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

Adele Owen

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.

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!

Refugee Week Reflections #3

June 17, 2014

In the late 1930s, Kindertransport saved the lives of many children when families took the risk to save their children even if they lost their own lives. Today parents and families make the same kind of choices. 

Some of the most inspiring people I meet are the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. They make extraordinarily scary journeys to attempt to find safety.  We have worked with well over 100 young people each with their own story of death and danger and multiple bereavements.

Some stick out amongst them all, I will never forget the brothers who had fled Afghanistan after their family had been blown up.  The older brother, around 16 had led his highly traumatised 11 year brother across many borders in an attempt to find safety.  There were no available foster carers in Gloucester on their arrival, so I took them to a cheap local hotel while something could be sorted out. Little brother was one of the most withdrawn individuals I have met and I could make little progress in attempting him to feel a little bit safer.

On our way to the hotel he found a football in our car and suddenly in the mirror I caught his eyes, which had brightened up as he clutched the ball.  I assured them that they could keep it, anything to keep that small look of hope grow.  But as we got out at the hotel the older brother said no….he had become so used to having to make decisions to avoid carrying anything other than the essentials, he couldn’t take this gift..

They’re just kids…..

Refugee Week Reflections #2

June 17, 2014

So much choice, I could write about Iraqis still waiting for a decision after all these years, but I thought I would tell you about the theme this year.  In the UK we want to celebrate the contribution that people will make if given the chance. 

It has been a frustration, that since 2005 asylum seekers are not allowed to work while they wait for a decision; this means no chance to use their skills, to contribute to the economy or to build their CVs.  It is also frustrating that rarely does anyone reach their previous work roles as the UK frequently does not recognise previous qualifications and experience.  So I am delighted by the UASC [Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children] heading off to University and the contributions I do see happening.  And last summer we were so pleased when a doctor from Sudan passed all the obligatory exams and processes and started to work at an A & E in the North of England.

Refugee Week Reflections

June 17, 2014

Here are some reflections written by one of the team on the work we do.  There will be more popping up during the week.  Look out for them, as we recognise Refugee Week.

Given the conference that has just ended in London, I thought I would tell you about some of the women I have worked with who have experienced such violence. 

In the 2004/5 we worked with several women from the DRC. Of them 90% had experienced sexual violence, rape as a weapon of war. They are all memorable, but the one who haunts me still is the woman I sat with in a Gloucester police cell for many hours. She had been threatened with being returned and yet had been such a victim. She was in a terrible state because she had been held in a police cell in Kinshasa where she was gang raped. 

A period in Yarlswood did nothing to help her self worth and after release she quietly disappeared as she couldn’t take the pressure any more. 

I pray that somewhere she is safe.