Asylum Accommodation in Swansea: Support #CloseTheBarracks with SHARE Tawe

by Ibrahim Badawi and Margie Cheesman, volunteer editors

SHARE Tawe: Addressing major challenges with asylum accommodation in Wales

Social justice campaigners have recently been calling for the UK Home Office to end the use of army barracks to house asylum seekers. The #CloseTheBarracks campaign recognises military camps, such as Penally camp in Carmarthenshire, as unsafe and inhumane living conditions for asylum seekers and refugees. Hundreds of people have been forced to live in Penally camp, where there have been allegations of ‘cover-ups, poor access to healthcare and legal advice, and crowded conditions.’ From today, 22nd March 2021, there will be a ‘phased exit’ from Penally camp, following much campaigning, legal action, and an inspection by government authorities. 

Despite this win for social justice in Wales, the quality and availability of asylum accommodation continues to be a critical issue. Sourcing adequate housing for people in need is a major ongoing challenge. In Swansea, the SHARE Tawe Project has been doing positive and inspiring work to address this challenge.

Swansea’s SHARE Tawe Project

SHARE Tawe provides a warm place to stay for homeless asylum seekers who have lost their accommodation. The project connects people with local hosts in Swansea.

Mr Alan Thomas, who gave the project its unique name said: ‘”Share” refers to people being prepared to share their homes. It is a two-way thing, because the local hosts often gain a lot in terms of friendship and understanding as a result of getting to know someone from another country. “Tawe” is the Welsh name of the river that flows through Swansea and connects the community. The Welsh name for Swansea is “Abertawe” (where “Aber” means “mouth of”).’

SHARE Tawe was started as a small project by a subgroup of City of Sanctuary, with several aims. The most important aim is “To offer hospitality, in the form of accommodation, meals, welcome and solidarity to destitute asylum seekers in Swansea. The project goals cannot be done without volunteers who offer a room in their home, or who support the scheme in other ways.” SHARE Tawe has been running for over ten years, and for the last four or five it has been run by SASS, which says that its ultimate goal is “to provide sufficient support and security to enable people to focus on gaining the right to stay in the UK”.

15-20 people on average have benefitted each year, for both shorter and longer periods, and there are 6-10 people in hosted accommodation at any one time. 5-6 people have been hosted throughout the lockdown.

Despite the major challenges and unknowns surrounding Home Office policy and the closing of military camps as accommodation, volunteers are optimistic to see the continuing positive impact of the project in the Swansea community. Please click here for more information and to support the SHARE Tawe, and join our workshops on Wednesday 24th & 30th March to learn more:

Ways to contact Migrant Help

 

 

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Ways to contact Migrant Help

  1. The First Response Centre phone line 0808 8010 503
  2. Webchat (https://ellis.custhelp.com/app/chat/chat_launch)
  3. Email / Ask a Question (https://ellis.custhelp.com/app/ask/session)
  4. Self-service portal (https://ellis.custhelp.com/app/utils/login_form)

If you have reported an urgent issue to Migrant Help but have not received a response, you can escalate the issue to a manager:

  1. For issue reporting which covers maintenance, requests for assistance, problems with payments, lost aspen cards and complaints please try our email / ask a question or live chat using the links in point 2 and 3.

If you do not have the facility to use this then please email the escalations inbox below.

  1. escalations@migranthelpuk.org for cases that need escalating to a manager for the following: asylum payment issues, section 98 ‘S98’ and section 4 ‘S4’ (please also see point 7), negative move. Please also use for the following that have not been submitted to the Home Office – section 95 ‘S95’, change of circumstance applications ‘COCs’ and additional support applications.
  2. S98@migranthelpuk.org – for requested evidence relating to S98 applications. As a temporary measure you can request an urgent call back for S98 IA and S4 applications if you are unable to get through by phone.
  3. Submissions@migranthelpuk.org – for communications relating to section 95, section 4, COCs that have been submitted to the Home Office.
  4. outreach@migranthelpuk.org – to request assistance from Migrant Helps outreach team for service users who have specific needs, are at risk or unable to use the above methods.
  5. ASCorrespondence@migranthelpuk.org – to be used for all communications relating to asylum support including supporting documents for support applications such as S95, S4 and COC’s.
  6. positivemoveon@migranthelpuk.org – to report / raise issues with our positive move on service. This can also be used to request reinstatement for BRP / Discontinuation letters not received following a positive decision on the service users asylum case.
  7. To raise a formal complaint about Migrant Help, our subcontractors, the accommodation providers and the Home Office please contact us using the below:
  8. https://www.migranthelpuk.org/forms/complaint-form-1

 

Music from Everywhere, for Everyone! SASS Fundraiser

Friday 25th October – 9:30pm till late

A wonderful event planned by local supporters to raise much-needed funds for Swansea Asylum Seekers Support. A fantastic opportunity to dance the night away to funk, soul dub and reggae from around the world. Entry is £5 on the door (free to asylum seekers)

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SASS is a community of Swansea people, including refugees and asylum seekers. They are “Newcomers and Locals United”.

  • Think of any country in the news because of war, persecution, and chaos. Survivors are here in Swansea. We welcome them.
  • For nearly 20 years, SASS has helped uprooted people find sanctuary, peace, and start a new life in Swansea. The need keeps growing.
  • They have 100 volunteers help out at their friendly drop-ins or give destitute asylum seekers temporary homes.
  • They link with all the different projects which also welcome asylum seekers in and around Swansea.

Please support SASS – Keep Swansea welcoming!

Pay What You Can Afford: Matt’s Cafe Taster Session Monday Feb 27th 12-4pm

Matt’s Cafe is part of the Real Junk Food (TRJF) Project, a network of national and international cafes (both permanent and pop-ups) with one central objective: to intercept food waste destined for land fill and use it to feed people who need it, on a pay as you feel basis.

Matt’s Cafe is the first registered café on the TRJF network in Swansea.

It is based at Matthew’s House, High Street, Swansea, SA1 1LW  More info at: http://matthewshouse.org.uk/matts-cafe/
The innovative pay as you feel concept encourages people to think about what that plate of food means to them, and value it in whatever way they can. By choosing not to segregate people based on financial circumstances these cafes can be funded, but in a manner that neither patronises those who need it most and empowers others to freely support it.

It provides the balance between the need for funding and the need for giving, but it does so in a very blended format – everyone is equal in being fed, it is up to the individual to pay what they feel.

Our three pillars:

  • To reduce food waste
  • To feed those with or without funds
  • To provide opportunities for those who are long-term unemployed

 

Matt’s Cafe is holding a taster session on Monday February 27th between 12 and 4pm and more information can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1841094242805520/

Asylum seekers and refugees are be welcome to attend the cafe and can pay what they can afford / what they feel the food is worth.