Diocese of Portsmouth

Asylum Seekers and Refugees
Refugees are often fleeing from conflict in their home country

Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Asylum seekers and refugees are amongst the most marginalised and unfairly vilified people in our society. They are sometimes confused with people who are economic migrants but they are not the same.

Everyone has the right to claim asylum in another country. They may be fleeing conflict or political oppression. While their application is being heard, they may be given some basic accommodation. If their application is successful, they become a refugee. If their application is denied, they may lose their accommodation, and will be unable to work or claim benefits, even if they are appealing against the decision.

There are a number of local and national organisations dealing with refugees and asylum seekers, such as:

British Red Cross

If you are a refugee, asylum seeker or vulnerable migrant in Portsmouth, the British Red Cross may be able to help you, including international assistance to find lost family members. Visit their website, the drop-in at All Saints Church, Commercial Road, PO1 4BT, or call 023 9289 4215. You will be given a dignified welcome and practical support.

Friends Without Borders

The charity Friends Without Borders holds a drop-in for asylum seekers and refugees at All Saints Church, Commercial Road, Portsmouth. (023 9282 7300). It offers food, clothing and some legal advice which can make a real difference, especially for those who don’t speak English well.

Rural Refugee Network

The Rural Refugee Network was created by churchgoers and others in Hampshire to respond to the need to find private homes for refugees from Syria. The government had committed the UK to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement programme. This charity not only provided homes, but also a friendly welcome, some furniture and English lessons for these families.

Refugee Action

Refugee Action, local branch of the national organisations. Details of their offices can be found here.

Afghanistan crisis

Having seen the desperate plight of those trying to leave Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover, you may be keen to find ways to help. Huge numbers of refugees have left the country over the past few weeks, and there may be thousands more over the coming years. Only a small fraction of them will end up in the UK, but our call as God’s people is to welcome the stranger. The national Church of England has put together a ‘toolkit’, which describes the situation and offers practical ways to help. You can read that here

You may also be interested in supporting some local organisations that can specifically help Afghan refugees and asylum seekers who settle in this area. Here’s a list of ways in which you can do so:

  1. Diocesan Fund for Asylum Seekers and Refugees: We are creating a fund to help those who can refugees and asylum seekers within our diocese, working with partner organisations such as the Rural Refugee NetworkHope into ActionFriends Without Borders and the British Red Cross – the latter two jointly run a drop-in centre in All Saints Church, Portsmouth, for asylum seekers and refugees. These organisations have vast experience in helping people practically, emotionally and legally. We’ll work with them to get any funds you raise to the right place, specifically to help in areas such as housing for Afghans who are seeking to resettle in this area.
    If your parish would like to make donations to this fund, can your PCC treasurer collect donations and funds raised and then make one payment (ideally by BACS bank transfer) to the Diocesan Board of Finance account, labelled specifically as 'Fund for Asylum Seekers and Refugees'.
  2. Direct support: Your parish is, of course, very welcome to make direct payments to the Rural Refugee Network, Hope into Action, Friends Without Borders and the British Red Cross without going through the diocesan fund. Many national organisations are also raising funds, including OxfamSave the Children and Christian Aid.
  3. Donations of goods: Your congregations may wish to collect specific household items that will help those people who are offered accommodation in Hampshire. Community First in Hampshire are asking for donations including nappies, coats, clothing, underwear, blankets, adults shoes, mobile phone chargers and new or refurbished laptops to help families keep in touch with loved ones. More details are here.
  4. Foster carers: those children who are unaccompanied refugees and asylum seekers may need carers to foster them. If you are in a position to help, do contact your local authority foster team, in HampshirePortsmouth and the Isle of Wight.
  5. Become informed: these issues are complex, and there is often understandable confusion, even in our church congregations, about why and how support is given to those who arrive in the UK from other countries. Use the material in the Church of England toolkit to share key facts and theological reasons for being involved, check out the government website and the Portsmouth City of Sanctuary website for information. Do consider whether your congregation can campaign on these issues, using some of the resources available.
  6. Pray: you will, of course, already have been praying for the situation in Afghanistan, and for the safety of all those at risk. Do continue to use the prayer resources available from organisations such as Christian AidOpen Doors and the Church of England in your worship services, prayer meetings and private devotions.

For more information do contact please do contact Nick Ralph, Head of Mission and Social Transformation, or Jenny Hollingsworth, Head of Resources and Strategic Implementation.