15 January 2016
A new charity partnership has been launched to help refugees and asylum seekers in Greater Manchester.
Run by four charities, including the British Red Cross, the Greater Manchester Refugee Support Partnership (GMRSP) will help refugees and asylum seekers living in destitution.
It aims to support 9,000 people over the course of five years and will operate across Manchester, Oldham, Salford and Bolton.
The partnership is a joint effort between the British Red Cross, Refugee Action, Revive and Rainbow Haven.
It holds regular drop-in sessions offering legal advice and case work, English and IT classes, support and companionship, plus food parcels for those living destitute.
Rob Arnold, Red Cross senior service manager for refugee support in the North West, said: “One of the big issues we have found in the lives of refugees and asylum seekers here is loneliness and isolation.
“They don’t have a choice where they are dispersed to after arriving in the UK, so they can be sent somewhere where they have no friends, relatives or community support.”
Around a quarter of the 23,500 asylum seekers arriving in the UK each year are sent to Greater Manchester, making it one of the country’s key dispersal areas.
It’s believed there are around 2,000 refugees or asylum seekers living destitute in Greater Manchester without access to food, shelter and health care.
A Red Cross report published this week found that a record number of asylum seekers are being left destitute in the UK.
They can face numerous problems: isolation, mental health problems, lack of access to legal support, language difficulties and access to housing.
“By having local hubs in areas around Greater Manchester, we hope that refugees and asylum seekers across the area can start to form friendships and offer each other support,” added Arnold.
“We also hope to have a positive influence on policies affecting refugees and asylum seekers nationwide.”
Help at hand
Although the official launch event is today, the GMRSP has been running since May.
The target for the first year was to help 1,000 people, yet in the first six months of operation it has already helped 800 people.
Rruzhdi Sina, an asylum seeker who attends the Oldham drop-in, said: “I do English classes and come for legal advice.
“My son is 14 and my daughter is 19 and they speak English perfectly. It is harder for me to learn because I am 45.
“I want to work and have told the Home Office so many times, ‘please, let me work’ – I don’t want to take money from the Post Office.
“I volunteer at churches a lot instead but I have a lot of stress. I just want to be able to stay for the sake of my children.”
The GMRSP is investing £4.3m over the next five years in developing the project and delivering services.
The Big Lottery Fund will provide just over 50 per cent of the funding.
The rest will come from match funding from the four partner organisations.