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

“I’m willing to house a Refugee”

September 10, 2015

If you’re thinking this and wondering what to do next, please read on!

Thank you for all the continued emails and questions about how you can best support refugees and asylum seekers here. We are waiting to see how exactly the recent Government pledge to house 20, 000 Syrians from camp by 2020 will be worked out. But as things currently, stand, here are some ways you can be involved. Some practical steps you can take are as follows:

1) Rent out a room in your house to someone already in the UK with Refugee Status. (You are able to ask for rent money – if someone is claiming Housing Benefit, Gloucester City Council can pay maximum of £68.18 every week.)

2) Rent out a self contained property to someone already in the UK with Refugee Status: could be for an individual or a family. Again, you can accept Housing Benefit as payment. If you would like a local charity to manage this for you, get in touch with Chapter 1, and mention GARAS.

3) If you would like to rent a property out to proposed resettled Syrian families, again please get in touch*, and you may like to copy Chapter 1 into the email too.

4) If you would like to look after a child in your home (be it an unaccompanied minor who makes the perilous journey to the UK by themselves, or a proposed Syrian child George Osbourne has been speaking about housing), consider becoming a foster carer. Contact Gloucestershire Social Services on 01452 427531, or Community Foster Care.

5) Think about being willing to put up a family or individual with no support. This may be someone who has been through the asylum system, been refused and is destitute and currently in limbo, and experiencing a very difficult period.

6) Another way you can give in a similar fashion, is by renting out a room or property you have going spare to anyone who has need. In the past, we have had people doing this and giving us the rent! With which we were able to fund our psychotherapy service to provide trauma counselling to refugee and asylum seeking clients. Here is a standing order mandate form. Be creative!

If any of these apply to you, *please contact GARAS – info@garas.org.uk . Many thanks.

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.

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.

Lent Challenge

February 21, 2014

If you have had enough of ‘giving something up for Lent’ such as chocolate or alcohol and fancy doing something different, we have just the thing for you!  Why not take up the challenge of living on Asylum Support rates for the period of Lent this year?  (From Wednesday 5th March, to Saturday 19th April 2014.)  Asylum seekers who rely on support from the Home Office whilst their cases are being considered receive the following money per week:

A single person aged over 18 – £36.62

A couple (eg married couple/ in civil partnership) – £72.52

Lone parent aged 18 or over – £43.94

Teenager aged at least 16 but under 18 – £39.80

Child aged under 16 – £52.96

So, you can use this list to work out your or your family’s entitlement and set yourself a weekly budget.  Please note that this does not include rents, utilities or council tax, so you don’t have to factor in these costs.  But this does include/ you would need to use this money to pay for use of phones, food, clothing, toiletries and transport.  If you give this a go, why not donate the money you have saved to GARAS?  Cheques made payable to GARAS and can be sent to the office.  Several of us here have done this over the past few years.  It is a sobering experience and can be very thought provoking and insightful, particularly if you are used to having income at your disposal.