Putting refugees and asylum seekers at the heart of services and policies that support them
What was the AVAIL project?
Often, people without lived experience of the issues refugees face design and provide refugee services. This can create a disconnect between what refugees need and the support they are given.
The pioneering AVAIL Project gave a voice to the people who used our services. We put refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people at the heart of refugee integration in new communities and countries.
Standing for ‘Amplifying the Voices of Asylum seekers and refugees for Integration and Life skills’, the AVAIL project ran in the UK, Ireland, Latvia and Italy.
We tested whether using co-production approaches lead to people feeling more positive and more included in their new communities. We worked together to design activities. We helped people feel more engaged, and we provided services that were relevant to the people who use them.
I have the privilege to bring change to my own life and the lives of the many who do not have a voice.
I'm grateful to be part of a group that understands my situation because we all have a lot in common when it comes to our experiences.
- Isabella, VOICES network ambassador, Glasgow
Read Isabella's story on her experiences in immigration detention.
What did the AVAIL project do in the UK, Ireland, Latvia and Italy?
- In the UK, the VOICES network, helped refugees and asylum seekers speak out to change policy and practice. A life skills course was given through peer education, ;and peer research fed into plans for future support services. Chatterbox was a unique opportunity for refugees to teach their own language.
- In Ireland and Latvia, AVAIL tested if a community buddying programme that could help new arrivals integrate into their communities.
- In Italy, the project harnessed the power of radio to highlight the challenges and issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers. A refugee football team in Milan helped people integrate into their community through sport, playing in local tournaments and supporting and coaching another team of disabled Italian players. A peer mentoring scheme trained mentors living in refugee reception centres to guide and advise other asylum seekers. The focus was cultural awareness, language learning, and through sharing practical skills like cooking.
- In all four countries, refugees raised their voices to help improve services, policy and attitudes.
More about AVAIL in the UK
The VOICES network: refugees and asylum seekers speak out
VOICES ambassadors in Birmingham, Derby, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, London, Sheffield, and across Wales and south-east England, formed the project’s VOICES network.
With training and support, VOICES ambassadors worked together to speak out about issues that affect refugees and asylum seekers.
Sharing their own experiences, they advocated to change policy, used the media to change points of view and helped the Red Cross to improve our services through expert feedback.
Chatterbox: refugees become language teachers
Chatterbox is an innovative new service that employs refugees to teach their own languages to people who want to learn them. The AVAIL Project worked with them to deliver over 1,000 hours of language tuition and practice to a wide variety of British learners.
Refugees and asylum seekers designed and delivered an orientation and life skills course for newly arrived asylum seekers in Newport, South Wales, using a peer educator model.
With help from AVAIL staff, the peer educators learned the skills they needed to teach and guide attendees, using their lived experience to make the course more relevant.
Peer researchers with personal experience of being a refugee or asylum seeker worked alongside the AVAIL researcher. Together, they developed research questions, interviewed participants and analysed the data.
Using the co-production approach, we made sure that refugees’ own interpretation of what integration means was reflected in the research. This then explored the benefits, challenges and impact of using refugee and asylum seekers’ own experiences when designing projects to support them.
Working with the researcher and the team made me more comfortable and confident due the support and encouragement from them at all times. I can say I am proud about my experience of volunteering on a large research project.R, AVAIL peer researcher, Newport