Volunteers needed at the Calais woodyard!

The Calais woodyard are looking for a core team of six people to keep the woodyard running, and volunteers to help chop, prepare and distribute wood to refugees and displaced people in the region.

Wood is used to cook, dry clothes, heat water to wash and to keep people warm during the winter when temperatures can drop to below -5°C in northern France. Between November 2018 and April 2019, the woodyard distributed 266 tonnes of firewood to communities of displaced people around Calais. This autumn and winter, they need help to continue providing this vital service.

Woodyard Co-ordinator

The team are looking for coordinators to assist in the daily running of the woodyard. Organisation of the woodyard will start in October and will be fully functioning by November. Coordinators will assist with the setting up and running of the yard, including planning rotas, training new volunteers, leading distributions, preparing wood for distribution and working alongside other associations.

As a small team, flexibility and willingness to learn is key. All training will be provided and tailored to roles undertaken by the coordinator. 

  • Minimum age: 18 years
  • Minimum time: 1 month
  • Accommodation: €240 (+ €75 returnable deposit) for 1 month. Other arrangements can be discussed if staying for over 1 month
  • Other costs: Living expenses (1 meal a day provided at the warehouse by Refugee Community Kitchen), transport costs to warehouse (some transport costs will be covered through the use of work vehicles)

If you’d like find out more or apply for this role, contact

Woodyard Volunteers

The team are also looking for volunteers to work in the woodyard. Organisation of the woodyard will start in October and will be fully functioning by November. Volunteers will assist with the setting up and running of the yard including; distributions, preparing wood for distribution, working alongside other associations.

As a small team, flexibility and willingness to learn is key. All training will be provided and tailored to roles undertaken by the volunteer.

  • Minimum age: 18 years
  • Minimum time: 1 month
  • Accommodation: €240 (+ €75 returnable deposit) for 1 month. Other arrangements can be made if staying for over 1 month
  • Other costs: Living expenses (1 meal a day provided at the warehouse by Refugee Community Kitchen), transport costs to warehouse (some transport costs will be covered through the use of work vehicles)

If you’d like find out more or apply for this role, contact

Donate to the woodyard

If you aren’t able to volunteer but would still like to support the work of the woodyard, they currently need:

    • Gloves
    • Dust masks
    • Chop saw blades
    • Chop saw brushes
    • Grain sacks for bagging wood (these can be collected from breweries)
    • Net sacks for bagging wood (these can be found online)
    • Wood splitting axes
    • Financial donations to buy equipment and wood locally

If you think you might be able to help with any of these items, please get in touch at:

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Climate Refugees: A Global Crisis

Maddie Grounds, political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service (IAS), writes about the global plight of environmentally displaced people. IAS offers legal aid for asylum-seekers, trafficking survivors and domestic abuse survivors.


Climate Refugees are defined as people who have been forcibly displaced as a result of environmental factors caused by climate change and natural disasters. Every year since 2008, 26.4 million people are forced to leave their homes due to severe weather events such as flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes and droughts.

Despite the global magnitude of this issue, environmentally induced displacement is not covered by the 1951 Refugee Convention on the grounds that climate refugees are not fleeing persecution: a requirement needed to fulfil the traditional ‘refugee’ model when  applying for resettlement in another country.


The Protection Gap


Currently, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees extends solely to people who are fearful of being persecuted as a result of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and as a result, are unable to seek protection in their home country.

As environment-related causes neither fit this category nor are present as their own separate category, an increasing number of people experience inexorable peril – with no choice but to leave their homes – whilst being unable to receive the same protection as those falling under the ‘refugee’ classification.

For the estimated 200,000 Bangladeshis who are displaced each year due to river-bank erosion, appealing for resettlement will entail almost impossible barriers in proving their desperation. Similarly, the populations of the islands Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu – a tenth of whom have migrated within the past decade – will have to struggle against their absence of current international legal recognition.

A key challenge in legislating protection for ‘climate refugees’ lies in the complexities of defining the term: the idea of human displacement as a result of climate change is a comparatively recent concept, predominantly emerging in accordance to the rapid and destructive effects of Global Warming.

The proposed definition by academic researchers Docherty et al. (2009) is certainly useful in defining the circumstances of ‘climate refugees’, comprised of the following parts: ‘forced migration, temporary or permanent relocation, movement across the borders, disruption consistent with climate change, sudden or gradual environmental disruption, and a more than likely standard for human contribution to the disruption.’


The impact of our climate on human mobility


Global Warming – overwhelmingly as a result of human activity – has had enormous and irreversible effects on our climate, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010. In the near future, Latin America will see water availability decrease, Europe’s coastal flooding will rise and the death rate from disease associated with floods and droughts is expected to increase in some regions of Asia. In Africa, between 75 and 250 million people are predicted to be exposed to increased water stress by next year.

Whilst climate change will undoubtedly affect us all, it is the world’s poorest people,  already living in precarious environments, who will be hit the hardest. Rising sea-levels and extreme weather events will be disastrous for those living on marginal land, or in drought or flood-prone cities and countryside, leading to huge numbers of human mobility. Chad, with one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, was rated as facing the greatest peril, out of 186 countries assessed in a European Parliament report.

Yet, according to an Oxfam report, the poorest 50% of the global population emit only 10% of emissions whilst the richest 10% are responsible for 50% of emissions. With far more resources, richer countries like the UK have a duty to act fast to avoid dangerous climate change, prevent increasingly disastrous impacts from forcing more people out of their homes and support the growing number of desperate climate refugees already facing the  consequences of Climate Change.


Migrants or Refugees?


