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

39 Dead

October 25, 2019

How did you react when you heard the terrible news of those 39 people dying together in the back of a refrigerated lorry?

I can unashamedly admit to bursting into tears, the sheer horror of the situation they had faced, the abuse of human beings, the desperation that leads to such situations all come to mind. This is alongside the memory of stories I have heard from others who have made similar dangerous journeys; others who have felt the panic of the cold in a refrigerated lorry; the scars from being strapped underneath; the dark, the not knowing where you are; the lack of control, to name but a few.

It got me thinking of the misuse of human beings over time, of the slave ships of the 18th Century packing people into cargo holds with no care of deaths along the way. Have we really not moved on from then? Are we still seeing people treated as commodities? The desperate answer is yes.

We have yet to find out why this group were there, whether this was smuggling or trafficking, but whichever it is, no-one had the care to check if they were all right. No-one bothered to treat them properly, what does that say? What can we try to learn? How can we create a world where we all have a sense of responsibility to each other, whoever we are?

Adele

The World on Our Doorstep

August 16, 2019

At the moment there is an exhibition on at St Mary de Crypt entitled the World on Our Doorstep. You can see displays telling the stories of different groups of refugees arriving in Gloucestershire over the centuries. The most recent bring it up to date and include some sound recordings of stories told by those here today. If you are able to, it is worth trying the sound pens to hear them. There is also a short video of some of the highlights from the event there on the 18th June. If you would like to watch to it all, it is here on this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fJ4AbsurtQ&feature=youtu.be

Please also add your world wide links to the map and add comments to the books. Thank you.

Adele

We can all help someone’s mental well being!

June 24, 2019

For refugee week I was invited to speak at the Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Conference where the focus was on the mental health of young refugee and asylum seekers.

I chose to speak about safety as when working as a Clinical Psychologist at GARAS with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, it appears that there is no meaningful difference that I can make until the young person can feel a sense of being safe in their body, within our relationship and in their environment. This can be incredibly difficult when a young person may have been in survival mode for so long and the threats to them are still very high. The children that I work with have often been very mistreated, hurt and let down by people, particularly on their journeys.

More and more I am learning to take the stance of collaboration and curiosity. Whilst respecting many of the Western Psychological ways of working that I have been taught, I am learning that this is not enough and indeed is definitely not all. This work is a daily practice of suspending what I know and really seeing, hearing and feeling the person in front of me with their own ways of coping, their strategies for survival, for healing and for resilience. Together, there may be the past to bring awareness to but only if someone is indeed ready. Often this is not the case for some time, if at all and of more urgency can be supporting young people with post migration difficulties. My supervisor alerted me to the fact that living in exile I can be very passive; waiting for asylum, waiting to hear about family, dependent on to local authority. There can be little choice and the young person may be reliant on one voice of an interpreter to be heard.

As a community at GARAS, I often notice how we all weave our work and skills together to support this feeling of safety for the young people who use our services. Young people tell me that a simple act such as a warm smile, a welcoming voice, a invitation to a community event can go a long way to making post migration a less hostile place. I observe that when working together we can additionally support young people in becoming active about their future; giving autonomy, choice and fully welcoming them with whatever they are feeling, however they are being and with whatever they are bringing. We may even enable them to feel a sense of belonging, of accepted and respected just as they are. In this, they can learn to feel safe again.

Lucy

Refugee

June 22, 2019

This poem was written by a good, old friend. This is his experience.

I saw him yesterday and he he asked that this be his contribution to the week.

Refugee

I am a refugee

Nobody around me

I am alone

When I leave the house

No destiny

And nobody waiting for me

I walk slowly

Arrive at GARAS

Acquainted eyes and kind smiles

The solitude escapes for a while

I say “thank God.”

Ali Reza Babae

Action speaks louder than words

June 21, 2019

What is the hardest decision you’ve made in your life?

In my case, although I have had some tricky decisions to make, I have to confess that, so far, I’ve been very fortunate and I don’t think I’ve ever had to make a really hard decision. Certainly not one that involves issues of life and death.

Asylum seekers and refugees are people who have had to make a really huge decision. A decision that more often than not has involved life and death. It’s an action that speaks louder than words. They’ve fled conflicts, war zones, oppression, and annihilation and have found the strength in their fear to refuse to accept that this is how life should be and have made the huge decision to move for a safer life. They’ve stepped out of their situation into a boat, a lorry, a train or on foot into a chaotic storm of the unknown, risking everything. Then, unlike the endings in fairy tales, when they arrived at their place of safety, they’ve invariably found that life is anything but straightforward and easy.

On arrival they face heartache, hardship and uncertainty as they live with very limited means and in simple conditions as their future is resolved. Looking forward, they are grateful for their safety but often fearful of the future. When they look back they often struggle to cope with the experiences of their journey and can’t help but think of those they have lost or have left, aren’t safe and are now out of reach. That is a big burden to carry.

So it is so important that they have some calm, support and hope in their storm. That’s where, for the last 20 years, GARAS has stepped in.

During this refugee week and at some of the events that have already been held marking GARAS’s 20th anniversary, I’ve heard some amazing stories about individuals. Accounts of the lives of asylum seekers and refugees, from the Kindertransport children in Gloucester to the present day. Stories of how they found peace and their own voice in a new land and then made amazing contributions to society. Inspiring descriptions too of people who helped them, who took sacrificial action and played their part in enabling them to be themselves and to be valued.

GARAS relies, not just on the expertise, experience, empathy and practical advice of its amazing staff, but also on the actions and inspiring commitment of volunteers. These past few days have been a powerful reminder to me that each of us has to find our ‘voice’ on this issue and then discover our way of making a difference.

Action speaks louder than words.

Simon