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    Tue Apr 8th
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    Thu Apr 3rd

Refugee Week 2013 - Yorks & Humber Pictures!

Northern Refugee Centre supports Refugee Week

Refugee Week is an annual oportunity to celebrate and raise awareness about the contribution of refugees to UK cultural, economic and civic life.

Some impressions from Refugee Week 2013!

I started the week at a concert organised by ASSIST Sheffield, an organisation with over 100 volunteers providing a lifeline to people who find themselves destitute as a result of their legal status in the The dedication of the volunteers I spoke to is something that I, as someone born and bred in England, can feel really proud of. Out of their humanitarian concern, volunteers provide space in their own homes to save people from sleeping out on the streets at night, arrange food parcels, support an emergency night shelter and organise awareness-raising and fundraising events. The World Over convert was an opportunity for refugees and asylum-seeker artists and musicians to demonstrate their considerable talents. It was also a celebratory event for the volunteers, both from UK and refugee backgrounds to mark how much they have achieved over the past year to meet a rising tide of destitution amongst those who are the most vulnerable in our society.

The official launch event in Bradford in Monday 17th June brought a wide range of agencies together. Speakers included Beatrice Botomani, recently granted refugee status after waiting 7 years for her claim for asylum to be approved. During all these years, like most other asylum seekers, she was prevented by government from working even though she is an extremely capable woman. She spoke on behalf of Why Refugee Women, a group that is asking for more organisations and businesses in Yorkshire and Humber to sign up to their Charter setting minimum standards for how refugee and asylum-seeking women need to be treated in our society.

On Tuesday I attended the only Refugee Week event to be held in Rotherham this year. Sadly, two years ago, many agencies had to stop providing services in Rotherham due to budget cuts. The British Red Cross is still able to support a weekly drop-in offering advice and support for refugees and asylum-seekers, but is the only agency still able to open its doors on a regular basis. This service has been a vital support to the increasing numbers of people who are being moved to Rotherham, despite the lack of services to support them. Likewise, I visited the Conversation Club in Doncaster which is struggling to keep up with the numbers of people needing support and guidance to help them find out where to find English language classes, search for work and negotiate the benefits system.

On Wednesday I attended a regional training event run by WomenCentre. They highlighted the particular needs of refugee women and the room was full of people offering services ranging from housing, health, social services and community cohesion. All those present shared concerns about how much their service were being stretched due to budget cuts combined with higher levels of stress and destitution.

Thursday was the closing event of an excellent research and activity project run by Football Unites, Racism Divides in Sheffield. The project has studied the positive impact of engaging newly arrived communities and people who have lived in a place for a long time in playing football and other sports and dance activities together. The organisation is hopeful that many of their activities will continue on a voluntary basis, but without the central coordination the organisation may struggle to support such a hive of positive activity.

Saturday in Hull was an opportunity to engage with the public. A number of agencies including ARKH, British Red Cross, Refugee Council, Police and Northern Refugee Service combined resources to stage a free information and music event in St Stephen’s shopping centre. Passers by were offered vouchers for free cups of tea from one of the cafes and everyone could listen to music from around the world. All this in a covered venue while the rain poured down outside. I sat and enjoyed a cup of RefuTEA and marvelled about how much can be done by good people working together. And this was just a small selection of the events that took place all over the region.

Jeni Vine, Regional Community Development Manager, Northern Refugee Centre

For more information please visit the national Refugee Week page www.refugeeweek.org.uk