Whether or not these groups should be labelled as ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ is another highly debated issue. Dina Ionesco, Head of Migration, Environment and Climate Change at the UN, believes the latter term fails to recognise that migration is not necessarily forced and could weaken the refugee status of those who are in need of protection because of war and persecution.

Her argument includes the fact that climate migration is mainly internal – and therefore does not require another country’s protection – whilst the creation of a special refugee status could detract from discussions of preventative measures and environmental solutions that would mean people would not have to leave their homes in the first place. 

Comparatively, the organization Friends of the Earth argues the phrase ‘migrant’ implies their move to be voluntary, even in cases where they are fleeing for their lives. Current refugee law makes clear distinctions between refugees and migrants, with the latter automatically labelling someone as less entitled to legal assistance due to their choice in relocating. For individuals who have forcibly become homeless and remain trapped in worsening environmental conditions, ‘migrant’ simply cannot account for their vulnerable and dangerous state.

For example, Sahia, a woman living in Bangladesh, was displaced by river erosion after her house was completely consumed by water. Her and her family are now struggling to survive, having to migrate seasonally so her husband can work in a brick factory whilst saving only £10 a week for essentials other than food.  

In today’s aggravated environmental climate, ingraining the protection of environmentally-displaced persons into a context of law is paramount. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that, as a result of extreme environment changes, there could be as many as 200 million of these refugees by 2050. For those who have no choice but to leave their country, a chance of resettlement – or even to apply for British Citizenship – must be taken seriously in consideration of our rapidly deteriorating climate. Now is the time to legislatively secure a new category of refugees and finally close the protection gap for a huge number of environmentally displaced victims.


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We’re changing the way we help refugees in northern France

With around 2,000 people living in dire conditions, there’s a pressing need for aid and services in northern France. And while people are forced to suffer on the UK’s doorstep, we’ll keep helping.

This autumn, we’ll be changing the way we provide this help. Instead of both funding and delivering services, some of Help Refugees’ current work (mainly provision of essential items and services, and legal observation) will be carried out by close partner organisations – enabled by funding from us.

This will allow the day-to-day running of these services to be undertaken by the dedicated and experienced volunteer teams closest to the ground, while allowing us to focus on what we do best – raising vital funds, advocating for policy change, and helping link up this people-powered grassroots response.

Our incredible partners Collective Aid will coordinate clothing and bedding distributions, and the Human Rights Observation team and woodyard will be run by our old friends and partners L’Auberge des Migrants. We’ll also be increasing our support for numerous other projects including providing legal assistance, informal education, warm meals and support for women and families.

Help Refugees and our partners will continue to rely on your love, time, kindness and donations. If you can, please donate funds, donate goods or volunteer your time in Calais. We’re so thankful for all your support, and with it, we’ll keep working towards a day when our services are no longer needed in northern France.

Images: Sabrina Dattrino

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Four years after Alan Kurdi’s death, what have we learned?

Our politicians hope that if enough people die, refugees will give up. They’ll go somewhere else. They’ll stay in squalid camps. They’ll return to the rubble of their homes. We know that’s not true.

The deaths we’ve seen in the Mediterranean Sea, in the English Channel, by busy roads and in desperate refugee camps across Europe – they’re the product of a policy.

It’s not one you’re likely to find in election manifestos, or on your government’s website. But it’s there. It’s a policy that accepts that human misery and death are necessary to deter people from seeking safety from conflict in Europe.

It’s worth saying that again. These deaths, these lives tragically cut short – they are largely preventable. But in their efforts to look ‘tough on immigration’, in preventing dignified and effective routes to safety, our politicians have condemned these people.

Conditions for young refugees in Calais

Current conditions for young refugees in Calais (RYS)

On this day four years ago, we all saw the heartbreaking images of Alan Kurdi, lying face-down on a Turkish beach. But despite the initial outpouring of compassion, little has changed. A British Government proposal to bring 3,000 lone refugee children to the safety of the UK was so watered down that only a few hundred children have been taken in over three years.

It’s now been revealed that the Home Office is also planning to end family reunion for children after Brexit, cutting this lifeline for children at risk of exploitation and abuse.

Children already risk their lives in the back of lorries or on overcrowded dinghies because of glacial legal processes. Without proper routes to safety, these dangerous journeys will only increase. But it feels simpler for our leaders to lament the deaths, rather than protect the living.

While our governments may think human lives are acceptable collateral in their efforts to look ‘tough on immigration’, we don’t. On this tragic anniversary, we stand in solidarity with all refugees and displaced people, and with everyone who steps up to help.

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Life in Greece: I Wish I Was A Bird


Ali spent 7 months in Greece on his journey from Iran to Germany. While he was there he took videos and photos on his phone and kept a diary, to record the harsh reality of daily life he and so many others who flee their homes and become stranded on the edge of Europe are forced to endure.


While he was there he met Aya and Cucutenna, and Aya has since compiled Ali’s words and footage in to a film spanning three months of his time in Greece. It portrays his intimate relationships with other refugees and the volunteers who stood with them in solidarity, and is a rare opportunity to see these conditions from the point of view of a person who has actually experienced them.


You can watch the full, 40-minute film below. Please note it has the options of both English and Bulgarian subtitles.



For more information on the film and Ali’s work, please head to the official website or Instagram page.


Below you can find a recent interview with Ali (full video version available here), who is now living in Germany and hopes to one day make films that will push for real change in the world.


Ali: The connection is not good. I’ll open the door so the WiFi can come in.


[Aya and Cucutenna laugh]


Ali: Yeah? Is it better now?


