The Refugee Council

A guest post by editor Fiona Pickles

As those who were involved in preparing our charity anthology CALL TO ARMS – and, hopefully, also those who bought copies and enjoyed them – may remember, all the proceeds from the sale of this volume go directly to the Refugee Council. We sent them their first ‘royalty payment’ at the end of February, and in return they kindly sent us a letter of thanks and a copy of their ‘Impact Report’ for 2016-17 to enable us to see where our contribution is likely to be spent.

Not only is it nice to be acknowledged by such busy people, it’s also very valuable to have some sort of picture of the work they do. On the whole we could probably have guessed most of it, but there were a few highlights which stood out and captured my imagination, so I thought I would pass those on to you.

In 2016-17, the Refugee Council supported 7,522 refugees and asylum seekers and 3,318 unaccompanied children. They helped 97 young people who had been trafficked – 77 girls and 20 boys. They pushed for refugee status and resettlement funding for Syrian refugees, enabling them to attend university in the UK – and also to apply for passports, so that they can travel abroad to see their families.

They support refugee children whose age is disputed, who are sometimes treated by default as adults and therefore put into unsuitable accommodation; they provide them with language teaching, help with socialisation, access to sports facilities and homework support. They also provide psychotherapeutic services for children and young people, and training and support for foster carers.

In addition to helping refugees with documentation and legal services and steering them towards suitable work and accommodation, they have helped a number of refugee doctors to retrain and requalify so that they can be employed in the NHS. It’s difficult to imagine anything more closely resembling a win-win scenario than this!

There is, too, an extensive programme assisting and supporting destitute asylum seekers who are otherwise forced to rely on the standard asylum support payment of £5.00 per day (about $7.00 US) – intended to cover food, clothes, toiletries, travel and in fact everything else the individual may require. The Refugee Council provides hot meals, showers, laundry and barbering facilities and – perhaps even more importantly – moral support and social opportunities for people who must at times feel very isolated by their position.

In fact, it probably doesn’t take too much imagination to put oneself into the position of an asylum seeker or refugee, hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles from home in a country where the weather, the language, the customs, the clothes and just about everything else are not only unfamiliar but potentially quite terrifying. Getting away from the threats, the violence, the famine or the fear in their home country and making a difficult journey half-way around the world is only the beginning of the story for them. Once they arrive in the UK, however, the Refugee Council is – together with Oxfam, Amnesty International UK, the British Red Cross and a number of other organisations with dovetailing remits – right there in the front line of people stepping up to welcome them and help them to settle in.

All in all, then, it’s difficult to think of a better use for our “ill-gotten gains” than to support the Refugee Council in their sterling efforts, and we look forward to sending them further payments every three months throughout what we hope will be the long lifetime of CALL TO ARMS.

You can find more information about the work of the Refugee Council on their website.

We’d like to thank anthology editor Heloise Mezen for nominating the Refugee Council as our chosen charity, and for undertaking all the initial discussions with them. Take a bow, Heloise; none of this would have been possible without you!

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