Our Mission

At GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) we offer support to those seeking asylum in Gloucestershire, welcoming them when they arrive, advocating for them in their daily struggles, supporting them if they face being sent back as well as helping them adjust to their long term future if they are recognised as refugees.

Contact Information

Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS)
The Trust Centre
Falkner St
Gloucester
GL1 4SQ

Telephone: 01452 550528
email: info@garas.org.uk
www.garas.org.uk

Director
Adele Owen

Reflections on Teaching

June 18, 2018

A chance meeting in Sainsburys with Carol in 2016 has resulted in me helping at GARAS. I’ve been a teacher all my life with experience in primary, secondary, special schools and university. I was recently widowed and in trying to rebuild my life I wondered if anyone would take on a 76 year old to teach. After Adele confirmed that I was able to join the teaching group at GARAS I realised as I drove home that there were tears running down my face. She’d taken in another refugee.

I have found the experience extraordinary and it has made me vividly aware of my white male privilege. The unaccompanied children that I help teach for two hours a week have undertaken brutal journeys. They are such engagingly ‘normal’ boys as they struggle with the changes that all teenage boys experience and the vulnerabilities those changes bring. On on top of that they have all been forced to travel without their parents to foreign lands, through great dangers, witnessing and experiencing things that have traumatised them but they still have that shuffling uncertainty when confronted with the few girls who have joined the classes.

As a group they have the usual range of abilities from looking to gain entrance to Oxford to struggling with western script but I have experienced from them a dignity that translates into good manners, respect and a sense of fun that is heart warming.

This is a snap-shot of some of the moments that stand out:-

  • Being asked if it was permitted to handle the books at Gloucester Cathedral
  • On the same visit asking if it was permitted to write a prayer for peace
  • Being asked by an Afghan boy ‘Why did the Americans bomb us?’
  • Being shown, on a map of Africa, the route taken across the Sahara desert to Libya and then to Italy.
  • On asking why a boy had left the teaching group to lie down on a sofa ‘I have a headache’; he then showed me the raised scars in his skull, received, I was told later, from a police beating
  • Being sent a get-well card by the boys
  • Being greeted with a big smile and a hug by a boy who was attending the same school as a granddaughter
  • Seeing the pride in another boy who was at college and looking forward o being trained as a plumber-
  • Talking to another who was so angry when I first met him but who had gone to college and was about to join the police.
  • Being taught the difference between our numerals and eastern Arabic ones-our 1000 looks like 1555.

They are deserving of our admiration and respect. They have travelled with strangers, they live with strangers, they meet strangers from their own countries, they meet strangers from countries they have never heard of. I know what they have to go through to be able to live without fear of deportation is absolutely deplorable. The image of my grandchildren having to face tribunals and inquisitions in a foreign language alone leaves me angry and ashamed that this process takes place in my name.

It is a privilege for me to have been a very small part of these children’s lives. They are truly extraordinary and should be welcomed with compassion by every institution that encounters them.

Ian Parker Dodd

Refugee Week

June 17, 2018

As we start Refugee Week it is very clear that the needs of refugees remain as strong as ever. The requirement for protection as palpable as it’s ever been. The image of the Aquarius off the coast of Italy, refused entry and the relief when those aboard were made welcome in Spain, are amongst the very real political tussles that affect some of the most at risk people in the world.

Our emotions respond with distress to the thought of children ripped from their families in the USA and the threats of punishment for those who support refugees in Hungary. This, while Uganda makes provision for those entering the country, while Bangladesh is a safer option than Myanmar for the Rohingya people. While the majority of refugees in the world today continue to be supported by their poor neighbours.

For several years now I have aimed to produce a blog every day during Refugee Week and failed miserably, when the daily work requirements make it harder to find the time to make this possible. So this year I have invited those involved in the work of GARAS to write a Guest Blog, and I have been delighted by the response. The responses have been written by staff and volunteers and therapists all whom wanted to put something down in words of a personal reflection. Each one quite different, conveying different aspects of the work, the clients we meet and the wider response of community.

I hope you will take the time to read them and to appreciate them, and maybe to share them further afield to help raise a little more awareness of every day responses to every day people.

Adele

Moving

May 25, 2018

Yesterday my mother moved out of her home of 35 years, a home full of memories, happy times and sadder ones. Even though I never lived there it remained an anchor place in my life, and holds a special place in my children’s memories as well – a funny set of emotions.

This got me thinking – the decision to move is hers, she will only be a few miles from the original home, she will remain amongst her friends and know her neighbourhood. So what’s it like when it is not by choice?

What happens when you are forced to leave?

When you have no planned packing up or knowledge of your next steps?

When decisions are on the hoof?

Or when you come home to find it has gone?

What happens to those memories? Those connections?

We often talk of multiple bereavements faced by refugees and sometimes we get a tiny understanding of how complex they may be. Here is just one of those bereavements and glimmers of a faint reflection of the client experience.

Adele

Heartwarming

April 12, 2018

Another day at GARAS!

This week has seen its share of stories of pain and suffering at the hands of fellow human beings.
The malicious and intended deliberate acts to use and abuse, to traffick and torture, to maim and inflict pain.

Then there is the less intended consequence of inaction, of withholding of support, or manipulating facts to prolong the decision making processes, more of that another time!

But in the midst there can be so many acts of kindness, of humour, of interaction with our fellow human beings. Whilst trying to sort out a few extras to improve life for a new family settling into Gloucester, we offered them a tin opener. It was obvious from the expressions this tool had never been seen before, so the miming of how to use a can opener caused humour all round and laughter is always a good way to build relationships.

But the highlight of the day was meeting young Edie. Edie has been determined to help refugees and to make life a little better for another little girl like her.
So for months she has been fundraising, washing cars, doing what she can to raise enough money to buy a bicycle, so someone can enjoy what she enjoys. Yesterday she came with her mother to give this to her new friend Nadia. They met and Nadia was given her brand new, shiny bicycle, they smiled shyly at each other and found a bond. It was a really lovely moment to witness and to know for certain and without doubt that love and care can win out!

Just Another Day?

January 11, 2018

Life at GARAS can be full of life’s ups and downs. It can put us all through a roller coaster of emotions which can be a challenge to manage.

Tuesday was such a day.

Finally, after years of waiting, years of winning appeals yet having them thwarted by the Home Office, a young client received the news we have been long hoping for, that the Home Office would not appeal against the Court’s final positive decision. This is wonderful news. This young person can finally start to build their life, finally feel there is a future, finally take their life off hold. This has been a very fraught time for them, unnecessarily so and it has taken its extremely heavy toll on their emotional well being, so we really hope that their future is now bright. Therefore this news was greeted with great joy.

Meanwhile, in the background, another client was sitting in a Detention Centre not sure what their future held. A threat of removal hung over him but no definite date was known. We did what we could in the time available and right up till late that evening, were calling around possible leads to see if anything could be done. But the last heard from them was a call from the bus on the way to an airport and the assumption can only be that they have been returned to their home country, a country that they had not been safe in.

Such can be a day in the life of any organisation like ours that wants to care for those we serve and do our best by them. We can’t solve everything, in fact sometimes we can do little when decisions are outside our hands, but maybe, for a little while, we can be alongside to show a humane face.

Adele