The London Churches Refugee Fund raises money to give small grants to organisations assisting destitute refugees and asylum-seekers.
There is one animal that I envy so much in this country, and it’s the pet dog. When I see people with pet dogs and see how they are taken care of in homes, fed and everything, I compare myself with them and cannot measure up. I lose hope in living. I envy the dog.”
(Genuine quote from a refugee)
R is a Zimbabwean refugee in her 50s. She came to the Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers after a negative decision from the Home Office; she was destitute and had experienced abuse. SDCAS helped her with food parcels, hardship money and transport costs, and arranged referrals to CAB and Praxis. Praxis were able to find her temporary accommodation and made a Section 4 application for R which led to her dispersal. Staff at the Centre helped ensure she would not be isolated in her new location.
B is Kurdish, which was enough for her to be stopped, arrested and tortured by the Turkish police. She escaped to the UK, and claimed asylum. She told staff at the Islington Centre, where she is learning English, that she rotates between friends’ houses where she sleeps on the floor or sofa and has no money for food, travel or toiletries. The Islington Centre helped her apply to the National Asylum Support Service and get to the interview location. She was awarded NASS support in the form of £35 a week by Azure card, so she can now at least buy necessities, but she still struggles to find money for transport.
O came to the UK in 2005, aged just 17, escaping his home country after being detained and tortured in prison for six months for participating in protests. The Home Office did not believe that he was a child or a survivor of torture. O appealed against the rejection of his claim for asylum, but when his lawyer failed to attend the court hearing he was forced to present his case alone. Two weeks later his appeal was dismissed, his accommodation and financial support were terminated, and he was left destitute.
O initially stayed with friends, or in his local mosque, but at times he had to sleep on the streets or on night buses, relying on community organisations and the mosque for food, or going hungry for two or three days. In 2009 O was referred to Freedom from Torture for trauma therapy. After years of refusals, in 2011 his appeal finally succeeded. Three months later he was granted permission to live in the UK but was evicted from his NASS accommodation and financial support was discontinued. He was refused emergency accommodation, his mainstream benefits were delayed for three weeks, and he was left destitute again.
O was finally provided with temporary hostel accommodation after his local authority was threatened with legal action, but still needs a permanent place to live.
A is a 26 year old from Gambia who has been refused asylum. She was trafficked to the UK on pretence that she would be able to study here, but instead was forced to work as a housemaid. When she came to Hackney Migrant Centre’s drop-in she was homeless and destitute, very distressed and scared. Because of A’s unclear immigration status, HMC made a Subject Access Request to the Home Office. She is still waiting for an answer but through the help of HMC and others has gained confidence and strength. She recently started to study at Hackney Community College and is living in temporary accommodation from Praxis, where she can stay until her situation is more secure.