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

Whilst on holiday in Sicily……

June 19, 2019

It’s lovely in Syracuse, the temperature is 30 (it really is). The streets are lined with cafes and restaurants; there are little stalls selling ceramics and jewellery, every one is on holiday. We cut down a little back alley, mama is sat outside, cats are asleep in the corners and we come to a church.

It is open and it looks like they have an exhibition of photos. We go in.

The photos are all of smiling African boys, as we read the legend we realise they are all refugees. The exhibition tells their stories. They have fled poverty, prison persecution, crossed the deserts been tortured, imprisoned in Libya before escaping in sinking boats. We talk of GARAS with the lady in charge, and she tells about their charity, the Marist Community. She talks of Africa and we mention Syria, Afghanistan and lran. We tell of stowing away in lorries, she of rescues from boats. She talks of government reluctance and asylum refused and we agree. None of these boys have their papers, they are in an impossible limbo. They all are trying to move north. There is no work here. We leave and return to the problems of the ancient world, of Greeks and Romans, of Moors and of earth quakes, but none of it now seems quite so important. There is clearly an immigrant problem here as with all Europe.

Penny

Thoughts from a School Mental Health Nurse -now Trustee

June 18, 2019

In January 2010, I started work at a senior school in Gloucester. My role was to see students who were having problems with their mental health or mental wellbeing. This brought me into contact with a group of students that had fled their own country because they were in fear of their lives or being forced to join military organisations.

Having been a mental health nurse for over twenty years. I was only too aware of the terrible situation that people with mental health problems found themselves in. Despite this, I was totally unprepared for the dire situations that this group of students had experienced. Their situations were so far from my own limited life experiences, that it was difficult to comprehend. This was compounded by the experiences they had faced to get to this country. Young children of 14 years of age had faced brutality, were often in fear of their lives, saw others die on the journey and lived in awful conditions. All this in an effort to get to a place that they felt would be safe.

They then put all their effort into learning the language and getting an education. Finally, at the age of 18 years they then had to apply to remain in this country. This is a very difficult time for most 18 year olds but this was exponentially difficult for these students.

During my contact with these students, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by their experiences and horrified that they had experienced this at such a young age. Many of these students were clearly showing symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Due to my work with these students, I was introduced to GARAS and their fantastic work. I was so glad that an organisation existed to help the students and others needing support when they arrived in Gloucestershire. This led me to applying and becoming a Trustee for GARAS in 2018.

Michael Gibbons

Kindertransport

June 17, 2019

Eighty years ago this week, ten Jewish boys who had escaped Nazi persecution on the Kindertransport, arrived in Gloucester to be cared for in a hostel in Alexandria Road – an anniversary we are commemorating at a GARAS event on Tuesday 18th June . In the last few months, Michael Zorek, the son of one of the boys has managed to track down the only ‘boy’ still living (now in his nineties); the sons and daughters of 7 others; and the grandchildren of both the refugee couple who looked after them and of the chair of Gloucester Association for Aiding Refugees (GAAR) the organisation that brought them here. Through the Kindertransport and the philanthropy of GAAR, the boys survived and went on to live fulfilled lives, though most never saw their parents again.

Their story has many resonances with the experiences of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) today. Then, many thousands who sought to flee Nazi persecution were refused entry for fear of a ‘Jewish flood’ and were subsequently killed – the 10,000 or so children who came on the Kindertransport were a small number compared with those unable to get out. Today, we are supporting over 80 UASC in Gloucestershire, but because of Government inaction thousands of others who arrive in Europe and who have the right (through the Dubs amendment) to come to the UK because they have relatives here, have been unable to do so and are sleeping rough in places like Calais where they are vulnerable to traffickers.

Back in 1938, the Government refused to foot the bill for the Kindertransport, so concerned citizens mounted a mammoth effort to raise funds, provide foster homes and welcome the children. Today, much of GARAS’s work depends on the efforts of volunteers, and the donations that we receive from the public.

In 1940, asylum seekers and refugees from German territories were interned in camps as potential enemy aliens. Today, many refugees are put into secure holding centres whilst their claim is considered.

While we should celebrate the efforts of the people of Gloucester to rescue and support the ten Kindertransport boys, we shouldn’t look through rose-tinted glasses at the past. And despite the many wonderful Gloucestershire residents who welcome asylum seekers and refugees into our county today, we shouldn’t forget the ‘hostile environment’ for asylum seekers imposed by the Home Office and the minority of people who would rather close our borders to those in need.

Sue Oppenheimer

Refugee Week

June 16, 2019

Today sees the start of Refugee Week, an opportunity to concentrate a bit more on the experience of refugees and all who have been displaced from their homes.

A memory popped up on my facebook page this morning showing Khalid Hossein and the watch he brought with him from Afghanistan. His memory reminded me of time I witnessed an object of importance.

We had collected a family and brought them to their home. They arrived with very little, just a small bag each. Life had been tough, there had been little to help them manage in their first host country. As we introduced them to their new home, letting them understand a few simple instructions to help them settle for their first night, the father pulled a bag of coffee from his bag (he had been told coffee here isn’t good!) and then he pulled out a small battered coffee pot and proceeded to make himself a cup.

He wanted to keep some element of normality. He wanted to start to feel at home and he wanted a connection with his past. What stories could that coffee pot tell? Had it been handed down? I dont know, but I found it very moving.

What would you bring?

Adele

PS He tells me now that he is very happy that he can find decent coffee and continues to use his pot on a daily basis.

Home

June 14, 2019

This morning I pressed my nose against the window of our old GARAS building to see how things are progressing.

They have already demolished some walls and it is changing from the place we knew.

I had wondered how I would feel about this, after all it was our “home” for 18 years.

It was fine, it is just a building.

Because the reality is home really is where those you care about are, it really is about what is created.

And we have been really fortunate, because we were able to bring “our family” with us.

Adele