When asylum seekers arrive in Norwich they find themselves alone, with little or no support, and with only the most basic government provision (a bed, and £37.75 weekly allowance); many children and young people seeking asylum have arrived in the UK without their families. While building lives in Norwich the people we support must adapt to a new culture and learn English, with few resources, as well as often managing mental and physical health issues.
Covid-19, lock-down, and the government's hostile environment have presented new challenges.
Recent months have presented new challenges for those seeking safety in the UK. Not only are asylum seekers some of the most vulnerable in our society, having fled their homes because of wars and persecution, they have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and the lock-down. Largely hidden from the general public and many statutory authorities, pre-Covid conditions of life in the asylum system were a perfect storm for further hardship and isolation: very low income (pre. C-19, asylum support was 51% of Universal Credit, NOW, it is just 42%) shared and often unsanitary housing and individuals who may have suffered extreme trauma living with strangers and without family.
The lock-down and an almost universal move to online services exacerbated inequalities and challenges faced by asylum seekers; access to the internet, the fourth utility that kept social isolation at bay for many, is not provided in asylum accommodation, neither is the technology necessary to keep in touch with friends, family, schooling. While Universal Credit has been raised for the duration of the pandemic, in acknowledgement of the additional hardships people will face, asylum support continued at £37.70 a week, until mid-June, when it was raised by a paltry 26p a day. Such low income makes it impossible for asylum seekers to prepare for self-isolation, and inevitably forcing people to choose between food, medicine, cleaning products, and phone credit/ mobile data.
Now, our participants and students find themselves the subject of toxic media coverage around the (universal, human) right to seek asylum.
We want to use this increased attention as an opportunity to have a positive impact and raise money to continue supporting the inspiring people we work with.
Weekly food boxes provided by the Soul Foundation, children's activity packs, monthly cleaning boxes, and reusable face masks provided by the Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers, ready to be delivered by our volunteers.
Throughout lockdown all four organisations have adapted and expanded our provision to meet the changing needs of asylum seekers and refugees during the pandemic. We have:
Socially distanced youth activities in the park.
Home learning kits devised and fundraised for by one of our volunteers, delivered to over 160 children who did not have the necessary kit to continue their schooling from home.
English+ teachers online
The funds raised will help all four organisations sustain our expanded provision and ensure that we can continue to reach as many people as possible throughout the coming difficult months. Without additional funding it is difficult to ensure continuity of our regular vital activities such as free English classes, one-to-one support through mentoring and befriending and professional advice services and weekly youth groups.
We are four local charities who work closely together to support refugees, asylum seekers and the wider migrant community in Norwich/Norfolk. We work with families, unaccompanied children and people who have arrived here alone.
Running since 2004, New Routes works with over 250 people a week (over 750 a year) from over 60 countries of origin, providing activities six days a week, including:
- Free English classes 3 times a week
- One-to-one support through trained mentors/befrienders and professional advice
- Youth activities including twice-weekly homework support club, MMA, and a weekly families club
- Community events such as Norwich Refugee Week
- An allotment project
- Women's groups including specific English classes, IT support, dance fit and craft and conversation
- Weekly art club
- Men's and women's workshops on sexual health and relationships
New Routes is supported by a team of over 200 amazing volunteers.
Norwich International Youth Project has been supporting young asylum seekers and refugees in Norfolk since 2002. Today, NIYP continues to welcome 11-25 year olds from across the world. We run weekly English classes and a weekly drop-in youth group with games, activities, training and food. We also go on trips and provide individual support.
Our activities help to improve wellbeing and self-esteem, encourage integration within the wider community, and improve access to education to help young people to achieve their goals.
English+ started in 2011 and now works with over 100 people per week. Services on offer include:
This is all delivered through a small team of part time staff as well as over 40 volunteers who assist us each week.
The Bridge Plus+, established in 2012, is a voluntary organisation based in Norwich that promotes and advocates for racial equality by supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities through community–based advice and advocacy service.
Our members are from over 50 different nationalities; a majority of them are from a refugee background. Because of Covid-19, we had to move away from face to face to telephone advice however we are busier than ever given the disproportionate impact of the outbreak on our service users. In “normal” times we hold monthly community lunches which are not only enjoyable social events but also provide wider community engagement opportunities.
Together, with local social enterprise Bicycle Links, we also run the Welcome Wheels programme, providing free bikes to asylum seekers when they arrive in Norwich, enabling greater independence, financial savings and improved well-being.