Women for Refugee Women is recruiting a Digital Inclusion Coordinator

Women for Refugee Women is seeking a Digital Inclusion Co-ordinator to work closely with our team to facilitate digital access and improve IT skills among our network of refugee and asylum-seeking women.

Women for Refugee Women is a charity that supports women seeking asylum in the UK and challenges the injustices they experience. We work at the grassroots by empowering refugee women to speak out and advocate for themselves, and through communications and campaigning work which engages the mainstream media and politicians.

The role will include assessing women’s basic needs and skills and providing the essential equipment and support to enable them to move forwards. It will involve supporting women to participate in learning, solidarity and advocacy opportunities at WRW, as well as enabling them to access other services and participate more effectively in their communities.

Women for Refugee Women particularly welcomes applications from individuals with experience of migration and/or a refugee background.

 

Salary: £28,000 per annum for 35 hours a week

Hours: Full time if possible, part-time or flexible hours if preferred

Accountable to: WRW’s Grassroots Co-ordinator

Location: working from home or in the WRW office near Old Street (depending on the situation caused by the pandemic, the wishes of the post holder and the needs of the organisation)

Women for Refugee Women is a small organisation where every team member is valued, and everyone is supported to carry out their role effectively. We encourage staff members to take up training opportunities to develop their skills, all staff members are able to access individual counselling support if desired, and we enable staff members to work flexibly according to individual preferences. We try to ensure that WRW provides a supportive environment where individuals can grow and develop their roles in line with our values and vision.

 

How to apply:

Please download and read the Digital Inclusion Co-ordinator application pack.

To apply, please email joinus@refugeewomen.co.uk with your CV and a covering letter stating how you meet the person specification and why you would like to join WRW.

Applications will be considered from 7 July on a rolling basis, so that applicants may be invited for interview from 8 July onwards. Interviews will take place remotely by Zoom. Due to our restricted capacity, only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.


Refugee Week 2020: Keeping our sisters safe in Halifax!

This Refugee Week, we are sharing a series of blogs written by refugee and asylum-seeking women who are supporting other women in their local communities.

Today, Jolanda Skura (pictured right), Co-Founder of Sisters United, writes about their amazing work in Halifax.


Sisters United was set up in 2017 by and for women in Halifax. Many of us have lived experience of the UK’s asylum system. Supporting one another is our main objective and we have been doing this for a long time. But we are now facing many new and different challenges because of COVID-19. Now more than ever our sisters need help, but due to the pandemic we have had to close the doors of our centre where we used to meet every week to provide vital support to vulnerable women.

We support women who are seeking asylum, who are forced to live on £5.39 a day. Many other women, who have been refused asylum, are living completely destitute with no support at all. These women are struggling to survive. They are some of the most vulnerable people in our country and the government has completely abandoned them.

When the crisis started, sisters started speaking to each other about how we can support the women in our group. First, we messaged everyone, sharing information about the virus and the lockdown measures, and we’ve continued to do this through our WhatsApp group. We then started calling all the women on a weekly basis to check they understood what was going on and the official guidance, and to see if they needed any support with food, medicine, and other basics. Many sisters don’t have a TV or internet access, so we needed to make sure they were aware of how to keep themselves safe. We found this difficult at times, as not all women speak English, but we managed; nothing is impossible!

We have been topping up women’s phones so that they can call us or a community member if they need help. Some of the women we support haven’t been able to get to the supermarkets to buy food because they have no money or because they are more vulnerable due to their age or a serious medical condition. So we have also been helping them access food parcels from community organisations and churches. We have helped with clothes and cleaning products, especially for those who live in shared houses with non-family members and who are therefore more vulnerable to catching the virus.

Accessing school meal vouchers has been a big challenge for asylum-seeking women who are struggling to feed their children. Some sisters didn’t receive the vouchers and we had to contact the schools many times to advocate for them. Many sisters are single parents and being alone during this time has been really challenging. ‘What is going to happen to my children, if something happens to me?’ I have heard this many times since the pandemic.