Aya: Yeah, I think it’s ok. So… the three of us met in Thessaloniki. We found out about Soul Food Kitchen so we started volunteering there. We actually thought that we would record a movie, but when we started working we just got very involved with that, and also it didn’t really feel right to just go and record the people because we didn’t really know them. But you were taking videos of people every day, and photos, and writing things, and you were posting them on Facebook. As soon as we left I just kept looking on your Facebook, what’s happening back in Thessaloniki. It just seemed like a good idea to put them together into a little movie so you can remember and so other people can see how it was. What motivated you to post so much?


Ali: Uum. Okay. Yeah I didn’t have Facebook because in Iran it’s blocked and I was also not interested in using it in the beginning. I was just lost in Thessaloniki for I think 2-3 days, and confused, I was in a place which language was different, everything was different, people were different, and I was there without any documents, without any passport. After a few days I saw the train station and the people who were living around there. In this time there were just a doctor from Italy and a guy from Greece who were coming there every afternoon to check the people, and another guy named Christos from Thessaloniki who was bringing food two times per week for sharing with people, there were around 500 people sleeping on the street. I just tried to cross the border in Macedonia, after 20 days I was sent back to Thessaloniki. But now even more people were coming because it was getting warmer and warmer. It was super busy and not that many volunteers. The doctor who was there before left. I already tried and I couldn’t do it so I said “f*ck it” I won’t think about my goal, I will just live in the moment, right now I need to do something for the situation, and I thought maybe with sharing posts on Facebook some people can come to help, who have more power than me.


Cucutenna: The events of the film happened over 2 years ago – do you know what the situation is like right now in Thessaloniki?


Ali: Right now not, I’m in Germany and I have my own life. I was more active and getting news from Thessaloniki until last February when I went to Greece again. I was two weeks there and almost nothing changed! There were a lot of people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria, Syria, Iraq, and there were other Africans also, like from Ethiopia. From Afghanistan and Pakistan especially there were a lot in this train station area, living in abandoned building and in other parts. Almost no change, I mean maybe some people get the chance to go further but as the problems are not gonna stop in their country they are gonna come. Since 30-40 years ago in Afghanistan there was always war, so when that problem is not stopping people are just leaving because they are losing everything and they have nothing more to lose. I also know refugees who couldn’t cross, they tried 20 times but they couldn’t so they decided to just stay in Greece although it’s really hard for them. Some of them live in flats, they are getting not from the government but from some organisation, like 150 euros per adult and 90 euros per kids. But it is not stable money…


Aya: Do you have any fond memories from your time in Thessaloniki?


A: Now that I’m thinking about that time I feel that I was a happy person although I was in a bad situation. Except for the first 40 days that I was in a really… [he chuckles] …I mean I could die in Macedonia forest alone, I was there for almost 19 days. So except of that part, I think every second was a happy memory. But one that can be on top was the time that I could do my first project. There was a doctor from Germany who was giving me every day some grapes for the adults and chocolate for the kids, and I was distributing them. He left after a while. After two months some kids came to me and said “Uncle Ali, Uncle Ali!”, I just said “Yeaah?” and they said “Hey! Give us some chocolate!” “What chocolate?! I don’t have chocolate.” “No, you were giving us every day!” Then I remembered and I felt really sad, I had a little bit money and I bought them some chocolate. But how can I do it every day? I wrote a letter and I put it on the table on some volunteers’ flat, and I made an origami boat for a money box, and everybody was putting as much as they could, and then I buy them chocolate for the next days. I said, now it’s working, cool. But I can’t take money from volunteers, I mean they giving their time, they are not getting any money, so I wrote a post in Facebook. After a few days I got a message from a guy I didn’t know. He said “Are you Michael Ali?” I said “Yeah… who are you?” “Can you come in the parking of train station?” I really scared in the beginning, I don’t know who is this person, and I knew everybody, all the refugees and volunteers, so it was a bit weird but I said OK. I went there and it was a black van, it was very scary. They opened the doors of the van, and I look and it was a big van full of chocolate! There were 2 old nice man from Germany, they saw my post. That was a really good memory.


Cucutenna: What is the most important lesson you learned in Thessaloniki?


Ali: I mean there are some cliché sentence, but I learned, I felt it, what can’t kill you make you really stronger. First night that I was alone in Macedonia forest I was crying for 3 hours because it was really dark. In Persian we call forest “jungle”, and I thought OK it’s a jungle! I didn’t know that it’s not that big. But it was still scary, you are in another place, you are in forest! There’s nobody who you can talk to. I didn’t have anything with me so I slept on a tree, because I scared of some animal. I thought that I’m gonna die, I was 100% sure. But then I was laughing, I’m gonna die, why shouldn’t I enjoy the rest of my life? Let’s see what will happen, the sun is gonna shine tomorrow. After that trip when I went back to Thessaloniki, I felt I don’t scare from anything, I don’t have any fear now. Even now I’m doing a lot of activities which are unbelievable for other people because I was in a really hard situation and I feel stronger. We should live in the moment that we are, not thinking just about future, future is gonna come, but your present right now is gonna be past in a few seconds, so why shouldn’t I enjoy?


Cucutenna: Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to leave, and also was it the first time you ever left Iran?


A: Yeah it was my first time that I left Iran. And… [he laughs]… The reason, I can’t just tell you…There are a lot but…


Cucutenna: It’s complicated?


