We strongly believe that every person is entitled to seek sanctuary, no matter their circumstance or origin. Yet the immigration status of our members means that that they are destitute, with no recourse to public funds or housing and no right to work. Amongst big European countries, Britain consistently has the lowest approval rates for asylum seeker claims.
BHN’s primary function is to provide housing, but we also work with all our members to help them progress their immigration status. Often this involves supporting them to gather the evidence required to submit a fresh asylum claim.
BHN members face significant barriers to accessing legal support, including:
Limited English language skills
Poor mental health – the majority of those we support experience depression, anxiety and often more
Difficulties understanding the legal processes
Cuts in legal aid (meaning solicitors can do much less than previously).
Helping members to navigate these barriers is the role of our Help Team, a group of dedicated volunteers who support people through the challenges of the asylum process and support services. The Help Team receive specific training and supervision in their role, and the experience they gain can also help them find employment in other advocacy or support roles.
Penny, the Help Team leader, says of the role:
“It’s a privilege to support BHN members as they navigate the asylum process and hopefully gain the status they need to rebuild their lives in the UK. We advocate for them with legal and other services. It’s a challenging and technical role, as the asylum system in the UK is complicated, sometimes random and often hostile. But it’s a rewarding role. Our members resilience, grace and humour never fail to impress me.”
Research shows that advocacy increases the chance of claimants being granted refugee status, and highlights the invaluable contribution of volunteers. With the team’s support, BHN members can gain leave to remain or claim entitlement to government housing – allowing BHN to provide temporary accommodation to someone else on our waiting list.
Here’s some of the work carried out by the Help Team from May 2015 to February 2017:
We have recently recruited for a Help Team Manager, in order to allow us to help as many asylum seekers as possible, so that they can achieve settled status and play a full role in community life. We will be sharing more information about this new role soon.
In order to carry on supporting volunteers, we need your help. Contact us if you’d like to help us reach our fundraising target for 2017 and/or if you’d be interested in volunteering as part of our Help Team, or in any other BHN role: firstname.lastname@example.org.