These mothers also need WiFi and laptops or tablets so that they can support their children’s learning while they are not at school, but that has been really difficult to access. What felt good though was when we managed to find two bicycles for a couple of kids. A sister who received one for her son thanked us so many times. He was so happy to play with it!

All of this work is being done by amazing volunteers! Their work is needed every day, and I want to thank them for always trying their best to make sure our sisters are safe. But what is the government doing for us?


We are proud to work alongside wonderful women like Jolanda and the members of Sisters United.

To stay updated on their work, follow Sisters United on Twitter and Facebook!


Refugee Week 2020: Refugee women are organising to provide mutual aid in Coventry

This Refugee Week, we are sharing a series of blogs written by refugee and asylum-seeking women who are supporting other women like themselves in their local communities.

Today we are kicking off with this blog by Loraine Masiya Mponela, chairperson of the Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG).


The arrival of Covid-19 brought various challenges to people in this country and the world over. Here at CARAG we are not spared. We needed to provide food to some of our members who by nature of things, have no access to cooking facilities or are on no support at all. The idea of cooking came up and some of the women in CARAG volunteered to render their services by cooking from their own kitchens.

Last, who is one of the people who has offered her kitchen and time to prepare the meals, said:

"Everyone needs food. I cannot sit back and relax knowing there are others who need food."

With the help of material and financial donations from members of our local community and other funders, we quickly managed to get the #Right2AMeal project off the ground.

We set up a team of local volunteers to coordinate the delivery of meals where they are needed most. The latest to join the army of volunteers for the delivery of cooked meals is our local MP, Zarah Sultana, and her team! One member of her team told me,

"It is humbling and inspiring to see asylum seekers and refugees organising and fighting for a dignified life and we want to be a part of that by doing whatever we can to work together indefinitely. That's what drives us to volunteer with CARAG."

And during one of the deliveries, Zarah Tweeted:

We have received enormous support from local organisations and individuals, including messages of solidarity, like this one from Minda Burgos-Lukes, an organiser and consultant in social justice and change:

"Incredible effort from CARAG, though I am not at all surprised. CARAG has always practiced mutual aid, long before many learnt what it is during this pandemic, offering great support and care across the community and to each other."

We are just happy that we are able to do this so no-one we are in touch with goes to bed hungry. After all, women who are seeking asylum already have enough to worry about, including but not limited to the pandemic.


We are proud to work alongside wonderful women like Loraine and the members of CARAG.

To stay updated on their work, visit their new website: www.carag.co.uk or follow them on Twitter! Loraine is also on Twitter, follow her here.


Inspectorate of Prisons finds that many of the people still locked up in detention during the pandemic are vulnerable

A report released today by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) has found that, although the number of people in immigration detention has fallen significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, a high proportion of those who remain in detention are vulnerable adults. It also highlights that many of those still in detention have been locked up for ‘extended periods’, despite the fact that ‘the prospect of removal [from the UK] appeared remote’. As the report explains, ‘if there is no reasonable prospect of removal, immigration detention ceases to be lawful’.

For the report, HMIP undertook day-long inspection visits to four detention centres: Yarl’s Wood, near Bedford; Harmondsworth, near Heathrow; Brook House, near Gatwick; and Morton Hall, in Lincolnshire. The report explains that all four detention centres had ‘dramatically reduced their populations since March 2020’. It goes on to highlight, however, that ‘there was a high level of assessed vulnerability among those who remained in detention’. The report sets out that about 40% of those who are still in detention have been recognised as vulnerable by the Home Office, under its ‘Adults at Risk’ policy.

The report also explains that more than a fifth (22%) of those still locked up in detention had been held for more than six months, and 12 had been held for more than a year. HMIP emphasises that in many cases, removal during the pandemic seemed unlikely’. As they explain, very few removals from detention have actually taken place since the pandemic began, and ‘few were scheduled’. The findings of the report raise serious questions, therefore, about the legality of the Home Office’s use of immigration detention while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing.

