Supporting Refugees in the UK

Urgent appeal for UK volunteers

We urgently need volunteers to join our committed teams in the UK. From organising donations and delivering aid to providing friendship and support to refugees, your help will make a big difference to the vulnerable people we work with.

View our UK refugee support group locations, or help by becoming a virtual volunteer. Training and resources are provided – we just need your time and your compassion.

When refugees first arrive in the UK it can be bewildering for them.  Navigating a new country and a foreign language is a big challenge, made worse if you have no money and are scared and alone.   Our volunteers meet up with refugees to provide a friendly face and helping hand. We collect and distribute of clothes, shoes, mobile phones and other essentials.  We can also help them to access services such as legal aid, English lessons or public transport. 

We are always looking for new volunteers to help with this.  To get involved, or for more information, please email [email protected]

For useful information and resources to help with this work please see below:

Refugees arriving in the UK are often eager to integrate into society and build new lives. Helping them find ways to practice English is one of the most valuable things you can do to support them. Find out how you can help them learn this vital skill.

Asylum seekers are entitled to free medical and dental care in the UK. Care4Calais have produced a helpful information sheet explaining how asylum seekers can get registered with a doctor and dentist, and what they need to do to ensure their access to health care is free. The text is repeated in Arabic and Farsi and can be download here.

Asylum seekers who arrive in the UK are often traumatised by the events they have suffered and witnessed. The support available is often inadequate and hard to find. We have put together some resources to help you access NHS, charities and local support groups.

If your client has an issue with their accommodation it should be reported to Migrant Help asap using the following details:

Phone: 0808 8010 503
Email: [email protected]

Email is best as then you have a record.  Include the client’s full legal name (per their legal documents) and if possible their NASS reference number.   If possible attached a copy of a completed consent form (available here) and any evidenced e.g. photos.

Action should then be taken within the following timescales:

Classification: Category 1
Meaning: A defect which has, or is likely to cause, a risk to your health, safety or security, or disruption or loss of an essential service of the accommodation.
Response Time: Continuous call out facility to investigate and fix or provide temporary alternative accommodation within 4 hours of the provider becoming aware of the maintenance issue.
Example of fault:

  • Gas leak
  • Flooding
  • Structural instability
  • No mains water supplied
  • Fire damage
Classification: Category 2
Meaning: A defect that may cause an adverse effect on your health, safety or security or which has a significant impact on the property or your quality of life.
Response Time: 24 hours to make safe, 5 working days to make a permanent repair. If the provider cannot make the accommodation safe within 24 hours, temporary alternative accommodation must be provided.
Example of fault:

  • No hot water supply Heating not working
  • No electrical power supplied
  • No operational smoke or fire alarms
  • Pest infestation which represents serious hazard to health and safety
Classification: Category 3
Meaning: A defect which has or is likely to cause an adverse effect on your comfort and convenience, or the potential to lead to further damage to the property if not addressed.
Response Time: 21 working days.
Example of fault:

  • Peeling paint
  • Significant signs of dampness and mould growth
  • Significantly damaged wall and floor tiles
  • Other pest infestation

If this does not happen send an email to [email protected] and cc [email protected].  If you contact the Care4Calais access team they should be able to give you the clients solicitors email and they can be cc’d in as well.

If nothing then happens within 48 hours email [email protected]

Dispersal accommodation

When a client moves into dispersal accommodation there are certain items that the provider should ensure are present.  These are listed on the following documents.  Ask your client to check that all these items are provided and if they are not email [email protected]

Language Provider checklist
Arabic Download
English Download
Farsi Download
French Download
Kurdish Download
Spanish Download

What can be expected in all accommodation

The Asylum Accommodation and Support Contracts (AASC) govern the relationship between the Home Office and the three companies contracted to provide asylum accommodation in the UK: Clearsprings, Mears and Serco.

Asylum Matters has produced summary and detail guides setting out information on these contracts.

