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Women for Refugee Women (WRW), together with its regional partners Women Asylum Seekers Together Manchester, Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group and Women with Hope Birmingham, has today launched important new research on the experiences of women who have been made homeless and hungry after seeking safety in the UK.

The report, Will I Ever Be Safe? Asylum-seeking women made destitute in the UK, explores the experiences of over 100 women from 29 different countries who have been made destitute in the UK after seeking asylum here.

WRW found that:

  • Nearly a third of the women they spoke with had experienced sexual violence both in their countries of origin and again while destitute in the UK.
  • Almost half were street homeless in the UK.
  • 95% were hungry, and the same percentage of women were depressed while they were destitute.

These women were fleeing violence in order to seek asylum in the UK.

  • A third said that they had been raped by state authorities in their countries of origin.
  • A quarter of the women had been targeted because of their political activities; 16% are lesbian or bisexual and had been targeted because of their sexuality.

Over 150 asylum-seeking women, together with over 50 supporters, will come together in Birmingham on Friday 14 February to explore how to build solidarity and advocacy to end destitution.

‘Mary’ a refugee woman who was persecuted by the state in Uganda and now has refugee status, was made destitute and street homeless after her asylum claim was at first refused: “Being homeless made me feel so depressed that I tried to kill myself. I got refugee status in the end, but after so much pain and suffering.”

The report is illustrated by photographs taken by destitute asylum-seeking women.


Migrants and refugees cross borders to live among us for many reasons. Some come fleeing human rights abuses. Some come to join other members of their families. Some come to take up work or study. But when they arrive here they often find that they face new challenges and problems. Some not only rise to these challenges for themselves, they also help others to succeed. The Women on the Move Awards celebrate and promote the contribution that migrant and refugee women, the media and their champions can make towards facing down prejudice and inspiring others.

This year there are four categories of awards. The Woman of the Year and Young Woman of the Year awards celebrate women who, having migrated or fled persecution, provide essential support and inspiring leadership at a grassroots level to others starting a new life in the UK.

The Sue lloyd-Roberts Media Award recognises the outstanding work of a journalist or producer whose reporting has promoted the protection needs of migrant and refugee women. The Champion Award will also be presented to those who work to protect or promote the rights and/or integration needs of UK-based migrant and refugee women.

Find out about previous year’s winners 2012 ,2013 ,20142015  2016.

If you know a woman who deserves to be recognised, nominate her  below.

For more information please contact [email protected].


The New Beginnings Fund was set up by a group of funders, including Barrow Cadbury Trust, to provide support to organisations involved with welcoming and integrating refugees into the UK.   Phase 1 of the Fund completed earlier this year.  Find out about some of the initiatives funded under Phase 1.  The applications for phase 2 of the New Beginnings Fund are now open.  The deadline for submitting an expression of interest form is 30 October 2016.  Please note, that web page will direct you to the relevant Community Foundation website.

For this phase grants will only be awarded in Yorkshire, the East Midlands, the North East, the South West, the South East, the East of England and Cumbria, Staffordshire, Manchester and Cheshire.

The New Beginnings Fund was set up to support small groups. Applicants must meet certain conditions before being awarded a grant. Find out more about the eligibility criteria.  Read the Documents and Policies checklist before you submit an expression of interest.

Questions in the expression of interest form and application form


The blog below was originally published in Alliance Magazine

In September 2015, a group of UK-based foundations and NGOs met at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to discuss responses to the refugee crisis that was engulfing Europe. The images of Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach had jolted many from unease or disbelief to shock, sympathy and compassion.  Although the UK was not experiencing inflows like mainland Europe, there was a groundswell of public support for refugees and positive coverage of an issue all too often mired in controversy.

Some of us thought that there was scope for collective action and the meeting led the establishment of New Beginnings, a pooled fund managed by the UK Community Foundations Network (UKCF). Although both Barrow Cadbury and Paul Hamlyn are strategic, long-term funders in the area of migration we thought it was important to help set up this responsive fund. Firstly, we were hearing that small local groups were over-stretched and overwhelmed by offers to volunteer. Often the first port of call for people who want to engage with this issue and welcome migrants and refugees, these groups were inundated with requests but ill-equipped to harness this new energy and interest.