The report also highlights that the Home Office has continued to detain people even when they have coronavirus symptoms. During HMIP’s visit to Yarl’s Wood, ‘one man was placed in protective isolation after arriving with symptoms at the Yarl’s Wood residential short-term holding facility’. Additionally, the report documents how women locked up in Yarl’s Wood have been tasked with cleaning the detention centre during the pandemic. It explains that ‘a small group of detainees at Yarl’s Wood cleaned door handles and surfaces throughout the day’. People held in detention are paid just £1 an hour for the work that they do.

It's time to end the harmful practice of immigration detention.

 

Read the full report here.


Our year: 2019-2020

Women for Refugee Women has a vision that every woman who comes to the UK in search of safety will get a fair hearing and the chance to rebuild her life with dignity.

The women we work with have fled persecution including rape and torture. Too often, instead of finding safety here in the UK, refugee women struggle to access the protection they need. Many become homeless, hungry and at risk of abuse, and others are locked up in immigration detention.

Against this backdrop of huge challenges, we are continually inspired by the courage and creativity of asylum-seeking women who speak out and advocate for a fairer world for all women. This year, we have seen growing energy and solidarity among asylum-seeking women in the UK.

This brief review of the year shares some of our highlights from April 2019 to March 2020, as well as an update on how we are adapting our work during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are grateful to all of our supporters who made this work possible.


Our diary: books for refugee children 

Refugee and asylum-seeking mums and their young children have been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown measures. These families were very often isolated and struggling to rebuild their lives before the pandemic, but now these challenges are intensified.  

The very limited support that mums are eligible for barely stretches to cover basic essentials like food and cleaning products, let alone to purchase educational materials and activities to keep their children occupied and learning during lockdown. School closures have made it difficult for mums to continue their children’s education when English may not be their first language and they may not have access to the internet and digital equipment where resources are available. 

We were therefore delighted when one of our amazing supporters, Anna Bowles, reached out to us with her idea of sending refugee children books during the lockdown.

Anna says, 

“I’ve been a supporter of Women for Refugee Women for some time, and when the lockdown started I immediately thought of how especially hard it would be on mothers stuck in cramped accommodation with barely enough resources even under normal circumstances. I work as a freelance book editor, and HarperCollins were kind enough to provide me with some free copies of The World of David Walliams (the kind of book where children do puzzles, answer quizzes and draw their own pictures). Apparently Poundland is an ‘essential retailer’ so in the first week of the lockdown I was able to go in there and buy pens, stickers and buttons too. 

I hoped the packages would help show refugee families that they haven’t been forgotten during the crisis, and bring a smile to the kids’ faces as well as giving Mum an hour’s peace!”  

One mum who is a single parent with two primary school kids, and hasn’t been out of the flat with them since the start of the lockdown as she is vulnerable, said: 

“I struggle to find things for the boys to do. It was a treat for them to get these, especially as one of them loves David Walliams’ books. He is missing the school library. It made the time pass well for him.” 

Another refugee mum was delighted that the books arrived just in time for her son's birthday:

The books arrived at just the right time – on the morning of my son’s birthday! He was so excited to have something to open and it really put a smile on him! There were also stickers and pens in the package and he has had so much fun playing with them and drawing.” 

 And another mum shared her gratitude at getting a moment to herself while her son was enjoying his books:

“My son was so happy to get the books. He is somebody who really loves books. His favourite thing is to spend time reading, and it gives me a little bit of ‘me’ time when he’s doing this! Thank you so much for remembering us, this really was so thoughtful and we both feel so grateful.” 

Thank you so much to Anna and HarperCollins for bringing so much joy to these mums and their young children.

If you would like to support refugee and asylum-seeking women during this difficult time, please consider supporting our current appeal.

 

 

 


Women for Refugee Women and partners submit evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on people with protected characteristics

Together with Women Asylum Seekers Together Manchester, Women with Hope in Birmingham and the Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group, we have submitted evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee on the impact of Covid-19 on asylum-seeking women.

