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

Giving a hand-up at the start of a new life.

January 12, 2016

The following article was written by one of our Trustees, Simon Trapnell, for his parish magazine and shown here with permission:

In Gloucester recently I walked past Burtons and Marks and Spencers, saw books

published by Hamlyns in Waterstones and glimpsed premier league footballer Saido

Berahino in a newspaper in WH Smiths. I tell you this because Sir Montague Burton,

Michael Marks and Paul Hamlyn, who gave their names to their businesses, and

Burundian footballer Berahino share a common experience – they started their lives in the

UK as refugees.

[My wife] Carol and I spent some time over Christmas with a Syrian family of 5 who are refugees.

They are very grateful for being in Britain and for the opportunity to build a new future. But

we also were struck by how they are daunted and constantly worrying about family and

friends left behind in their shattered home city. They are torn between looking forward and

looking back. From smiles and spells of optimism for the future, they can quickly slip into

sadness and fear when they think about all they have been through.

The parents are desperate to build a future for their children and help them deal with their

experiences by giving them tangible hope. Simply put, they want to get back to a normal

family life with familiar routines and a sense of predictability. How precious a normal life is!

One of those routines, particularly for the parents, is work. The identity and status of many

people, refugees or not, are often tied to their profession. Those who have had to flee their

countries have lost their home, culture, language, friends and often family. Losing identity

and status are additional challenges that they have to overcome. It is really tough.

More than anything the father in this family wants to work, even if it is as a volunteer. But

like him, many refugees arrive with years of experience behind them yet find it very difficult

to move into work where they can contribute their wealth of expertise. Some have at least

basic English (a few have good English), and even if non- speakers on arrival here, most

are very keen to be independent as soon as possible. Regardless of their experience and

qualifications, most will at first look for jobs that need only limited English. Once they

become more fluent and feel able to offer their skills, refugees are very frustrated to

discover that many employers disregard qualifications and experience from overseas. As a

result, it takes them longer than it should to return to the job market. Employers miss out

too as refugees often come from countries that value hard work, learning and

independence more than in the UK. Plus, leaving your home, travelling somewhere

unknown, discovering how a different culture works and learning the language all demand

flexibility, persistence and a positive attitude – characteristics that are extremely valuable

in the workplace.
So, if you are an employer, or you work and would be prepared to talk to your managers,

could you see if it would be possible for a refugee to have a work or volunteering

opportunity to help them find their feet and move their lives forward? It does not

necessarily have to be paid work – refugees and asylum seekers desperately need work

experience and can make great volunteers too. They are invariably highly motivated to

learn skills and to gain experience.  But volunteering is not just of benefit to them – by

involving refugees and asylum seekers you can really help your organisation as they bring

unique skills and experience (some are highly skilled professionals), they can help you to

engage with the refugee communities, increase the diversity of your organisation, enhance

your awareness of other cultures and enable your organisation to make a really positive

response to an international crisis.

Many refugees lives have been greatly helped by donations of items  – a huge thank you

again to all those who so generously donated items to GARAS last year

– but could you also help with an offer of a work or volunteer opportunity? I feel sure that

Messrs Marks, Burton, Hamlyn and Berahino had people that helped them gain the

confidence and self-esteem to prove themselves, by offering them opportunities as well as

food or clothes or equipment.

One refugee said ‘When you arrive in the UK you are no-one. You are forced to work your

way up and prove yourself.’ It is no exaggeration to say that any opportunities you might

be able to provide would be a hand-up that could transform lives.

If you would like to find out more, please contact info@garas.org.uk .

Note:  In case you were not sure ….. An asylum seeker is someone who has asked the

British government for protection under international law and has not had a decision on

their case yet. A refugee is someone who has proven that they need protection under

international law and the government has granted them refugee status in Britain. There

are rules that affect what work and volunteering opportunities are allowed for each of these