Ali: Yeah it’s complicated, you know there are reasons, but they are not enough strong to get asylum. If I say the reason was that I was not a tree, I was a human, and if I was a tree I wouldn’t move. So I was not a tree, that’s why I moved! This reason is not gonna be enough strong to get asylum. I mean, there are a lot of things which are forbidden in Iran. There are people who like to live in that kind of life but there are things that were bothering me. I mean, they were killing me somehow.


Cucutenna: And now that you live in Germany do you feel like you can do everything you want to do?


Ali: Not everything. I can do more than I could do in Iran. After leaving Iran it’s almost impossible for me to live there again. It’s even harder than the past, because now you felt a bit of freedom. Sorry… there are reasons but I can’t say. What I told you, I mean, that can be enough reason that you might move.


Aya: Yeah of course. What are you up to now in Berlin? What do you do in your free time?


Ali: Huh! I’m climbing on the trees… When I’m bored and I have nothing else to do I just go to the park and start climbing on the trees, and then the kids are coming to me, and you know how is my friendship with kids. Here in the middle of Europe it’s a bit weird but we are becoming friends really fast. In the beginning the parents are looking at me like raises eybrows? [He laughs] And then when I leave the parents just come and say “Hey, thank you!” I’m going to study in October hopefully, in a film school here in Berlin. I was filming a lot but as I didn’t have a laptop I couldn’t edit them, but hopefully soon I will be able to do it. Before October I’m gonna learn something from you guys!


Cucutenna: What kinda movies do you want to make?


Ali: Sometimes I dream something and when I wake up I have a notebook and immediately I try to write it down that I don’t forget it. I already have 3-4 really nice stories, one comedy, one against racism – these two are short but I have idea about long film too.


Cucutenna: What are your dreams for the future?


Ali: Hm! Dreams… I think dreams are something that can be reachable or not reachable, but what I say are gonna 100% happen so… [he laughs]. I can say that my reachable goal is to make films which are gonna make changes in the world. Like the people who are watching them, they are gonna change in a good way. Not just watching a movie in a cinema and “OK, hahaha, I’m sad because of this situation but I’m not gonna do something. I don’t have time, I have my life”. Like with volunteering – some person goes there for work just for 2 weeks, but this helps, it’s not as small as they are thinking. I mean, even if the person was just washing the salads, it was keeping 400 people, it was keeping me alive! At the beginning that I was there, I met people who were 3-4 months there and they lost all their money, some of them to smugglers, they couldn’t talk with their family, they were ashamed. Some were going to a place, something called Cinema, where old men was taking them, and these people were having sex with that old man, and this person was giving them 5-10 euros, so they were buying some french fries with ketchup, five people were eating this, from the job which…I mean they had to do it to get something to eat. So these things you think are small, they are not really. It’s helping.


Aya: I have one last question. Do you still wish you were a bird?


Ali: I wish I was a bird. Then I could travel without any problems, fly anywhere that I want. But now I’m a bird that can just travel in Schengen. [He laughs]. So I’m a bird in a cage. So then I don’t take your time and we’ll talk later. Love both of you, miss you.


Aya + Cucutenna: We love you.



Website                         Instagram
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We’re hiring! Apply to join Help Refugees as our new Fundraising and Marketing Manager

Help Refugees is seeking a Fundraising and Marketing Manager to join its London team.


This is a unique opportunity to gain experience working for one of the fastest-growing charities in the UK. You’ll work alongside a small, dynamic, hard-working team, and have the chance to make a real, tangible impact to the lives of thousands of refugees and displaced people all over the world.


You choose love. 

You are motivated by a love of humanity that knows no borders.

You are a doer 

You spot opportunities for impact and make things happen. You are comfortable working on scrappy passion projects and longer-term strategic campaigns. A good day is when you’ve done something to change the world. 

You are a creative communicator. 

You know the world is changed by stories and you want to be at the heart of telling them. You can communicate complex ideas with clarity, powerful stories with passion and understand how to move people. 

You are curious. 

You know good ideas can come from anywhere and are constantly looking at the world around you for inspiration. 

You are a team player. 

You work best when part of a small, collaborative team. You are happy to muck in when needed and the words ‘not my job’ have never crossed your lips.

You are entrepreneurial. 

You think beyond the limits of your current role. You take risks, celebrate failure and never stop generating ideas.


We are pioneering a new movement in charity that provides emergency aid and long term solutions where they are most needed.

Our model is simple. We go where the need is greatest, find the local or grassroots organisations doing the most effective work, and give them what they need to help people – whether that’s funding, material aid or volunteers.

We work to fill the gaps in services available to refugees, across Europe and the Middle East. We aim to respond to emergencies with aid and support, and to secure permanent change through long-term solutions, campaigning and advocacy. Our work is motivated by four key values – dignity, hope, respect and humanity – which we promote through all of our work.

With this model, we’ve managed to support almost 1 million people across over 100 projects in 13 countries. In the last four years, we’ve had more than 30,000 volunteers from over 90 countries.

Our ‘Choose Love’ brand has been worn by Oprah, Julia Roberts and Jude Law, and thousands more across the world. Our ‘buy nothing, pop-up’ stores in London and New York have raised £2.75 million and gained headlines in New York Times, The Guardian and been featured on CNN. Our founders have addressed audiences including Barack Obama, Sheryl Sandberg and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.


The Fundraising and Marketing Manager is a new role focused on deepening the commitment of existing supporters and bringing new members into the movement. This role is for someone who loves technology and data and everything that falls between and wants to use that passion to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people. 