As long-standing investors in work to understand public attitudes to refugee and migration issues, we were under no illusions that the crisis would lead to a dramatic and positive shift in views. However, this fund seemed opportune given that surveys have found that the public have more positive attitudes to migration in their local area than at national level. There is also extensive evidence to show that meaningful contact with migrants and refugees can be a very powerful experience that shapes how people feel about this issue.

We were also struck by the US experience of building a movement in support of migrants and refugees. There, advocates and their philanthropic partners have found that a healthy immigration movement requires investment in both large and small organisations. The ability of these organisations to engage meaningfully with the public, and not just their core supporters, has proved critical.

With New Beginnings we were motivated by the chance to build on the momentum generated by external events and to help often fragile community groups become more resilient and reach out to newer constituencies. Given its short-term nature, the fund was not designed to fill gaps in service delivery – of which there are many – but to build capacity in engaging local communities in support of their work at a time of great demand. To that end, we are also in the process of developing workshops to enable some of the groups involved to strengthen their approach to communications and to tap into existing networks and reach new supporters.

In May 2016, New Beginnings awarded £506,000 in one year grants to 45 organisations, 39 of which received up to £10,000 and seven partnership projects that were awarded up to £20,000. Typical examples include Restore, a Birmingham based group that has seen massive increases in volunteer befriender requests over the past year. Also supported is Oasis Cardiff Partnership, which will work with new arrivals to help them integrate, partly through sessions organised by volunteers from the local community and also a ‘Friends and Neighbours’ group.

New Beginnings will launch a second round, of a similar size to the first, later this summer. Approaches from foundations or donors interested in contributing would be very welcome. One of the issues we and the other funders and partners hope to address this time round is the paucity of applications from refugee or migrant led organisations. How do we go about reaching these often over-looked and low profile groups that have the potential to make a significant contribution towards long-term change?

In this post-Brexit haze the refugee crisis now seems quite distant. However, the rationale for the fund remains, perhaps even more so now that some of the fault lines and anxieties that existed before the vote have surfaced and have uncovered a tension that risks undermining the UK’s long tradition of welcoming newcomers.

Trusts, foundations and other philanthropists and supporters now more than ever need to demonstrate collective and sustained support for the often unglamorous work of these community groups and the volunteers working with them.

Ayesha Saran is migration programme manager at Barrow Cadbury Trust.
Alex Sutton is senior grants manager at Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

This blog represents the views of the two trusts and not the views of all funders of the New Beginnings Fund.

Foundations contributing to the pooled fund include: Comic Relief; Barrow Cadbury Trust; Paul Hamlyn Foundation; Pears Foundation; Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales; The Rayne Foundation; City of London Corporation; BBC Children in Need and Oak Foundation.

In response to the ongoing refugee crisis a new £525,000 fund has been launched by a number of charitable trusts and foundations, including Barrow Cadbury Trust, to support community groups in the UK welcoming and integrating refugees and asylum seekers into local communities.  Although the UK is receiving fewer new arrivals than many other countries, the year ending June 2015 saw a 10% increase in asylum applications and a dramatic 46% increase in children separated from their families.[1]


The public wave of sympathy in response to the refugee crisis has led to an increase in the number of people looking to volunteer.   One of the aims of this fund is to help groups build their capacity to process these offers of assistance. This is especially important at a time where demand is rising and groups are working with larger numbers of people who have been through traumatic experiences.


The New Beginnings Fund has been contributed to by a number of leading charities including Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Pears Foundation, The Rayne Foundation, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, and Comic Relief.


The fund will be disbursed through UK Community Foundations’ (UKCF) network of local community foundations.  The application process will be managed across the four nations of the UK by: Community Foundations for Lancashire & Merseyside, Community Foundation in Wales, Community Foundation Northern Ireland, Foundation Scotland, Heart of England Community Foundation, Kent Community Foundation and London Community Foundation.


The fund is aimed at small, local groups.  Those groups with an income of less than £250,000 will be prioritised. Applications for up to £10,000 will be considered but, in exceptional circumstances, grants for up to £20,000 will be awarded for collaborative bids involving multiple local partners.


The funding can be used for new or existing activities that involve local communities in welcoming and supporting new arrivals. A key view of this fund is that early integration helps dispel tensions and prevent misconceptions within local communities. Applications from projects which emphasise the value of integration and work with communities to become stronger and more connected, encouraging refugees and asylum seekers to make an active contribution and engage positively, will be welcome.


If other organisations are interested in contributing to the New Beginnings Fund, they should contact UKCF for further information.


