Support for churches facing up to the challenges of Asylum

Support for churches facing up to the challenges of Asylum

A pilot project, run by volunteers and under the banner of Birmingham charity RESTORE, is seeking to support churches in Birmingham who have members of their congregation who are seeking asylum in the UK and who may have need to turn to their church for support.

The first training session is to be held on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 from 10am – 1pm at The Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre, off the Stratford Road. There will be a small cost to delegates of £5.00 per participant to cover the running of the session.

Places on the course can be booked, and more information can be found, by emailing RESTORE or calling them on, 0121 236 0069.

The whole project sounded so exciting that Charityzine caught up with the project’s co-ordinator, Dr Elizabeth Corrie, and asked her spill the proverbial beans:

CZ: Who is this new project aimed at?

Elizabeth: It is to raise awareness and give information to church and other Christian leaders who have asylum seekers in their congregations and are often taken by surprise and / or don’t know how to help them, or what resources are available.

It’s not just pastors or priests that the project is aimed at. Anyone in church congregations who has a particular interest in asylum seekers is welcome.

CZ: What can delegates expect from the morning?

Elizabeth: It’s designed as a half day training course covering both the legal aspects of the asylum system as well as the more practical aspects of support faced by asylum seekers in this area.  In addition, we hope to point course participants to local resources where they can find further help. 

At the end of the course, Shari [the Co-ordinator of RESTORE], who will be running this course with me, and I will be interested to hear what ongoing support would be helpful and what form this should take.

CZ: Is it just asylum related issues that the training will cover?

Elizabeth: No. As well as the asylum system, we also hope to touch on other immigration type issues such as family reunion and marriage to someone from a different country, issues that are increasingly being presented to church leaders.

CZ: Where does your interest in this area of work come from?

Elizabeth: As a recently retired Legal Adviser in asylum and immigration law, having worked in the field over the last seven years, I have become increasingly aware that a number of church leaders struggle to know how to help asylum seekers who turn up at their churches, both with regard to understanding the relevant legal system, under which their case will be decided, and also knowing how to help them if they turn up without support or accommodation.

I’m also the wife of an Anglican priest and so I know how busy life can be for clergy.

CZ: This is a pilot, how do you see the project developing in the future?

Elizabeth: Shari and I may do another session in May to accommodate those who have said they would have loved to have come in March but cannot manage that day.  Or it may be that training sessions are not the most appropriate forum – perhaps web based training material would be more appropriate.  I hope after the session on March 14th to get some idea from the participants as to what follow up would be most helpful.

I see it developing at three levels: churches etc that just need basic information and support from time to time; secondly, churches who are already heavily involved in the asylum cases of their church members, who may need help and guidance to present the cases more effectively to the Home Office and courts, and; thirdly, churches who would like to register with the OISC [the regulatory body] and become official immigration and asylum advice givers.

CZ: Why churches, and do you see the project expanding to include other faith groups?

Over the years, I have had churches phoning me from different parts of the UK asking the sort of questions I hope we will cover in the training sessions. Churches are ideally situated as community based groups which asylum seekers see as somewhere where they can receive help.

With the cuts in legal aid, I believe that churches and other community groups will find themselves required, more and more, to help asylum seekers and need to be equipped to do so.

With regard to other faith groups, I am starting with the group with which I am most familiar.  If it takes off, I should be happy to approach other faith groups to discover what needs they have and what support the project can offer them too.

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