  • There is an obligation in the contracts for accommodation providers to liaise and cooperate with other actors, including the voluntary sector and including through participation in multi-agency forums
  • All asylum accommodation is always required to be safe, habitable, fit for purpose and correctly equipped

Volunteers have had success working with the accommodation providers to improve food provision and other services to asylum seekers. It helps to know the standards to which they can be held accountable.

Download summary

Download full guide

Full guides to what asylum seekers can expect, and what is expected of them, while living in asylum accommodation have been published by the Home Office. These are available here:

Download in English

Download other languages

Moving or changing accommodation

We often receive requests from people to move accommodation to another area. Unfortunately this is rarely possible in Home Office accommodation due to the ‘no choice’ policy.  Guidance in respect of accommodation location requests can be found here.

People who are waiting for their asylum claims to be processed are entitled to financial support from the government.  This helpsheet gives summary of the different levels of support available and how to help people access the money they are entitled to.

The safety and security of everyone involved in our work is our first priority. Here you will find essential information about how Care4Calais keeps our staff, volunteers and the people we support safe. Please make sure you read this before heading off to meet refugees.

Fundraising can be hard work so here are some tips to get you started and to make sure you maximise the amount you raise. If you are purchasing new items we can help you to get the best deal possible when you order essentials including clothing and smartphones

For easy to understand information and advice on the asylum process see Right to Remain – Toolkit this includes videos in many languages.

For guidance on preparing for the substantive interview see here and here

The following free helpline is very good: 020 7553 7470. It is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 1pm. The helpline is free and confidential. JCWI: Our Helplines

For more in depth analysis and to keep up to date with legal developments we recommend Free Movement

When a client has a successful claim for asylum they will be granted refugee status or humanitarian protection.

The client or their lawyer should receive:

  • A letter confirming their asylum claim has been successful
  • Their Biometric Resident Permit card (BRP) – this is similar to a  driving license card and important to keep safe as this is their proof of right to work and contains their NI number. It can also be used to open a bank account (try Monzo).

28 days after getting refugee status their asylum support will stop which means:

  • If they have been receiving cash support it will stop
  • If they are living in Home Office funded accommodation they will have to move out
  • They are now allowed to work and can start looking for a job
  • They may be able to claim benefits – see citizens advice below

There is an useful guide to help them on the citizens advice website here

And another guide on the website here.

Not sure what items to collect? Here is a helpful list of the items that the refugees we support most need.

We’ve created a useful information leaflet for the refugees you meet during your volunteering. Simply download the Word document and fill in any relevant local information. We can help with cheap printing costs if you would like to distribute these leaflets in your hotel.

Virtual volunteers are a huge help to newly arrived refugees and can be based absolutely anywhere. They support by making remote welfare checks on people, helping them sign up with doctors and dentists, find local resources and much more. Find out more about becoming a virtual volunteer by emailing [email protected] and requesting a UK volunteer information pack.

Case studies

Other UK support work

Volunteer with Care4Calais to help refugees from our fantastic back office operation. We are always in need of further support, including:

  • Logistics management; communication with, and coordination of, our many collection points around the UK; optimisation of most needed donations and our procurement function; management of the logistics of getting donations to and from our three UK hubs; arranging deliveries and transport to and from Calais.
  • Drivers, both within the UK and from the UK to Calais.
  • Communications with volunteers; management of health and safety; data protection; safeguarding and internal staff management and policies
  • Fundraising, research and support, campaigning for refugees’ rights
  • Communications and marketing skillsdesign, social media and copy-writing
  • General admin and finance

OR start a Collection Point

If you have some time to devote to helping refugees in the UK, please get in touch with us at [email protected] with a brief summary of why you are interested in helping, whether you have any particular experience or skills that you would like to use (i.e. administrative, communications, social media, design etc) and how much time you could offer per week or month. If you have an up to date CV please attach that so we can get an idea of your background. We will then work out the best way you might fit into our team and get back to you with some ideas. There is so much to do – we’d love to have you involved!

Other ways to get involved

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