In recent weeks we have seen various reports on the gendered impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Women are more likely to be living in poverty, and are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis. Domestic violence cases have increased as survivors are forced to lockdown with their abusers. Meanwhile, emerging data suggests that black and minority ethnic women are at increased risk, compared to white women, of suffering severe outcomes from Covid-19. The intersection of gender, race and immigration status, coupled with the trauma of their past experiences, means that asylum-seeking women are among those women most affected by the consequences of the outbreak

This submission focuses on two key areas of our expertise. Firstly, we summarise the effects of the pandemic and the government’s response to this on women held in immigration detention. Secondly, we look at the impact of the current situation on women who have been refused asylum but are unable to leave the UK, and who have therefore been forced into destitution.

Our key recommendations are:
  • All detention centres should be closed and those who are currently detained should be provided with support and safe accommodation in the community where they would have the means to self-isolate.
  • Every destitute woman in the UK, even if she has had a refusal on her asylum claim, should be given immediate access to financial support and accommodation where she can isolate safely, whether through the existing system of asylum support or through the mainstream benefits system. This should be introduced with no caveats, no exemptions and no refusals.

You can read the full submission here.

 


Women for Refugee Women launches a new appeal to support refugee women during the COVID-19 pandemic

Today we are launching a new appeal to help us to continue supporting isolated and vulnerable refugee and asylum-seeking women during the coronavirus pandemic.

Usually, we welcome over 100 women to our centre in London each week, where they can attend our English or drama lessons, practice yoga, enjoy a warm lunchaccess advice, build friendships and support each other. However, due to the outbreak of coronavirus, on Monday 16 March, we had to make the sad decision to suspend our face-to-face activities.  

The ongoing pandemic is hitting the refugee and asylum-seeking women we work with particularly hard, making it even more difficult for them to find safety in the UK and exacerbating the difficulties they were already facing. Despite the resilience and strength of the women in our network, we are seeing a significant increase in the need for emergency support, as women struggle to survive during this difficult time.  

'G' said:

My cupboard was bare. I felt so panicky, what could I do to eat? With the money, my neighbour went to the shop for me and got everything I need for the week. 

We are rapidly adapting our services to continue to support the women in our network. We are calling over 300 refugee and asylum-seeking women in our London network regularly for a friendly chat, to update them on the latest coronavirus advice and to support them through the challenges they are facing. We are providing high-quality advice, connecting women with other forms of vital support, including counselling, and providing emergency hardship grants to enable women to meet their basic needs, like food. We are also striving to keep women connected, through phone top-ups and group video sessions, to combat the intensified isolation of lockdown and enable them to rebuild their confidence.  

'Hannah' told us:

“I am happy when I receive your call as I know I am not alone. I feel happy. It gives me strength to live and when you call it gives me a good feeling in my spirit"  

We have supported women who have been made homeless during the pandemic, women who do not have the money to feed their children and women who are too afraid to access the healthcare they desperately need. And now we need your help to continue to support refugee women through the ongoing pandemic and beyond. Anything you are able to donate, will make a huge difference during this difficult time. 

Thank you for your solidarity with refugee women!

 


Our diary: how our partners are supporting refugee women across the UK

Women for Refugee Women is proud to work alongside inspiring grassroots groups that support refugee and asylum-seeking women across England and Wales. This week we are sharing an update from some of these groups on how they are responding and how you can support them.

Women with Hope, Birmingham
  • Refugee women are staying in touch and supporting one another by text and phone calls.
  • Women with Hope have been able to provide phone top-up vouchers to 30 women to enable them to stay in touch with their friends and support networks.
Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group (CARAG)
  • Loraine Masiya Mponela, the chairperson of CARAG, wrote about the unique challenges that people seeking asylum in the UK are facing during the pandemic. You can read her piece here.
  • CARAG are already thinking of how to support women who are at risk of being made homeless again once lockdown is over.

To find out more about CARAG’s work you can visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) Manchester
  • WAST Manchester are finding ways to continue running their sessions remotely over Zoom so that women can stay connected and support one another.
  • WAST’s volunteers are driving and cycling to women across the city and beyond to provide food parcels and emergency cash support to women in desperate need.

To find out more about WAST Manchester’s work you can visit their website or follow them on Twitter. WAST Manchester are currently looking for donations of tablets to help mothers educate and entertain their children while they are not at school, and you can donate to support their work here.

