- Supporting the LGBTQI+ community – St James’s Piccadilly

 

Stories of Welcome

Please downoad the  “Stories of Welcome” pdf brochure, containing eight stories from church communities across London and east Surrey welcoming refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.

To find out more about the organisations and schemes mentioned in this brochure, please follow the links below:

New infographic - UK Pathways to protection

Take a look at our new infographic which will help us understand current UK resettlement pathways, and how our church communities are supporting refugees, migrants and asylum seekers within this system.

Please click on the image below to view the the infographic, and then click again to zoom in further.

Pathways to Protection

Church communities creating stories of welcome, Refugee Week 2022

 

 

How can I help refugees?

Those forced to leave their own countries because of war or persecution need support to settle into their new lives. Find advice and practical resources for churches and individuals below.

You can find information on:

  • promoting the integration of refugees and asylum seekers
  • finding ways of helping victims of modern slavery
  • working in partnership with other organisations seeking to combat the poverty experienced by vulnerable migrants
  • helping those who are involved in welcoming and reaching out to people in need,

You can also read our blog “Loving the Stranger” remembering Holocaust Day and some practical ways to help.

How we help

Ukraine response

We are all saddened by the ongoing war in Ukraine. More than 7 million people are now displaced and 6 million have left the country. At the time of writing, nearly 100,000 people from Ukraine have arrived in the UK.

There are a number of ways that you can help, and there is more detail about these in the sections below.

Hosting

Individuals and organisations can offer Homes for Ukraine. If you have a spare room or separate accommodation that you are prepared to offer for a minimum of 6 months, you can sign up to host a refugee individual or family. You will need to identify someone you want to host (more on that below), and go through some safeguarding checks and have a visit from the Council, and you will receive a monthly thank you payment of £350 to cover expenses, which is non-taxable, and won’t affect your council tax or benefits. The Ukrainian(s) you host will have full access to benefits (except housing benefit), jobs, healthcare, schools and other public services.

If you know someone you want to sponsor, you can make an application. This is where to find Frequently Asked Questions about the scheme.

If you want to find someone to sponsor, you can sign up to Reset’s matching portal. Please do not use informal processes such as Facebook to find someone to sponsor as this could play into the hands of people traffickers. Always use a reputable charity, unless you are sponsoring contacts of people you know and trust.

If you know of people in Ukraine seeking sponsors in the UK, please encourage them to sign up using this form. It is linked from the official Homes for Ukraine website and is run by Reset which is partly-funded by the Government.

If you are a member of the clergy in tied accommodation who wants to host a refugee, or you are seeking to host in a property owned by a church or by the Diocese, please speak to your Archdeacon in the first instance and contact Nicola Thomas with any questions. Further guidance is found here: Clergy guidance on hosting refugees

More information on hosting, including a short interview with someone who has previously hosted in her home, is available on this recorded information event from 24 March 2022).

Information for Ukrainian arrivals

The Government has published a Welcome Guide in English, Ukrainian and Russian. This covers practical issues like how to open a bank account, and apply for Universal credit. There are also some helpful resources in Ukrainian available on the British Red Cross website.

There is further information in the Church of England’s Parish Toolkit on the War in Ukraine: responding webpage.  Download the toolkit

Other information

If you have any concerns about someone you know from Ukraine, please do visit Stop the Traffik’s Stay Safe in the UK toolkit which is also available in Ukrainian and Russian.

Donate Money

Unless you have specific contacts in a place, it is usually better to donate money rather than items as the money can be used for whatever is most needed and avoids sending unnecessary items into an already chaotic situation.

The first place to donate is the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal: DEC brings together 15 member charities including Christian Aid in response to humanitarian crises. Your gift will help to provide food, bedding and temporary accommodation for people who have fled the conflict in Ukraine. In addition, the Archbishop of Canterbury is encouraging us to donate money  to the Ukraine Emergency Appeal in which the Diocese of Europe is a partner.  This will support the front line work of chaplaincies across Europe as well as Christian humanitarian work in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

Stand in solidarity with ALL refugees

There are many refugees in the UK and around the world from other conflicts, and it is important that we do not forget them in the new horrors in Ukraine.  You can already offer to host someone in your own home or sponsor a refugee family. There is information in my previous blog about welcoming those who arrived in the summer from Afghanistan and about welcoming refugees, including the Nationality and Borders Bill.

Welcome is for everyone. Our hearts cry out against the injustice of racism on the Ukraine border. First and foremost, we are all children of God and we are all equal in the sight of God.  We speak out against prejudice of any kind whenever we encounter it.

Pray

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, Russia and Eastern Europe who are living through a war that they don’t want, fleeing violence, and working to support victims.

God of strength and peace,
send your blessing on the people of Ukraine.
Sustain them in their struggles,
hold them in their fear,
protect them from all danger
and be for them the hope they desire;
for Jesus Christ’s sake.
Amen.

 

Very Rev Andrew Nunn
Dean of Southwark Cathedral

Supporting asylum seekers

We have put together a list of resources for supporting asylum seekers in the Diocese of Southwark

Afghan Welcome

Imagine living in a hotel room in a strange country with your partner and children, not knowing how long you’ll be there, not understanding the language and struggling to help your children attend school. That is the situation in which many Afghan families find themselves at the moment in the UK. Read more on our blog

Hong Kong Welcome

In summer 2020, in response to the changing political situation in Hong Kong, the British Government created a new visa route for those who registered before 1997 as British Nationals Overseas in Hong Kong, but now want to come and live in the UK. The new route opened in January 2021. Those arriving might be highly skilled and some will speak good English, but they will still need help settling into the UK. Helping people settle in doesn’t need special skills: it could be as simple as showing them how to use the local transport system, or where to buy school uniform. Even if you are housebound or shielding, you can offer a friendly phonecall or email to welcome newcomers to the area.

There is lots of information available online at UKHK.org and as a church you can sign up to be ‘Hong Kong ready’ at ukhk.org/church.

Citizenship

  • The JPIC Team investigates ways we can help those in our communities struggling to belong as citizens, whether they were born in the UK or have chosen, or been forced, to settle here.

Resettlement and integration of refugees

  • We promote community sponsorship, supporting parishes working with refugees through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and giving advice.
  • Furthering the commitment as laid down in the motion passed by General Synod in July 2019 to assist refugee and asylum-seeking professionals in finding jobs commensurate with their skills.

Resources

  • Reset is the Government-sponsored charity which offers advice and support to individuals and groups considering community sponsorship to support resettled refugees. They offer training, advice on applications, an application checking service and an advice line for issues that arise post-arrival.
  • There are many wonderful videos available about the impact of community sponsorship in transforming lives.  Here is a short 90 second introduction; there are also many videos available on the Reset website.

Case Study

Reigate Archdeaconry Social Justice Focus (RASJF) have been working with  local authorities to provide some support for refugee families when they arrive in the UK. This started with those from Syria under the resettlement scheme and is now extended to Afghani families.

RASJF have provided a new television as a welcome gift. Everyone agrees that access to television is a great help with improving language skills and gives some insight into our culture. They also reimburse these families for the cost of one year’s wi-fi which enables them to maintain contact with their friends and families.

There have also been occasional requests for other financial help which included paying for a rail season ticket for a young person which enabled them to get to college. RASJF feels it is essential to work with the professionals in local government since they are best placed to access genuine needs.

You can contact them by email

 

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