Applications can be submitted up to 29 March 2016 following a six week application window. Application forms can be found on the UK Community Foundations Website as well as on the website of each participating community foundation.


[1] Home Office National Statistics: Asylum


 Sonja Miley, Community Engagement Officer for Waging Peace writes about its work supporting Sudanese people in detention   I volunteer with Waging Peace, a small NGO helping Sudanese dissidents in the UK. Waging Peace gives practical help to democracy campaigners and other Sudanese who have fled persecution. We find legal advice for people claiming asylum, as well as assistance with getting somewhere to live, opening a bank account, a mobile phone, and clothes for children.   But there are times when people who have escaped to the UK need someone to talk to, especially when they feel lost in the legal immigration minefield.


Some Sudanese are held in detention centres while their appeals for asylum are considered. If their cases fail they face forcible return to Khartoum. That means arrest, interrogation, torture and possible “disappearance” at the hands of the Sudanese security services.   Waging Peace recognises how stressful and lonely it can be for people in detention centres, so we organise a visitor’s group to provide moral support to Sudanese asylum seekers. Mostly the visitors are Sudanese already living in the UK who can offer people reassurance in their native language. However, Dr. Arama, the person I saw on my first visit, spoke perfect English.


It was a suitably cold, grey January day when I arrived at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Buckinghamshire, just outside London. I had no idea what to expect, and I was nervous, wondering how could I really help. What could I do?    As I prepared myself mentally to meet Dr. Amara, the prison-like atmosphere blindsided me. It wasn’t the back of beyond physical location nor being bussed to a walled-up, barbed wire fenced-in facility. It wasn’t even the frosty reception from the front desk staff who only allow you to proceed once your fingerprints and photographs have been taken. Rather, it was the stark walls, barren but for one or two signs posting stern warnings that no visitor was to take anything – not a pen or paper, not an offering of food, not a book, not a sliver of any humanity from the ‘outside’ world, not even your own belongings – into the visitor lounge.


I had to remind myself that the woman I was about to meet was not a prisoner, she was a person, who happened to be an asylum seeker, there on humanitarian grounds, fleeing extreme conditions in her home country after being victimised by her own government and subjected to torture, rape and further trauma.   “Yarl’s Wood detainees aren’t there because they have been charged with a criminal offence” reported BBC Home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, “They are people, many of them vulnerable, whose claims for asylum or right to stay in Britain have been rejected or are being challenged.”


Yet, when Dr. Amara had gone to her weekly immigration sign-in 2 weeks ago, she was briskly taken into custody, without warning and with only the clothes on her back. Her personal belongings were taken away, and for several hours she was held in a locked room. No one told her what was happening. They bustled her into a van for the journey to an unknown destination – which turned out to be Yarl’s Wood IRC, several hours away.   Not surprisingly, the experience reminded Dr. Amara of when she had been detained back in Sudan. Her unease increased when she was given “removal directions,” with an airline ticket to return her to Sudan within a week.  She had risked her life to escape from the Sudanese regime and she knew what awaited her if she was forced to return.


When I met her at Yarl’s Wood I had to pass through a security scanner and I was patted down by an officer who made sure I was taking no more than £10 in with me. When the officer was satisfied, she unlocked the door to the visitor lounge and finally I made my way in to find Dr. Amara.   All the while I was wondering how on earth I could help this woman who had endured so much. What can I do? How can we tangibly measure the importance of Waging Peace through our Sudanese Visitor’s Group and visiting people in detention?   I smiled as I approached Dr. Amara and without thinking I opened my arms.  She offered me a brave but sad smile and with no words she collapsed into my arms, sobbing. I gently embraced her and when she was ready, we sat down and talked for the next two hours. It was finally clear to me, the value of what we do.


Through meeting people where they are, we don’t have to ‘do’ anything. In a sense we offer hope and hope is immeasurable.   Below are comments from other Sudanese dissidents who have been visited at detention centres by representatives from Waging Peace.   Mohammed, now living in Cardiff, said, “The Sudanese government troops attacked my area and killed many people so I left Sudan because it was not safe. In 2009 a friend gave me the number for Waging Peace while I was being detained at Campsfield detention centre.  I was at Campsfield for nearly 11 months. I didn’t speak any English and wasn’t able to speak to many people because I didn’t have the language ability. To give me something to do and also help other people, I got work inside Campsfield. I was very depressed. It was difficult to be locked away, not speaking English, after my long and frightening journey from Sudan.”  


