Christians in Norfolk respond to refugee crisis
Nearly 200 people attended an event to find out what can be done in Norfolk to help refugees and asylum seekers, hosted at St Luke's Church, Aylsham on November 20.
Representatives from The Red Cross, English+, The Bridge+ Plus, New Routes, St Vincent de Paul, Mother's Union, City Reach Health Services, Capacitar, Mind, Hala's House to Home, City Saints in Action and St Matthews International Friendship Group were all on hand to share their experiences of working with the many asylum seekers and refugees who have already arrived in Norwich.
The focus of the event was to look at how we can help to expand the capacity of Norwich and beyond to welcome support and assist in the integration of refugees into the community. Two people who had come as asylum seekers and now work supporting others shared something of their stories.
Common difficulties for people arriving in the UK is with cultural understanding, employment law and the process of accessing benefits and schooling. Many have experienced trauma in their own countries and some have mental health problems and struggle with family separation.
Information was given about the process that people need to go through in order to be awarded refugee status, a presentation dispelled myths and misconceptions and lots of useful networking occurred over multinational cakes, washed down with traditional teas and coffees!
Rosie Sexton from English + urged people “Don’t try and start something up without knowing what already exists.”
Kevin Hannah, works for City Reach who are an NHS programme providing healthcare for ‘hard to reach groups’ including homeless people, sex workers and asylum seekers – or as Kevin described ‘easy to exclude groups’. He called for better co-ordination amongst groups working with asylum seekers so efforts are not needlessly duplicated. He said, “We need people to work together to provide support consistently and appropriately.”
Current negotiations between council and government regarding the proposed dispersal of Syrian refugees was reported on and Canon Andrew Bryant, spoke about the Bishop's fund and support that is being sent to help refugees in Europe.
Locally an audit has been done of Diocese property to see what is available and what resources can be used. Mothers’ Union have a donation channel for people who want to give financially.
Beatrice Humaru from The Bridge Plus said, “We try to provide a holistic type of support. Working together gives a stronger voice to our service users.” She wants to document the experience of people which will provide evidence to influence the way services are designed.
Andrew Bryant also spoke about the popular move towards Norwich becoming a City of Sanctuary. He called for the community to affirm the ethos of welcome “to put that sense of welcome at the heart of everything we do.”
Information was given to as many church representatives as possible. If you would like information to share with your church this can be sent by email on request from firstname.lastname@example.org as well as information for anyone interested in finding out more about ways of getting involved.
Pictured top: Photo supplied by Christian Aid. The Shadows of the Wanderer sculpture by Ana Maria Pacheco currently installed at Norwich Cathedral; a man carries his father, surrounded by shadows responding in many ways.
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