Does Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees (CWR) only support Syrian refugees?
CWR supports and welcomes all refugees. The organisation was born from a Citizen’s UK training programme which prepares volunteers who want to lobby their local council to consider resettling more refugees and gives them the tools to create a local welcome group.
The training was particularly focused on the Syrian crisis and the need for the UK to accept more Syrian refugees. Therefore, most of the work of CWR has been focused on Syrian refugees but we are keen to support any and all refugee families in the area.
Where is the money coming from to fund the resettlement of Syrians?
The funds come from the Overseas Aid Budget through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme (SVPRP). SVPRP is a government programme that aims to resettle 20 000 Syrian refugees from refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey from September 2015 to May 2020. More facts about Syrian refugee resettlement can be found here and here.
What kind of housing is being offered to Syrian refugees?
In Cheltenham, two bedroom council properties have been used. Elsewhere, the private sector has also been used. If you are a private landlord and interested in offering housing to refugees, checkout our page for landlords.
How many Syrian families are there in Cheltenham?
Cheltenham is currently home to almost twenty Syrian refugee families, as well as other refugee families from other parts of the world. A few more Syrian families are expected to arrive in the next year or so, including some families from elsewhere in the world, but this is dependent on houses becoming available for them. You can read more about the global and local context of refugees on the about page.
Are refugees allowed to work?
People who have been granted refugee status have permission to work and access public funds. However, the UK is taking ‘vulnerable people’ whom the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has deemed to be in urgent need of resettlement. This means that some people will have difficulties working due to various factors such as ill health. Language is also a barrier to getting a job for many refugees who find themselves in the UK.
Asylum seekers (displaced people seeking refugee status) aren’t presently allowed to work or study, even though the asylum process can take many years to process. If you’d like to get involved in changing this, Right To Remain are campaigning on this issue.
Who is choosing which families come and how?
The UNHCR identifies families who meet the criteria which the Home Office has specified and liaises with the Home Office to carry out vetting checks. When housing becomes available somewhere, refugees are chosen from camps in the Middle East to come to the UK.
Isn’t there a shortage of housing in Britain?
No, there is a shortage of affordable housing in the UK. A report by the charity Shelter states:
There are more than 630,000 empty homes in England. 216,050 of these have been vacant for more than 6 months. The issue is affordable housing.
Is Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees a registered charity?
No, we are not. Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees is run entirely by volunteers, and the group is a non-incorporated association, which means that we have been able to open a bank account for small amounts of funding, which we can raise as and when specific needs emerge. We may dedicate resources towards charity status in the future if we feel this becomes necessary, but in the meantime, our organisation can be responsive and highly productive based on our present means.
How can I donate to Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees?
If you wish to support our work, we ask that first and foremost, you do so by raising awareness of refugee issues with your friends, family and community, and by supporting our various working groups. This is a key aspect of our work, and will make a significant positive difference.
If you wish to financially support refugees locally, we recommend donating to GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers), who oversee the resettlement process in all of Gloucestershire. They are also the first port of call for other refugees and asylum seekers in Gloucestershire who are not currently receiving any of the support which Syrian families entering through the SVPRP are.
Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees will hold specific fundraising events and appeals in the future when we identify specific needs, particularly with regards to community engagement over National Refugee Week, and we hope you might consider donating at that time. You can read more about our donations policy here.