Dr. Ahmed, now living in London, told me, “You supported me with many things – especially hope.  At least I talked to someone. Even simply saying ‘hello’ helped me. Waging Peace also contacted my lawyer and if I wasn’t happy with something or I didn’t understand they would act on my behalf and support me.”     Ezzeldin, now living in Manchester, remembers, “I didn’t have family or friends to talk to and I was scared. I knew if I was sent back home I would die. I needed support and help with my asylum application. I totally broke down when I arrived. I tried to commit suicide two times while I was in detention. Waging Peace gave me emotional support and helped contact my lawyer. Unfortunately no Sudanese Visitors Group visits were allowed because of my mental state so I was very lonely. When I received a phone call from Waging Peace it felt like I received a message from God. Waging Peace’s support was a lifeline for me.”

Paul Dillane writes about the UK’s use of indefinite detention for LGBT asylum seekers

‘It’s Ali. I’ve been detained. Please help me.’

This week I received a telephone call from a client – a young gay man from Pakistan – who had travelled to the Home Office in Croydon to seek asylum. In Pakistan, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experience systematic discrimination and violence. Upon claiming asylum in the UK, Ali was immediately detained and transferred to the largest immigration detention centre in Europe – Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre.

Ali is not a criminal, he has exercised his right to seek asylum as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in domestic law. Yet he has been detained indefinitely.

Ali’s case is being processed in the ‘Detained Fast Track’ system, a highly accelerated process whereby an asylum claim is determined in a matter of days. Thousands of asylum seekers experience the same fate every year.

My organisation, the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG), is a charity dedicated to supporting LGBT asylum seekers. Not only do LGBT asylum seekers face significant obstacles in securing refugee status but also increasing numbers are indefinitely detained. They will remain in detention until they are granted asylum – which can take weeks or months – or until they are forcibly removed to their country of origin. The civil liberties organisation Liberty argues that migrants are detained purely for ‘administrative convenience’ which leads to many asylum seekers being ‘denied the right to a full and fair consideration of their claim’.

Over the last 20 years the scale of immigration detention in this country has expanded rapidly and now the UK detains more migrants than any country in Europe apart from Greece, which is in the process of releasing many of those it detains. The UK is alone in detaining migrants indefinitely. In France the maximum period is 45 days.

In 1993, UK detention capacity was just 250 places. In 2015, there are 11 immigration removal centres and capacity is approximately 4,000 places. Statistics published in September 2014 show that 3,378 people were in detention at that time, while 29,492 people entered detention over the previous 12 months. Sweden has only 255 detention places yet receives twice as many asylum claims as the UK.

As the Refugee Council says, in recent months ‘a bright light has been shone into the darkest corners of the British immigration system and it has revealed some unpleasant secrets.’ In January, Women for Refugee Women reported female detainees are routinely humiliated by male staff who monitor them while they are dressing, showering and using the toilet. In March, Channel 4 News broadcasted a shocking investigation which exposed staff calling detainees ‘animals’, ‘beasties’ and ‘bitches’.

The following day, a cross-party group of MPs and Peers demanded a fundamental change in the way that immigration detention is used and called for a 28 day time limit. The Detention Inquiry’s damning findings – arising from an investigation chaired by Liberal Democrat, Sarah Teather MP – found immigration detention is used ‘disproportionately and inappropriately’.

The Inquiry argued: The system is hugely costly to the tax-payer and seriously detrimental to the individuals we detain in terms of their mental and physical well-being.’

It also criticised the conditions for LGBT people who experience bullying, harassment and abuse. As Johnson, a former client from Jamaica who now has refugee status, described:

The whole place is vile, it is homophobic, one of the guards called me a poof and then there were the Jamaicans who kept hurling some abuse at some Iranian guys—calling them batty men. I was terrified thinking: “Oh my God, I hope they don’t know I am one of them.”’

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, invited the former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, to investigate whether ‘improvements can be made to safeguard the health and wellbeing of detainees’. Disappointingly, the narrow scope of the review means it will not be able to deal with the wide-ranging issues raised by this Inquiry.

