You are not alone! There are refugees everywhere and we are with you.” SLRA Women’s group participants message to those fleeing Ukraine.
The scenes we are seeing from the war in Ukraine of hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee their homes to find safety are shocking and bring to life the terrible reality of what it means to leave everything you know and face a frighteningly uncertain future.
Here at SLRA we are only too familiar with working with and for people who find themselves in this situation. Over the last 30 years we have provided advice and support for people arriving in South London after fleeing countries across the world including, most recently, those escaping the Taliban in Afghanistan.
We are also all very aware that the lives of those who do reach the UK are too often made even more difficult due to barriers that prevent them from building safe, independent lives. This is the direct result of the current government’s hostile environment policy. This policy is not new – restrictions and injustices have affected migrant communities in the UK for many years and in many ways. You can read about the impact of the UK’s hostile environment on some of the people in our local communities on our Campaigns page.
We believe it is vital to ensure that migrants and refugees have access to justice and are treated with respect and dignity irrespective of borders, race and nationality. Migrant communities contribute to and belong in the UK! While we fully support the UK government’s generous visa scheme for Ukrainians, we believe such schemes should be offered to all those fleeing conflict and trauma who have family in the UK. The public solidarity shown by so many people across the UK for those arriving from Ukraine should be a call for this government to change its hostile approach to immigration for all migrants and refugees.
SLRA is able to provide the advice and support refugees and migrants need thanks to the invaluable support we receive from our local community here in South London – people from all walks of life who want to do something to help and who do so by volunteering, donating, supporting our campaigning work and in many other ways.
We are receiving many messages of support and enquiries asking about the best ways to help right now. So here are our ideas for ways you can make a difference as well as answers to some of the questions we are being asked.
- How can I help to make sure that Ukrainians in need are welcomed in the UK?
We believe that everyone who seeks safety and security here in the UK, including those now arriving from Ukraine, deserves to be welcomed and treated with respect and dignity. Unfortunately, the UK’s already inadequate provision of protection for refugees is currently under serious threat from the new Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through parliament. This Bill, if passed, will further erode the protection and care for those in need that so many people across the country are saying they want to offer. You can help to make sure that the UK is a welcoming place for all those in need of safety now and in the future by speaking out against this harmful Bill. Find out more about what’s happening with the Bill and how you can join the campaign against it from this blog from JCWI and here on the Refugee Council website. The UNHCR has produced detailed legal analysis explaining how the Bill violates the Refugee Convention in numerous ways and we urge you to contact your MP and join the fight for what’s right and for the kind of country we want to be.
- How can I donate?
SLRA and other local charities are working to provide the practical, emotional and social support that refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants who are in crisis, urgently need. Your donations can help us to ensure that people fleeing conflict, persecution and other trauma from countries including Ukraine are welcomed and cared for. You can donate to our work here.
The UK’s immigration system is complex and people rely on specialist immigration advice. Visa provisions for Ukrainians reflect this complexity as they are misleading and unclear and many people will need legal advice now and in the future. SLRA and other organisations provide this advice free to those who need it most but immigration advice is chronically underfunded. By donating to SLRA you support our advice and casework service and help to ensure that refugees and migrants do not face frustrating barriers to safety and security.
- How can I send goods to people?
In times of crisis like this one in Ukraine, often the best way to help is to donate money. Donated goods like blankets or nappies have to be transported hundreds of miles whereas cash can reach people quickly and they can buy what they need.
However, there are community groups organising for goods to be transported to Ukraine and neighbouring countries. Here in South London you can contact the White Eagle Club in Balham https://www.facebook.com/kluborlabialego/
- How can I host a refugee in my home?
The government has announced a ‘humanitarian sponsorship pathway’ for people from Ukraine. It is currently unclear what this will entail, how it will be run or how many people will be able to access the scheme. If you are interested in finding out mor about the scheme please contact https://resetuk.org/
SLRA has partnerships with established organisations which register and support hosts willing to provide a safe, temporary home to asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants from around the world. If you would like to find out more about this type of hosting, please contact https://www.refugeesathome.org/ or https://www.paih.org/get-involved/host-a-refugee-in-your-home
- Where can Ukrainians here in the UK who are affected by the war get immigration advice.
The Ukraine Advice Project UK is a free service which connects Ukrainian citizens in need of free legal advice on UK immigration, visas and asylum with qualified and regulated solicitors.
Free Movement also have detailed information and advice https://freemovement.org.uk.
What else can I do?
- Help to make sure that the voices of those who have lived experience are heard
At SLRA we believe that the real experts are those with lived experience and yet their voices continue to be silenced in public and political discussions of migration in the UK. In order to provide solutions that work for the Ukrainians arriving to the UK now, we need to listen to and learn from those who are here already. We believe that migrants are an essential and vibrant part of our communities and that it is migrant communities that have always also been central to hosting and providing support for new arrivals. Together with Lambeth Citizens, SLRA provides community organising and leadership training for the migrant individuals and communities we work with and we work alongside them to advocate for positive change. You can find out more about how you can support our campaigns here. If you are part of a community group and would like to find out about the training we provide please give us a call on 02034903443.
Volunteer with us
We have lots of interesting volunteer opportunities and our volunteers are valued and essential members of our team. you can see some of our current volunteering opportunities here and we’d love to hear from you if you would like to know more.
- Donate to support our work
You can donate to SLRA here or maybe you’d like to fundraise to support our work. You can find some fundraising ideas here or email david(at)slr-a.org.uk if you’d like to have a chat about a fundraising idea.