What you’ll be responsible for

  • Inspiring Help Refugee’s growing community of supporters to give by creating compelling campaigns and content across email, social media channels and offline events 
  • Tracking and analysing data donor to inform your work and the efforts of the organisation
  • Overseeing pro-bono campaigns. We’re lucky enough to get support from Google and Facebook. We want you to use it most effectively
  • Supporting the Leadership team on fundraising from high-level individual givers and foundations 
  • Make sure we’re updating our best-practices to reflect national and global trends in digital fundraising
  • Management of Help Refugee’s website and digital payment gateways 
  • Occasional management of contractors and project teams 

Essential Requirements 

  • Track record of success in digital fundraising or marketing with at least three years experience 
  • Demonstrable experience of understanding donor behaviour and inspiring people to give
  • Confident and sophisticated communicator with strong writing skills
  • Experience managing or working with a large community of online givers (50,000) 

The Big Pluses 

Ideal candidates will bring at least one of these to our work.

  • Experience with online fundraising in the model of new movement organisations (Avaaz, Sum of Us, 38 Degrees) 
  • Experience working in the field of humanitarian aid, refugee or migration
  • Experience using SQL and data and experimentation tools (e.g. Optimizely), ideally in a fundraising environment
  • Experience with mobile technology, online giving platforms and website design 
  • Track record of using social media platforms to fundraise 
  • Demonstrable experience in using data and analytics to segment audiences and target content that has resulted in more support 


The role will be managed by the CEO.

The role is currently based out of the Help Refugees office in London Fields, hopefully moving to Soho in London. Remote working will not be considered.

The role may involve some travel.

The role will be offered as permanent role with a six-month probation period. We anticipate the starting date to be no later than end of October 2019.

Salary is inline with other non-governmental organisations.

Application Instructions

Please apply with a cover letter (of no more than two pages) outlining your suitability for the role and a copy for your CV. Email with the subject line ‘ Fundraising and Marketing Manager’.

Help Refugees does not discriminate in employment matters on the basis of race, colour, religion, gender, age, sexuality or any other protected class. We support workplace diversity and believer it creates dynamic, relevant organisations, fostering spaces for innovation and creativity. We are working hard to increase the diversity of our team and encourage you to be a part of it.

We are committed to making our roles and culture inclusive. We can make reasonable adjustments throughout the application process and on the job. If you have particular accessibility needs, please get in touch and let us know any requirements you may have.

This post will remain open until filled, applications are being actively reviewed.

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Not a statistic, not a headline, not a political pawn. A person.

Imagine ending your life in the murky waters of the English Channel. Last week a woman went missing in the Channel after falling off a boat. Presumed dead. A refugee originally from Kurdistan, she had been living in the makeshift refugee camps in Northern France, where close to 2,000 people are surviving in dire conditions. Another man was found dead in the sea on Tuesday night, wearing a life jacket with plastic bottles attached for buoyancy. Two deaths in a week.

Have you seen the programme Years and Years? The dystopian future it imagines has gripped the minds of millions of viewers. It’s a future in which Trump has been re-elected, climate change is raging, and another refugee ‘crisis’ shows a world of people on the move. One scene makes viewers gasp as they see a body washed up on a shore in Kent. The body of a white person, fleeing Calais.

Except this isn’t a dystopian future. It’s a dystopian reality. It’s now. And the bodies aren’t white. The hierarchy society places on human lives has become staggeringly clear. Alan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy washed up on the beach in Turkey made the world stop in 2015. It’s an image stark in many of our minds. The desensitisation that’s happened to the world in the last four years is indicative of a deeper numbness. We can switch off so easily to suffering, and to the human stories that sit behind it. Every story is different; a human rights activist in Iran, a person made to do national service in Eritrea, a person leaving the famine in the Yemen, a man holding hands with another man from Afghanistan… the stories go on.

Boris Johnson this week made a statement to refugees attempting the Channel crossing: ‘we will send you back.’ It’s snappy, to the point and draws in the media. It also breaches international law. The Prime Minister perhaps needs reminding that asylum is a right and asylum claims have to be determined according to the law and the individual circumstances of a case. The UK’s obligation is to assess claims fairly and grant protection to those who need it. A fair asylum system will ascertain who is a refugee. Refugees are fleeing from something. Boris Johnson calls them illegal. It is a completely inappropriate way of describing someone who is seeking refuge. Refugees must flee across borders. If there are no legal routes of passage then how else can people arrive in a place of safety other than by so-called ‘illegal’ means. But the people themselves are not illegal. They are refugees seeking sanctuary.

It seems Boris Johnson has missed the point. Or has he? Is his point to actually sow seeds of discord, to paint a picture of refugees as dangerous; as criminals – rather than simply as human beings with a right to have their voices heard? Is he trying to appear as the decisive hero of the hour with a knee-jerk reaction that does not solve any of the underlying issues? Is the goal to bolster the populist agenda of the ‘hostile environment’? Yes, it’s very dangerous to cross the Channel by boat. It’s also very dangerous to cling to the bottom of a lorry or to jump on board a refrigerated vehicle or one transporting chemicals. All these routes carry danger. They are all ‘illegal’ because so-called ‘legal’ routes are, for the most part, off limits.

There is a wilful determination on the part of the government to refuse to see many of the complexities and intricacies of the individual human stories. The ongoing joint UK-French government response to human suffering in Northern France appears to consist of dispersals and push-backs, arbitrary detention and removals, evictions and demolitions, the blocking of humanitarian aid, sanitation and medical care, and the vilification of refugees in the press. As the so called ‘safer’ irregular routes become increasingly difficult, even more dangerous routes are attempted in the sea. Displaced people in Northern France who are hoping to reach England are not being presented with viable alternatives, whether these are legal routes to safety in the UK or acceptable solutions in France or elsewhere on the continent.

