Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees
Rev Bonnie Evans-Hills, convener, SEC Inter Faith Relations Committee
There has been a lot of confusion over how to provide support for Ukrainians seeking a safe home here in the UK. The UK government webpage is rather confusing – you sign up, and then usually hear nothing more. People are recommended to find an individual themselves, without providing the means for doing it – and is somewhat of a safeguarding nightmare for all concerned. But of course, doing this well is not impossible!
The Scottish Episcopal Church is a partner, alongside others, in Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees (SFAR), which has a helpful page that can guide through at least some of the red tape: https://www.sfar.org.uk/7-things-you-can-do-to-respond-to-the-situation-in-ukraine/
Anyone interested in providing support, whether in their own homes, or in other ways – such as befriending, help with language, providing for daily needs, or advocacy, can best be guided through the SFAR.
But it is important to remember this programme of support for Ukrainians directly follows the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan – and the accompanying distress to so many civilians who had worked with UK & US troops whether as translators, suppliers, or working towards democratic and civil rights through the courts or government. There are still Afghans desperately trying to reach the UK, as well as Syrians, and many others from various parts of the globe who have a connection in the UK and are in need of safe refuge.
Each of those arriving on our shores, whether by regular or irregular means, and seeking asylum, arrive here legally. A number of charities, such as that of Alf Dubs’ Safe Passage (https://www.safepassage.org.uk/), have endeavoured to work towards providing safer means of travel – which do not necessitate the use of traffickers, or crossing the Mediterranean or Channel in unsafe boats.
SFAR is also endeavouring to work with the Community Sponsorship programme ( https://www.sfar.org.uk/welcoming-refugee-families-in-scotland-through-community-sponsorship/) which works with communities, churches, local charities, villages, etc. in providing all round support for New Scots.
Providing support for those fleeing violent conflict is not an easy process. They will have suffered trauma, from which they will need to recover, alongside endeavouring to build a new life for themselves, their families, and getting to know their new surroundings. They will be in mourning for all they have lost, people, homes and jobs, and concerned for those left behind. It is a big commitment – but one which those who have done so in the past have felt their lives changed for the better, through the strength of relationships that have been built, and the gratitude they have learned to feel for their own lives.
There is a briefing page available from SFAR with more information, and issues to consider. Do please contact them, or me, if you’d like to know more.