Faith Groups and Sanctuary Seekers Some Ideas for supporting sanctuary seekers in your congregation.
Individual to Individual:
- Friendship First. Initially just be a friend: treat them as you would anyone else. Get to know them: invite them round, maybe for a meal.
- Do you know their situation? When friendship is established, they may wish to open up, but be careful asking questions that may open up wounds, like about family.
- Orientation for new arrivals. Do they know where to shop, or where the post office, bank, market or doctor’s is? They may also need help to register with a doctor
- Do they have children? Help with finding a school, uniforms, etc.
- Helping with letters, forms, language
- Prayer and Encouragement!!
- Asylum Case: is it refused? Need a solicitor? If they can’t get a solicitor and are going to court, what about a McKenzie’s Friend?
- Do they have a Personal Campaign running to help them stay in the country? If so, can you help them find signatories? If not, would they like to start one? (see the Right to Remain website for details for how to do this)
- Health: are they a Victim of Torture? If so, they may need referring to Freedom From Torture or The Helen Bamber Foundation. Do they have hospital appointments? They may need help to understand the system
- Are they a refugee? Those with leave to remain may need a lot of help finding housing / getting their benefits / opening a bank account / finding training, work or education
*Note: *Some will be very independent and extremely capable. Don’t do things for them if they are confident to do them themselves! Less confident individuals, especially if they have language barriers or do not understand western culture and systems, will need a great deal more support.
As a Faith Group to the individual
- Financial Help – but only when needed! (Some things may simply be unaffordable without help, like bringing over family members). Refugees who have just got their status may also need financial help whilst waiting for benefits to come, help with a deposit for private rented accommodation, or with furnishing an empty house. It does not have to be a gift: often an interest free loan is all they need, as many would prefer a helping hand to a hand-out.
- Advocacy – it can be invaluable to have a letter of support from church, mosque or temple to help with their asylum case; if they have a solicitor, ask him or her what will help. If they are going to an appeal tribunal, having support from members (and ideally the leader) of the faith group is really helpful, as is a well written statement of support from the leader. For Christian converts, details of church attendance, attendance at other church meetings, baptism and especially evangelism are all vital.
- Socials – lunches, events – things to help with integration and inclusion. But be careful, and always think: can they afford it? (e.g children’s activities, days out, conferences that cost)
- Whole Congregation Commitment: “We will take responsibility for them as part of our body / community)”
- Are your meetings inclusive? If in English, is the language comprehensible for someone for whom English is a second language? Will they be able to participate easily, or will someone need to interpret, or explain what is happening?
As a Faith Group to the Community
- How can you find out who is in your community? Do you know who the designated Accommodation Provider is (probably Serco or G4S)? Is there a Refugee Council or Refugee Action in your town or city? Are there any appropriate Refugee Community Groups or a City of Sanctuary group?
- Can you offer orientation and welcome to new arrivals? If so, ask the accommodation provider if they would like you to help when new arrivals come to your community.
- Can you offer a drop-in facility / English classes / Sewing / Conversation Club? Find out what’s needed!
- Are there destitute people? Could you offer a Night Shelter or Hosting Project? Could you link up with other churches or NGOs to offer that? First you need to find out if there is a NACCOM group near you that is already doing that. They would almost certainly welcome your help.
- Is there a reporting centre nearby? Could you get involved there? Or a detention centre? Could you join the visitors’ group or start one? Check with AVID to see if there is already a group.
- Do you know of an empty Church of England vicarage or Catholic Presbytery? If so, do you know anyone in the church who may be able to help you use it to accommodate the destitute. Find out if the local bishop is supportive.