Meet Hermione, who links up refugees with UK lawyers
I’ve been volunteering for Care4Calais for nearly four years now – I first went out the summer after my A-Levels. What I saw working in Calais hammered home the awful violence and prejudice faced by refugees.
The guys trapped in Calais could have so easily been my friends or brothers, it’s just that I had the right passport and they didn’t. When I came back home, I knew I had to stay involved, so I asked if I could help with any admin.
Now that I’ve finished my degree I have more time to give, so I’ve been helping with a new legal aid project. When refugees arrive in the UK they are absolutely overwhelmed. This is the only thing they’ve been thinking about for months and years – getting to safety in the UK and rebuilding their lives – but they arrive and are treated like criminals, their phones are taken and they face heartbreaking delays and bureaucracy while they try and claim asylum.
Refugees who have legal advice have a much better chance of getting asylum, and faster too, but it’s a matter of finding a lawyer who can help them via legal aid. Many refugees can’t read and write well in English, plus their phones have been confiscated by the Home Office; how are they going to get on google and find help? So in a nutshell that’s what we do.
It’s amazing the difference it can make, matching up a refugee with a lawyer who can fight for them. Volunteers give us the contact details for refugees who have made it to the UK, and we get as much information as we can and pass it on so that the lawyer can help.
It means that we can help refugees with other things too – they may have been put into hotels during the pandemic and while it’s great that they’re in safe accommodation, they’re often not getting enough food and their mental health is spiraling. Being able to organise teams of volunteers to visit them with fruit and new shoes is incredible, and makes such a difference while they’re waiting to move on with their lives. It would be so easy for someone in their situation to be jaded and angry, and I am humbled every day by their optimism and resilience.
If you know a newly arrived refugee please do get in touch. You can email me on [email protected] or contact us via our Facebook page. To help us continue this valuable work please donate now at care4calais.org/donate
— written by Hermione Regan