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

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

Adele Owen

GARAS Conference

August 27, 2015

On Thursday 3rd September 2015 at 3pm, we will host a conference at GARAS entitled,
“InHumanE Rights? What is happening in Asylum?”

Our main speaker will be Dr Nick Gill from the University of Exeter. He will present on ‘Inhumanity in our time: Perspectives on border control and asylum in Britain’. There will then be some updates on immigration policy changes from the GARAS team and tea and cake afterwards. If you’d like to come, please RSVP to info@garas.org.uk .

In the week leading up to this, we’ll be posting snippets from emails into the GARAS inbox, showing some more of the positive, caring, compassionate response to the migrant crisis well documented in the press. All emails have been received in the past month.

Where is the scariest place in the UK?

August 24, 2015

On a fortnightly basis many asylum seekers and others monitored for immigration purposes have to present to Immigration Officers to sign to show their compliance with their requirements under their claim.

For some this will involve going to an Immigration centre and for others a visit to a local police station is required and the Immigration Officers will be present to witness the signatures.

This is scary and takes emotional and physical resources to comply. Because you just never know. You just don’t know if today will be the day they pick you up to start removal proceedings. Today may be the day day they take you from your house and community and put you in a detention centre while they decide what happens next.

Today you may just be humiliated by someone with all the power and a row of witnesses all feeling vulnerable. This is not some kind of punishment for criminals just a form of humiliation for those who have requested a basic human right, the right to be safe.

This is not a short term fear but a fear that can be enacted many times over while waiting court cases and decision makers. And don’t make the mistake of missing your signing because it will come back to affect you in the future.

I have witnessed this fear, it is palpable, even the local police will avoid the signing session held at the police station as they find it uncomfortable.

Asylum support rates reduced for families

July 17, 2015

About 6 years ago my family decided that during Lent, we would attempt to live on the amount an asylum seeking family are given by the Home Office.  Those six weeks were a challenge, but we managed.

We managed because we knew that at by Easter it would be over and anything we had postponed purchasing was now permissible again. However, it taught us some valuable lessons.  We could not buy anything in bulk, as we normally would, so no big sacks of rice or other cheaper commodities.  Fortunately, neither of the children required shoes through those six weeks, but my daughter became ill because she decided it would make sense to eat very cheaply at lunch time and used packet soup every school day.

So following that experience, I had a tiny flavour of what it means to live on NASS support. However, now we discover that this has been too generous and from the 10th August 2015, the support for a family will drop quite considerably.  For a family like ours it will reduce by £124 a month, a single mother with two children will lose £156 a month.

That is going to make a huge impact on families who have already been stopped from participating in normal activities such as the right to work. According to UKVI, a reasonable allowance for travel each week is £3 per person, £1 for cleaning and  £2.5 for clothing and shoes.  When my children were in 6th form, their travel costs a week were £5 and that is for the catchment school.

So my response is this – let’s take the most vulnerable and kick them a little more.  Let’s remove a little more dignity, let’s reduce the possibilities of integration through clubs and activities, or let’s tackle this and tell our MPs that we think that this is unreasonable and take up the opportunity to join any campaign on this topic that may arise.  Please remember these come in on the 10th August so there is not long.

Refugee Week – Wednesday

June 17, 2015

It appears that this years theme for Refugee Week is the contribution made by refugees to their host country or to the world (Einstein always comes to mind!).

I have a great long list of famous refugees and the offspring of refugees.  It is tremendous and what they have accomplished is very notable. There have been contributions to all kinds areas of life from business to the arts, from science to sport. It always amuses me that this includes Prince Philip, Sir Alec Issigonis (the designer of the iconic Mini) and the Portuguese refugees who brought us Fish and Chips.

Then there are the less remembered contributors: the Ugandan Asians who have successfully supported the local economies and the corner shops; those who quietly support our elderly and those in need of care and those who bring their skills and motivation and drive.

But I feel a little uncomfortable about this as well.  A bit like my thoughts yesterday, let’s alter the words of Kennedy and “ask not what they can give to us, but what we can give to them!”

Refugee Week – Tuesday

June 16, 2015

Did you happen to hear One-to-one this morning? On Radio 4?

It was an interview with a refugee who had made the journey from political prisoner to safety in the UK.

It got me thinking about our own journeys and why we make them. Have you ever had to leave your home? I don’t mean for holidays, or when its a positive decision. I am thinking about those decisions that are forced upon us by circumstances beyond our control. It might be fairly straightforward like lack of opportunities at home and the necessity to move to find work. It may be through domestic issues which are no longer manageable or it may be because it is no longer safe at home.

Whatever our reasons, it’s very challenging. Our lives are disrupted, we feel out of control, in unfamiliar settings. Maybe you remember the challenges of starting at University or a new job? We need to form new relationships and don’t know who we can trust. In our familiar places we are understood in new places the context has gone, how do we recover that? Do we have to explain ourselves all the time? How do we manage the new culture that we find ourselves in?

So what does that mean for those forced to leave everything, to uproot and flee? To start a new life again is a multiple of all those emotions and more.

May I encourage you to think about what that might mean? To stop and feel that challenge and to grasp a little of our shared humanity, and then reach out to welcome and to help to share a little of that burden.