UK refugee charity fears for future

UK refugee charity fears for future
Protesters hold up placards during a demonstration to express solidarity with migrants and to demand the government welcome refugees into Britain, in London, September 12, 2015. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 June 2021

UK refugee charity fears for future

UK refugee charity fears for future
  • Lack of funding for Refugee Kindness could prevent it helping thousands
  • Founder set up charity after witnessing plight of Syrian family

LONDON: A charity that provides household items, clothing and other support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK has said it fears for its future.

Refugee Kindness — based in Wrexham, Wales — is a young charity that grew from a spur-of-the-moment decision by a Welsh barrister to donate her spare furniture to a local Syrian family.

Rachel Watkin said after making that donation, she realized just how many basic necessities refugees and asylum seekers are in need of.

She set up a Facebook group to encourage other locals to do the same, and founded her charity later after witnessing the plight of one Syrian family.

“When they came to the house, it turned out there were a lot of items they didn’t have. They didn’t have games for their kids to play with ... they didn’t have nice things like pillows and rugs, they didn’t have as much cutlery as the rest of us would have, they didn’t have a fridge freezer,” she said.

“I just thought it was so imbalanced really, so unfair that we have this mass of stuff in our garages that we want to get rid of and they had so little. I knew there must be lots of families like them.”

The charity now has over 2,000 donors and has helped 54 families — but the work is becoming too much for Watkin to handle alone.

More than 20,000 Syrians have been granted asylum and resettled in the UK in the last five years.

Despite Britain taking a relatively low number of refugees, Watkins said demand for what her charity offers has “exploded,” and now it is struggling financially to provide for them. 

Refugee Kindness, less than a year old, has run into bureaucratic problems that could endanger its entire future.

Most charities, Watkin said, need to exist for two years before unlocking access to wider funding.

“When I first set it up it didn’t need funding, but now we have so many families and we’re doing more things, it’s become more difficult,” she added.

“People have been generous and they’ve given us money, but we only have about £1,500 ($2,091).”

A 2020 report by the British Red Cross found that asylum seekers granted refugee status often face significant financial hardships as their Home Office support ends and they are expected to quickly adapt to mainstream life in the UK.

“New refugees must complete a number of complex tasks which, research by the British Red Cross and other organisations has shown, are almost impossible to achieve in 28 days,” said the report.

“These include opening a bank account, finding a job and/or applying for mainstream benefits (and receiving the first wages or payment), and finding and moving into new accommodation.”

While Refugee Kindness cannot assist in solving all these problems, if it receives more funding its donations can ease the transition.

Syrian refugee Khawla said the donations she received, including a sofa, helped her family settle in.

“When we first came here it was difficult, but now it’s good. They helped a lot and I’m thankful,” she added.

Watkins said: “We’ve given it the deadline of September to secure funding ... Beyond that, I don’t know.”