As we start 2024, it is a good time to reflect on the global situation in relation to asylum seekers and refugees. In the past decade, the global refugee crisis has almost doubled in scope. In mid-2023, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that there were 110 million forcibly displaced people worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order. Of these, 62.5 million were internally displaced people and 36.4 million were refugees – an estimated 43.3 million (40 per cent) were children below 18 years of age, with 1.9 million children were born as refugees.

Sadly, rather than finding welcome and safety elsewhere, refugees and asylum seekers are often greeted with mistrust and rejection. As Pope Francis writes in Fratelli Tutti: “No one will ever openly deny that they [migrants] are human beings, yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human.” At the Refugee Project, our aim is, first and foremost, to provide a warm welcome, kindness and a listening ear to all our clients as they navigate their difficult situations. Your support allows us to do this and to provide much-needed food, toiletries and finance. We are incredibly grateful for your support and encourage you to continue to support us this year.

During December, the Project was very busy. Our clients were pleased to have the opportunity to relax and socialise in the warmth during the very chilly weather. Your generosity also helped make it possible for us to distribute extra Christmas gift cards – either £5.00 or £12.50, depending on each client’s circumstances – which were very much appreciated.

As expected, the government’s recent changes to the time people are given to move out of asylum accommodation once they are given refugee status (with some refugees having just seven days’ notice) has resulted in some of our clients facing homelessness. In response to this, the project has met with a member of Newcastle City Council’s Active Inclusion Newcastle Unit, and we are now co-ordinating with them, referring people for housing advice. A representative from the Council is visiting the project every Wednesday to meet with clients who are affected.

Getting the right advice is crucial to our clients and we regularly signpost them to agencies who can offer the advice that they need. For example, in December we assisted clients in accessing appropriate advice in relation to housing, legal matters, case workers, documentation and interpretation services. We were pleased to have a visit from Best Start Healthworks recently offering general advice and information on how to access services to our clients who are pregnant. Support will also be provided to new mothers in one-to-one and group sessions. This is very welcome, as many of our clients at the project are parents of young children.

We receive donations of food, clothing and footwear on Mondays between 10.30am and 1.30pm. The Project re-opens to clients after Christmas on 3 January. The full list of items required can be found here.

We very much welcome financial contributions too. The project bank account is: DHN, Justice and Peace Refugee Project sort code 40–34–18, account number 52854058. Alternatively, cheques made payable to DHN, Justice and Peace Refugee Project can be sent to Refugee Project Co-ordinator, St Vincent’s Support Centre, New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2TQ. Gift-Aiding your donation if possible makes a big difference. There is a Gift-Aid Declaration form for a single donation here or for multiple donations here or  you can request one from Marjory Knowles by email: jp.refugeeproject@diocesehn.org.uk.

For more details about our work and how you can assist, please contact Azad Hasan, Project Co-ordinator at azad.hasan@diocesehn.org.uk or 07407 091184 or visit our webpage.

Our task must be to free ourselves – by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty

Albert Einstein