Today I went to an event organised by Virgin. It was one of their Better Chances series, bringing to the attention of Virgin companies the role business can play in addressing some of the inequalities, social and environmental concerns in our world. This session focused upon Refugees and Migrants and how we create Better Chances for them to resettle, thrive and play their role in society.
The statistics are mind-boggling. Over 60 million people are displaced across our world, that is more than the entire population of the UK. 33,000 people are added to the number of people who flee their country daily, not by choice, but necessity. 50% of these people are children. For those who reach a country of safety, the trauma and upheaval is far from over. Language barriers, lack of support networks, homelessness, poverty, lack of independence and discrimination are all common characteristics of the journey ahead.
I see the challenges of this on a micro level. The Virgin Money Foundation funds two charities dedicated to addressing homelessness and destitution amongst asylum seekers, Action Foundation and Open Door North East. They work with many households who, having been assessed and granted refugee status, are given 28 days to get ID, find accommodation, secure that accommodation and move out of the accommodation they are in. Many struggle to make this transition and end up facing another period of destitution and homelessness. The research shows that the public care about this issue, but don’t know where to start in order to effect change.
At Better Chances we heard from Amnesty International about the Community Sponsorship Scheme. A new government approved process whereby community groups can sponsor a refugee family to start their life in the UK. The group makes themselves available from the day the family arrives in their town, helping the families to get their kids into a school, enroll with a doctor, seek work. Most important of all, they commit to being good neighbours, supporting the family to become a valued part of their new community, to find a place after the trauma of displacement. As the Advocacy Director from Amnesty International closed the day by saying, “For those of us who want to do ‘something’ to help the global refugee crisis but don’t know where to start, this is something.”
Whether it is by considering community sponsorship with a group of friends, supporting a local charity working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers or simply learning more about the journey people go on when they flee man-made or environmental disasters, the need to respond is irrefutable. 60 million people, of every walk of life, surely cannot be ignored.
Nancy Doyle-Hall, Executive Director.