On 1 st April, four refugee and migrant charities – Asylum Welcome, Reading Refugee Support Group, Slough Refugee Support and Settled – are joining forces to launch the Thames Valley Immigration Alliance (TVIA), supported by funding from the Justice Together initiative.
On 1st April, four refugee and migrant charities – Asylum Welcome, Reading Refugee Support Group, Slough Refugee Support and Settled – are joining forces to launch the Thames Valley Immigration Alliance (TVIA), supported by funding from the Justice Together initiative.
The TVIA will work across the region to strengthen and increase access to immigration advice and legal services for EU migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and vulnerable migrants. There is currently a shortage of immigration advice services in the Thames Valley area. The TVIA will address this by increasing the capacity within the region to provide immigration advice to clients, many of whom are destitute. The TVIA will complement and assist the work of legal aid solicitors by giving more people access to a better service, and by better supporting people struggling to engage with the legal aid system.
The four organisations will collaborate closely, while continuing to manage their own operations. The TVIA provides a platform for the partner organisations to speak with one powerful voice on issues that affect the whole region. Advocating for a fairer and more humane asylum system has never been so important as the sector faces unprecedented challenges. While the number of vulnerable people accessing the organisations’ standard support services continues to rise, hundreds of Afghan refugees continue to live in ‘transition hotels’ across the Thames Valley. While new housing and hotels for asylum seekers of all nationalities continue to spring up across the region, NGOs have also been charged by the government to coordinate local support for refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
Mark Goldring, director of Asylum Welcome, says:
“It has never been more important or urgent to assist migrants, asylum seekers and refugees with good legal advice. Our asylum, immigration and legal aid systems are overstretched and fail many people. This is an important opportunity for four agencies to work with each other and with legal aid solicitors and partners to improve the service for vulnerable clients.”
We continue to witness the effects that Britain’s withdrawal from the EU has had upon the most vulnerable European citizens in the UK. At the same time, the whole sector is preparing itself for the overhaul of the asylum system set out in the Nationality and Borders Bill. Through the TVIA, immigration services in the Thames Valley region will be better prepared and better resourced to face these challenges. By working collaboratively, we will continue to offer an excellent, joined-up service to our clients in an increasingly hostile environment.
(1) About Asylum Welcome.
Asylum Welcome (AW) has supported refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in Oxfordshire for 25 years. We help our clients understand and access rights and opportunities, develop and share their talents, and feel welcomed. In 2020-21, we supported over 1,300 individuals and families through integrated services. AW supports 100+ clients annually with legal asylum/immigration advice, and has supported 350-500 applicants for Settled Status annually for the last 2 years. Our services are delivered by staff and a trained, multilingual team of 140 volunteers.
For more information, see: www.asylum-welcome.org
(2) About Reading Refugee Support Group
Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) was started in 1994 by a group of refugees, and now supports hundreds of refugee and asylum-seeking people and families across Berkshire, from over 50 countries. RRSG provides: a safe space; OISC accredited advice; practical support; social activities; English classes; education and employment support; signposting; awareness raising. RRSG supported 736 people in 2020/21 (221 in 2019-20).
For more information, see: https://rrsg.org.uk/
(3) About Slough Refugee Support
Slough Refugee Support (SRS) helps all asylum seekers and refugees in Slough and surrounding areas to achieve their rights and settle with dignity. Set up 24 years ago, SRS provides OISC advice and support up to Level 2/3; legal support from solicitors; Asylum Support (NASS); access to benefits, health and education support; family support; job searches for those eligible to work; English classes. Last year, SRS supported 402 clients from 36 countries.
For more information, see: https://www.sloughrefugeesupport.org.uk/
(4) About Settled
Settled has considerable experience in supporting EU migrants with post-Brexit registration and a related legal challenges. Settled is an independent charity providing information, advice and support in multiple languages to EU citizens in the UK. A small staff team coordinates 100+ volunteers throughout the UK, providing immigration advice to EU citizens to gain Settled Status and respond to difficulties they face, prioritising those most in need.
For more information, see: https://settled.org.uk/
(5) About Justice Together
The Justice Together initiative is a collaboration launched in 2020 with a decade-long vision to ensure that people who use the UK immigration system can access justice fairly and equally. This collaboration grew out of conversations led by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to explore with other foundations a strategic response to the expected spike in immigration advice needs. The aim of the Justice Together initative is to build a community of people and organisations with diverse backgrounds, strengths, and experiences who can work together to transform access to justice in the UK immigration system. The initiative seeks to invest new resources in legal advice, strengthen immigration sector organisations, and influence wider change to support the lawful and fair functioning of immigration, nationality and asylum processes.
For more information, see: https://justice-together.org.uk/