So what’s the answer? There are policy overhauls required to make a functioning asylum system across Europe. Reforming Dublin regulations, cross-border collaboration on legal routes of passage for unaccompanied children, resettlement scheme negotiations to be done. But perhaps the answer is simpler than that. We must engage with human stories. Have a cup of tea with the neighbour who has recently arrived in the UK and moved in down the street. They could probably do with a friendly face. Smile to the person next to you on the bus who is lost and need directions. Offer them a hand. Our politicians breed scepticism and disbelief about the ‘other’ amongst us. We have the power to challenge this divisive rhetoric and actively seek to see the good in people.

To everyone who knew, loved and cherished the woman missing in the Channel this week and the man who lost his life in the same dark waters, we stand with you in demanding justice.

Maddy Allen is a Field Manager for Help Refugees in Northern France.

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We’re hiring! Apply to join Help Refugees as our new Digital Manager

This post will remain open until filled. We are actively reviewing applications and interviewing.

This is a unique opportunity for an experienced Digital Manager to join one of the fastest growing charities in the UK. You’ll work alongside a small, dynamic, hard-working team, and have the chance to make a real, tangible impact to the lives of thousands of refugees and displaced people all over the world.

You’ll join the organisation at an exciting time. In 2018, our Choose Love stores raised over £2 million – and the successful candidate will be a core part of the team delivering the stores this year.

Purpose of the role:

  • Identifying and acting upon opportunities for the organisation to grow digitally – whether by raising funds, reaching more people, growing petitions, or automating processes;  developing user journeys and digital analysis & reporting
  • To manage the organisation’s CRM systems, including overseeing volunteer management systems, fundraising and donations platforms
  • Manage the website, including liaising with external agencies; develop content strategy and contribute to content plan; oversee technical development; ensure content, processes and systems meet needs of all internal stakeholders
  • Provide clear, strategic leadership and guidance on all digital channels, to support the achievement of Help Refugees’ vision, values and outcomes
  • Develop data management systems; help to ensure digital activity is compliant with current data regulations, e.g. GDPR, and that appropriate security measures are implemented to protect supporter and beneficiary data
  • Contribute to the development of the wider Communications & Campaigns team plans and strategy; support and share skills with wider team

This is a varied role that holds responsibility for the development and implementation of our digital strategy. You’re a self-starter that loves solving problems, and is always seeking to beat ambitious targets and improve processes. You’ll be comfortable working under pressure to multiple deadlines in a busy office. Finally, you’ll be keen to expand on the skills you already have! 

Key skills

  • Experience of project managing integrated multi-channel digital campaigns with ambitious targets, from planning through to evaluation, and experience of all key channels (web, social, email, advertising)
  • Demonstrable experience of working with CRMs – ideally Salesforce – to segment audiences, develop processes and automate tasks
  • Highly proactive and organised, able to manage and prioritise a busy workload of multiple digital projects, KPIs and stakeholders to deadline with consistent quality
  • Strong technical skills, able to debug landing pages; good data analysis skills for reporting, segmenting, improving processes, spotting trends, and implementing learnings; proficient use of business IT systems including Google Ads & Analytics, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Zapier and databases
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, with an ability to act and write sensitively with complex and challenging topics, in a range of tones
  • Able to work calmly under pressure, balancing a variety of different demands and workstreams
  • Intermediate knowledge of HTML & CSS
  • Passionate about supporting refugees and displaced people


  • Experience coding and developing websites and digital products
  • Experience working with digital commerce tools and platforms (from online donation portals and Shopify to hardware such as iZettle machines)
  • Specialist qualification in relevant area e.g. digital marketing
  • Management experience 
  • Experience working or volunteering with refugees and asylum seekers

Terms and Conditions

  • Digital Manager is a full time role.
  • The role will be managed by the CEO.
  • The role is currently based in the Help Refugees office in London Fields, hopefully moving to Soho in London. Remote working will not be considered.
  • The role will be offered as permanent role with a six-month probation period. We anticipate the starting date to be no later than end of October 2019.
  • Salary is inline with other non-governmental organisations.

Application deadline: 9am, Friday 6th September. 

Application Instructions

Please apply with a cover letter (of no more than two pages) outlining your suitability for the role and a copy for your CV to This post will remain open until filled. We are actively reviewing applications and interviewing.

We are committed to providing equality and fairness for all and not discriminating on grounds of gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, nationality, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, mental health, religion or age. We encourage and celebrate the different qualities that our colleagues, and others we work with, bring to our work. We believe that seeing things from a wide range of different perspectives helps us to resolve problems, adapt our approaches and develop as an organisation. We want to bring greater diversity to our team and we’re keen to receive applications from people who believe they would do this.

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Innocent, abused and imprisoned: the women of Yarl’s Wood


Luna Williams, political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service (IAS), writes about the women detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. IAS offers legal aid for asylum-seekers, trafficking survivors and domestic abuse survivors.


Abused and imprisoned: the women of Yarl’s Wood


Every year, 2,000 women seeking refuge in the UK are detained. Most are held in Yarl’s Wood in
Bedfordshire; widely regarded as Britain’s most infamous detention and removal centre.
According to findings from Women for Refugee Women, between 77 and 85 percent of the women
who are detained here are survivors of abuse, with many surviving sex trafficking, rape, female
genital mutilation (FGM) and domestic violence.


Set Her Free

Women for Refugee Women began its investigation into Yarl’s Wood in 2014, launching an ongoing
campaign titled Set Her Free.

