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
General enquiries: info@garas.org.uk
Administrative enquiries: admin@garas.org.uk
www.garas.org.uk

Director
Adele Owen

Refugee Week Reflection #6

June 20, 2014

World Refugee Day – here are some facts: 51.2 million people have had to flee their homes.  17.9 million leaving their countries.  6.3 million have been living as refugees for many years. Where do they live?  Mostly next door.  For instance, of the 2.5 million from Afghanistan, 1.6 million live in Pakistan.  Ten years ago, 30% managed to get to safety in wealthy countries.  Today that has dropped to 14%.  So of that, we work with a minuscule number.  But I hope that what I have spoken of this week shows loud and clear that every single one of these is a human being with the same longings, cares and hopes as you and me.

The Strangers

June 19, 2014

Below is a poem written especially for Gloucester Refugee Day.  It was read it out by the poet Phil Wood.  We would like to thank Brunswick Baptist for their hospitality and warm welcome to GARAS clients today.

The Strangers

They come to us seeking refuge,

From countries both near and far,

In fear of persecution or torture,

Escaping the conflicts of war.

 

Who knows what fate had to offer?

Whether they lived or they die!

In a fight they had no chance of winning,

No matter how hard they tried.

 

Now far away from their families,

In a strange unfamiliar land,

People talking to them as a foreigner,

In a language they don’t understand.

 

How strange it must all seem to them,

I wonder how I would cope,

If I had to run from my homeland,

With nothing before me but hope.

 

Let’s welcome our brothers and sisters,

Show them the love that we can,

Treat them as one of our family,

Share in the brotherhood of man.

 

Refugee Week Reflections #5

June 19, 2014

It has always been essential to keep a stock of hankies at GARAS.  Just yesterday, I needed them three times. (& A quick dab for me!)
Anyone who thinks that people up sticks and leave their home countries for a jolly, need to see the reality. When your home country thinks its OK to imprison people under ground or use Containers in the middle of desert conditions with no water during the day, is not a place that is easy to live in.
The descriptions I heard yesterday were reminiscent of the Stazi: national service expected throughout your life and crimes include being a member of a Church or Mosque.  So sometimes life becomes too dangerous to remain, but leaving behind your loved ones because it’s too dangerous to risk their lives too. An aching worry continues until you can know that they too are safe.

Asylum Support Rates – immediate action needed

June 18, 2014

Please consider writing to your MP, encouraging them to sign an Early Day Motion to increase Asylum Support in line with inflation.  To see if your MP has already signed up, look here.

In summary,
Teresa Pearce MP (Labour) has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM No.99) on the High Court Judgement on Asylum Support. The EDM has cross party support, including from Peter Bottomley MP (Conservative) and Sarah Teather MP (Liberal Democrat) and calls on the Government to raise asylum support rates to at least 70% of Income Support and to increase this in line with inflation annually.

We now need to get as many MPs as possible to sign the EDM so that the Government can see there is strong support for this issue prior to making its decision on how to respond to the Court judgment. Still Human is therefore calling on all member organisations and individuals to lobby their MPs to sign EDM No.99  

Below is a draft letter you can personalise to send to your MP:

Dear

I am very concerned that the level of support currently being provided to those who have come to the UK to escape conflict and persecution is not sufficient to meet their essential living needs.

In 1999, asylum seekers received 70% of Income Support, but in recent years this has been reduced and is now as low as 50% for many asylum seekers. The vast majority of those seeking asylum currently receive just over £5 a day to pay for food, toiletries, clothes, travel and other expenses (housing and fuel bills are paid for separately for those who have nowhere to live).

On 9 April 2014, the High Court found that the Government’s assessment of the amount needed by asylum seekers to avoid destitution was flawed and ordered the decision be taken again. The Government did not appeal the ruling and must take a new decision on whether to increase asylum support rates by 9 August.

Asylum seekers are effectively not allowed to work to support themselves and are often dependant on government support for extended periods of time. At the end of March 2014, nearly 8,000 asylum seekers had been waiting more than six months for an initial decision on their claim.

While individuals can live on £5 a day for a few days or even weeks, they cannot do so for the longer term without it having a serious impact on their health. Indeed, the Royal College of Psychiatrists stated that “the psychological health of refugees and asylum seekers currently worsens on impact with the UK asylum system”.

Asylum applications to the UK have been under 25,000 for the last five years – easily within the UK’s capacity to deal with efficiently and humanely – and around half of these applicants are eventually recognised as needing protection and given permission to stay in the UK.

I believe that the Government should respond to the High Court ruling by significantly increasing the support to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute and I would be grateful if you could show your support for those seeking protection in this country by signing the cross-party EDM on the High Court judgment on asylum support (EDM No.99).

If you prefer not to sign an EDM, then please write to the Home Secretary expressing your concern over current asylum support rates and ask the Government to ensure that Section 95 support is at least equal to 70% of Income Support and that rates are increased in line with inflation each year.

Many thanks for your consideration of the above and I look forward to hearing from you soon

Yours sincerely

Thanks to Still Human Still Here for all their work on this, which we are copying here.

Refugee Week Reflections #4

June 18, 2014

Sometimes amazing things happen.  Several years ago I was working with a woman from the DRC.  Things were becoming tricky for her and we were grateful for the help we were getting through an interpreter also from the Congo.  At the end of one session he told me that strangely, whilst based in the north of England, he had met a man with the same name as her missing husband.  As happens so often in the chaos of war, they had become separated and had not heard from each other for five years. 

To cut a long story short, in time we were able to reunite the two of them.  Let me tell you, I wept with her as we talked together with him on the phone for the first time after all that time!