The use of immigration detention in the UK is out of control but, crucially, a political consensus on the need to tackle this problem has finally begun to emerge. More than 50 organisations, including UKLGIG, joined the #Time4aTimeLimit campaign and urged political parties to adopt the Inquiry’s recommendations. Last week, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party all offered manifesto pledges to end indefinite detention. Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, commented:

Indefinite detention of people who have committed no crime – and without even any independent review – is wrong. It can be deeply scarring – especially for asylum seekers who have already suffered abuse. And it is extremely expensive for taxpayers. No other western nation does it. We don’t need to either.’

British immigration detention centres have become notorious for their cruelty but the crescendo of opposition can no longer be ignored. Are the days of indefinite immigration detention in the UK finally numbered? The fight isn’t over yet but for Ali – and the thousands of others who languish in immigration detention – there may be hope on the horizon.

Paul Dillane is Executive Director of UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG)  This blog was originally published on The Justice Gap.

Jessica Kennedy of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum celebrates  the legacy of the Women on the Move Awards


On Thursday 6th March, 260 people gathered at the Southbank Centre to celebrate the achievements of inspirational women from refugee and migrant communities. The Women on the Move Awards, part of the WOW Festival and supported by Barrow Cadbury Trust are held to recognise the outstanding contributions that refugee women make to empowering and integrating their communities.  My organisation – The Forum – co-hosts the Awards alongside Migrants Rights Network and UNHCR.


The Awards are more than just a one night event, and aim to make an ongoing and lasting difference to the winners and their communities. The women gain recognition for, and raise the profile of, their work.  In addition, a fellowship provides access to high quality leadership development and help to build a network of exceptional women and the organisations they work with.


A month after the awards, as the dust has settled and the plaudits die down, what has changed?




Lilian Seenoi, who founded the only migrant forum in Derry-Londonderry from her kitchen table, won the Women of the Year Award for her work to ensure migrants and refugees can access support. The North-West Migrants Forum brings together diverse migrant groups and local communities which have suffered years of tension. The Awards have catapulted Lilian onto an international stage – she has just come back from Brussels, where she contributed to a public debate at the European Union on practical steps to challenge the poor treatment of migrants in Greece. She is shortly to fly to Turin, Italy, to take part in a European-wide project to tackle hate speech, before another visit to Brussels. All that before running a festival in June to bring together communities building on Derry-Londonderry’s place as UK City of Culture in 2013.


International attention also followed Tatiana Garavito, winner of the Young Woman of the Year Award for her tireless and determined work with the Latin American community in London. El Espectador, a mainstream newspaper in Colombia, published an article about Tatiana.  A short film commissioned by the Women on the Move Awards about Tatiana’s work will be shown at a documentary film festival in Colombia.  After the Awards Tatiana said they were “an amazing opportunity for us migrant women to show the world what we can achieve given a fair chance”.


Those who attended the Awards also found powerful connections. My personal highlight of the night was seeing, in the crush of the after-party, members of a collective of domestic workers connecting with a woman who works with Lilian and the North-West Migrants Forum and is trying to tackle exploitative labour practices in Northern Ireland. This fledgling relationship is continuing and already leading to mutual support, learning and, ultimately, stronger and more effective organisations.




Although the Awards receive little coverage from major news organisations, the winners and their organisations gain interest from a variety of other sources. Diana Nammi, who founded the Iranian-Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) as a reaction to ‘honour’ killing and violence, was given special recognition for her tireless work. On the night, IKWRO’s twitter followers notably increased.  All our winners have been inundated with requests for interviews and articles.


Films that Women on the Move made about the Award winners have reached 5,561 viewers – spreading these courageous stories even further. As organisers, we are so glad to see how the Awards create a platform for extraordinary women to shout about their own and their organisations’ great work.  Tatiana was able to highlight the invisibility of the Latin American community in London: “with this [attention], the whole community get the recognition that we are campaigning for”.




Perhaps most important, the women tell me, is an improvement in their confidence. Standing on stage as an Award winner, being celebrated for your work and able to share your story from a place of strength, can have a huge personal impact. From what we already know about these courageous and determined women, the only way from here is up.


We also know this is just the start of working relationships that benefit us all. As Diana, one of the award-winners, said after the ceremony, “it has been a huge pleasure – and I hope this will be a start for partnership work for the future”. The Forum hopes the Awards continue to impact throughout the year and look forward to seeing all our supporters – and more extraordinary women – in 2015! There may be only one day to celebrate international women, but Women on the Move are changing lives everyday.