Oasis Cardiff
  • Oasis have started a Zoom meeting on storytelling with the women in their network for them to chat together and share experiences whilst they remain in isolation.
  • Oasis have also set up a wellbeing group on WhatsApp, to share mindfulness and meditation-related resources for the women, as well as activities they can do with their children at home. Women have been responding really well to it and Oasis are now sharing these resources with CARAG so that women in Coventry can benefit too!
  • The group is also distributing food parcels to women who are struggling to meet their basic needs.
  • Oasis has partnered with lots of well-known brands to host an online silent auction from 10 am on Monday 4th May until midnight on Sunday 10th May 2020. For more information, visit the auction website here.

Oasis Cardiff has sent us updates directly from the refugee women whom they are supporting.

Maryam from Iran shared:

“I was granted asylum in the in the middle of the pandemic. When I was granted asylum, I am going through so much anxiety as I am separated from my parents who live in Iran where the pandemic is worse. The thought of losing my loved ones is painful as hell, especially when you realise if you lose them you won’t be able to bid farewell to them. I feel very lonely because I cannot go out and meet the few friends that I have made here.”

UB who is staying in Newport shared:

“I am a single mother of a child age of 11 who is wheelchair-bound. I have isolated myself due to the coronavirus crisis, because my son has very low immune system. I'm afraid to go out to buy my daily essential items. I am protecting my son and saving lives.

Being at home without any interaction of outside world is difficult since we are already facing hard times being asylum seekers. We have no family and friends around us and the only happiness we had was just going out, taking a fresh air and restarting our lives. I am much more worried about our future now.

I’m thankful for my friends and the council for dropping me food when I need it.”

Nesrin from Sudan shared how she is coping at the moment:

As our life flipped upside down and the world evolves in unimaginable ways because of coronavirus outbreak, daily routines have been uprooted or disregarded altogether. I like to share with you some useful tips helping me to overcome this hard time so far…

I put my mental health on the top by keeping myself away from negative people and bad news. I do exercise in the morning and share favourite healthy meals with my family in the afternoon.

I make time to do some activities and watch TV with my kids in the evening.

I do online course and zoom meeting twice a week.

I found talking to friends and give emotional support really helpful to reduce stress during this difficult time.”

And two young women from Sudan share this message about having fun and staying safe during the pandemic:

A message from members of the Oasis Cardiff network!

To find out more about Oasis’s work you can visit their website or follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!


Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration finds that the Home Office is still detaining vulnerable people

A report published today by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) has found that, more than three years since its introduction, the Home Office’s ‘Adults at Risk’ policy is still not operating effectively to keep vulnerable people out of immigration detention.

The inspection identifies ‘significant weaknesses’ in Home Office processes for identifying vulnerable people before they are locked up in detention. It also points to a ‘host of problems’ with mechanisms that are supposed to act as safeguards for vulnerable people once they have been detained.

The findings of the ICIBI’s report are even more troubling in the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Detention centres put vulnerable people with underlying physical health conditions at particular risk of infection, as living conditions make it impossible to self-isolate effectively and uphold social distancing. There have already been at least two cases of Covid-19 in detention centres.

Women for Refugee Women is also in touch with survivors of trafficking, torture and rape who have been locked up in Yarl’s Wood detention centre for weeks, and in some cases months. Being detained while a global pandemic is ongoing is causing these vulnerable women immense distress. There are also serious questions about the legality of their detention. Immigration detention is only supposed to be used for purposes of removal, but as borders around the world have closed there is currently no possibility of removing these women from the UK.

Natasha Walter, director of Women for Refugee Women, says:

"Even in normal circumstances, as the ICIBI report makes clear, safeguards that are meant to protect vulnerable people from being held in immigration detention are simply not working. Immigration detention is both traumatic and unnecessary, and potentially unlawful at this time when removal is not possible. The Home Office is putting vulnerable women at risk by continuing to detain them. We call  on the Home Office to shut down detention centres now, and to provide everyone currently in detention with accommodation in the community so that they can self-isolate."