‘Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women, and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.’
A weekly drop-in Day Centre welcomes about 200 refugee friends to the JRS centre in Wapping, providing a hot meal, travel grants, and toiletries to those left destitute by the UK asylum system. During the pandemic closures, JRS has provided refugee friends with regular packages of food and toiletries, mobile phone credit top-ups, and small hardship grants via a top-up cash card. Deliveries have been made by the Emergency Response Team, who follow strict social distancing and COVID-19 health and safety measures. JRS also runs an over-the-phone emotional support & befriending scheme through which we pair up an asylum seeker with one of our volunteers for regular check-ins.
"It is not easy to manage. That's why people doing charity are helping, because people need the help. Asylum seekers have difficult lives. You had a problem back home and you think if you come here, you will have peace and then you have another problem!"
The Detention Outreach team offers support to those currently detained at Colnbrook and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres near Heathrow. Volunteers are on hand to offer emotional and pastoral support and practical help during their time in detention.
"JRS gives me visitors. They are helping me very much. A month ago, I was very stressed. In detention, you don't know if you're going to be released at some point, or deported. One of my visitors brings me movies, it helps to relieve my stress."
JRS UK runs a peer support group that brings together individuals who have experienced immigration detention in the UK. For many who experience immigration detention in the UK, feelings of isolation and deterioration of physical and mental wellbeing are common. This group is a safe space to speak with others about shared experiences, an opportunity for creative and skill-building activities, and a place to help one another and rebuild trust.
"I advise others who are coming to JRS to 'go for it' as well, not just coming to get bus fares and food. It is good to do something for the community as a way to help yourself."
Advocacy in JRS starts by listening to refugees’ concerns and then working with them to find solutions. Their advocacy work involves raising awareness of policy issues that shape refugees’ lives and experiences. They do this by creating spaces where people can encounter refugees as people with hopes and dreams and helping to transform the public conversation about refugees by telling real stories.