This campaign involved interviewing groups of women who were claiming asylum in the UK and had
been detained in Yarl’s Wood at some point during the process of their application, to find out about
trends and patterns in their experiences. Many of the women were being detained at the time they
were interviewed, and some had been released from detention and were living in the community to
wait out their claim.

The interviews were conducted by the group over three set periods, between 2014 and 2017, as a
means of discovering how things had changed and developed year-on-year.
In 2017, the campaigners released a report called ‘We are still here’, which assessed whether
proposed changes to the removal & detention process had created any sort of shift in the
experiences of women who were being detained.



The vast majority of the women interviewed (85 percent) were survivors of gender-based or sexual
violence, including rape, forced prostitution, and FGM. For many of these women, this was the
reason they had fled their home countries and were seeking refuge in the UK in the first place.
An issue which was highlighted by Women for Refugee Women in previous reports was the re-
traumatising affect of detention for these women. Unfortunately, this was something which was still
very present in 2017, with all the women interviewed stating that being detained had exacerbated
their mental health issues and trauma. Many victims of abuse experience PTSD, anxiety or
depression as a direct result of their experiences. Human rights activists argue that the detention
process makes these symptoms worse, ultimately re-traumatising survivors of abuse and violence.
Every woman interviewed for the ‘We are still here’ report described her mood as depressed; 8 in 10
said that they had had suicidal thoughts while they were detained; and 3 in 10 had attempted
suicide while there. Notably, when asked whether they felt being detained had contributed to their
mental illness, all the women interviewed said yes.

The experience of being detained can often cause those who have been abused to re-live their
traumas; many women who have suffered abuse in their home countries were actually held hostage
or imprisoned by their abusers, and so being detained physically places them back in the same
situation. This can severely trigger spikes in mental illness, particularly for those experiencing PTSD. Others may be traumatised by being in close proximity to men – who are overwhelmingly the
perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence.

This is another factor which contributes to the concerns of groups like Women for Refugee Women,
who argue that positioning male staff in detention centres can cause huge amounts of emotional
and psychological distress for women who have experienced sexual or gender-based abuse.
Additionally, women who have been imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood have consistently accused staff
members of abusing them – both physically and sexually.

Earlier this year, Beatrice Guessie, an ex-detainee of Yarl’s Wood spoke out about her experience
there, in which she described her own physical abuse at the hands of guards and staff members, as
well as the sexual abuse of some of her female peers. This was at a self-lead conference, for which
she wanted to tell her story and raise awareness for her women’s support charity, Light in the



It is not just from an ethical standpoint that it is possible to disagree with the UK’s detention of
vulnerable asylum-seekers.

Only 15 per cent of women seeking asylum who were detained in 2017 were ultimately removed
from Britain, while the majority (85 per cent) were released back into the community to await the
results of their claims for refuge. Most of these women then went on to be granted refugee status
and eventually apply for British citizenship. With this in mind, one has to question what purpose
detaining these women achieved, and whether the decision had any meaningful results other than
needlessly causing the emotional, mental and physical distress of vulnerable detainees?



On top of being ultimately ineffective, the cost of detaining asylum-seekers also places more doubt
on the purpose of the detention process. When compared with the cost of allowing an individual to
wait out their claim while living in the community – which amounts to a maximum of £37.75 a week
for a single asylum-seeker – detention costs are astronomical. It costs an average of £87.71 a day to
hold an asylum-seeker in Yarl’s Wood, equating to £576.22 a month – 1154 per cent more than the
cost of accommodating asylum-seekers in the community.

The state of Britain’s detention & removal system needs to be addressed immediately; not only is
detaining innocent abuse victims unethical, it is also ineffective and uneconomic. Imprisonment can
no longer be the default, especially when it comes to vulnerable women who have already
experienced a lifetime of targeted abuse and violence in their home countries. Instead, the UK
should be extending a welcoming hand to these women and treating them with the respect and
kindness that they desperately need.


To discuss the information contained in this article further, please contact Luna on


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Joint letter to the Home Secretary on immigration and asylum

We’ve joined a long list of British charities in writing a joint letter to the Home Secretary, raising a number of pressing immigration and asylum issues – and pushing for a fairer, more dignified, more humane approach to migration and asylum.

Indefinite detention. Separation of families. The hostile environment. If our immigration and asylum system is to regain public trust, the UK needs to radically change its approach. We know it won’t be easy, but we believe that the UK can, and must, begin the task of creating a fairer, more dignified, more humane approach to immigration and asylum.

You can read the full letter below.


30th July 2019

Dear Home Secretary,

Congratulations on your appointment to one of the great offices of state. You will lead the Home Office through a period of great challenge, but at a moment of great opportunity for reform. We are writing to you as organisations that work with, are led by, or represent people who have moved to the UK and have made it their home. We want to raise a number of pressing issues, which require action if the immigration and asylum system is to regain the trust of the public.

Allowing people who seek safety in the UK to re-build their lives

As a global power and as the fifth richest country in the world with a proud history of providing safety to those in need, Britain has an obligation to lead by example and guarantee shelter and safe passage to those who seek asylum or refuge from conflict, persecution and crisis. We can and must build a system where safe, legal routes to asylum are accessible to all who need them. We must build a system where asylum decisions are made quickly and fairly, so that people can rebuild their lives in the UK. Currently, people seeking asylum in the UK are effectively banned from working, meaning that they are at a high risk of destitution and denied the opportunity to provide for their families and contribute to the economy. Funding cuts to ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) classes must be reversed and new long-term funding guaranteed. We need comprehensive support systems which help those who seek asylum to navigate life here and become active members of their local communities by allowing them to work and study.

Keep families together

All families belong together. Under current rules however, British nationals must demonstrate they earn an income well above the minimum wage in order to live with their partner in the UK. British nationals with parents abroad find it almost impossible to bring them here as they grow older. As a result, tens of thousands of British families live in separation, with children unable to see their parents except through Skype. The UK should make it easier for its citizens to build a life here with the people they love. Refugees in the UK who have lost everything should have the right to be reunited with their close family in the UK so that they can make a fresh start together and integrate in their new community. Reintroducing legal aid is vital for them to navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.

Secure the rights of European citizens and their family members and protect vulnerable groups

We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement to guarantee the rights of European citizens in the UK, but we urge the government to enshrine those rights in UK law. The Home Office must step up its efforts to provide adequate and concrete information about the EU Settlement Scheme to EU citizens and their family members who are often non-EU nationals. This should include targeted outreach activities to vulnerable EU citizens such as elderly people, children in care, disabled people, rough sleepers and victims of domestic violence. These groups are at risk of not being aware of the scheme at all, of being misinformed, of not having access to accurate information and support services to navigate the scheme and of eventually facing the hostile environment if they miss the application deadline.

Stable work and study routes

Our current immigration system ties workers to employers, distorting the market and creating opportunities for exploitation and short-term visas. Ever-changing requirements make workers’ lives unstable. We need more sensible, more flexible rules that encourage long-term integration and stability for families. Children and young people who grew up in the UK or were born in this country should have equal access to education and work as their British peers regardless of their parents’ immigration status. The Home Office should guarantee easy and affordable access to citizenship for this young generation.

Treat human beings with humanity and end indefinite detention

Our immigration enforcement system treats people brutally: families are woken in the middle of the night by immigration raids and parents are taken away in front of their children. Too many people are detained unlawfully and with no idea when they may be set free. Access to healthcare within detention is often inadequate. The Home Office under your predecessors started to take important steps in reforming immigration detention and pursuing alternatives to detention. There is cross- party support in Parliament for a 28-day time limit on detention. We ask you to pursue these reforms with urgency.

End the Hostile Environment

Our communities, our public spaces, our public services and our workplaces should be places open to us all, where no one fears discrimination or persecution. The hostile environment builds a border through our hospitals, homes, schools, police stations and communities. Doctors, landlords, police officers and teachers have been tasked with verifying immigration status and often people who look or sound ‘foreign’ are asked to show their papers in order to see a doctor or go to school. We are also concerned about the collection and processing of increasing amounts of personal data of migrants and the lack of safeguarding in place to regulate its use in the broader immigration process. We must end the hostile environment so that discrimination is effectively challenged and communities can unite, build bridges and prosper. Additionally, the recommendations of Wendy Williams’ Lessons Learned Review must be published immediately. We ask you to commit to ending the Hostile Environment.

Build a better Home Office

The Home Office should make timely, correct and fair decisions about people’s status, supporting people to get on with their lives and become active members of their community. It should not price people out of status or citizenship and should be transparent and accountable. Cuts to funding and a lack of investment in training and support mean that caseworkers are overstretched and the department struggles to retain staff. Only a department that works efficiently, values its staff, embraces transparency and uses evidence to make policy can deliver an immigration system that earns public trust. We ask you to invest in that reform as a matter of urgency. Recent governments have seen scandal after scandal rooted in the failure of the immigration and asylum system to work effectively and fairly. Building a better one will not be easy, but it is more essential than ever. We look forward to working with you and your department to make it happen.

Yours sincerely,

Leila Zadeh, Executive Director, UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group
Tahmid Chowdhury, Joint-CEO, Here for Good
Kerry Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Helen Bamber Foundation
Emma Harrison, CEO, IMIX
Satbir Singh, Chief Executive, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
Rosario Guimba-Stewart, Chief Executive Officer, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network
Josie Naughton, Chief Executive Officer, Help Refugees
Eiri Ohtani, Project Director, The Detention Forum
Arten Llazari, CEO, The Refugee and Migrant Centre (Black Country and Birmingham)
Toni Soni, Centre Director, CRMC, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre
Wayne Myslik, Chief Executive, Consonant
Emily Crowley, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees
Dr Laura Miller, Interim Director, Solidarity with Refugees
Nazek Ramadan, Director of Migrant Voice, Migrant Voice
Alice Lucas, Advocacy and Policy Manager, Refugee Rights Europe
Maya Mailer, Campaigns Director, Asylum Matters
Kate Smart, Director, Asylum Welcome
Sarah Teather, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service UK
Jo Cobley, Director, Young Roots
Jill Rutter, Director of Strategy and Relationships, British Future.
Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)
Nicolas Hatton, CEO, the3million
Hazel Williams, National Director, NACCOM Network
Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Chair, Churches’ Refugee Network
Kat Smithson, Director of Policy and Campaigns, National Aids Trust
Siân Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary
Lucy Jones, Director of Programmes, Doctors of the World UK
Clare Moseley, Founder & CEO, Care4Calais
Dr Ruvi Ziegler, Chair, New Europeans
Anna Jones, Co-Founder, RefuAid
Dr Mohamed Nasreldin, Director, North of England Refugee Service
Ali Harris, CEO, Equally Ours
Kush Chottera, Executive Director of Europia
Gus Hosein. Executive Director, Privacy International
Eleanor Harrison, CEO, Safe Passage
James Wilson, Acting Director, Detention Action
Sally Daghlian OBE, CEO, Praxis
Salah Mohamed, Chief Executive, Welsh Refugee Council

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