An asylum-seeker is someone who has crossed an international border in search of safety and refugee status in another country. To be recognised as having refugee status, a person must have left his or her own country or be unable to return to it ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.’ (From Article 1, UN Convention 1951 Relating to the Status of Refugees.)
A Refugee is someone who has fulfilled the above criteria and, following a positive decision on his/her asylum application, has been granted Refugee Status.
Sixty one years on from the original UN Convention, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) lists a total of 33,924,475 refugees in the various countries of the world in 2012 (Earth Times website, 2012). These of course are the ones known to the UNHCR, and the true figure has been estimated as being in excess of 43.7 million. 80% of the world’s refugees are women and children, many of whom have been displaced by armed conflicts. Faced with the choice of staying behind and taking a chance with all the associated risks that would entail, they have chosen an uncertain and probably just as dangerous future by leaving everything in search of hoped-for safety.
Our Clients The Most Vulnerable Sector of Society
Refugees and asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable members of society and have complex needs. Every year thousands of people arrive in the UK to seek refuge. Escaping persecution, disruption and wars, the majority of them have experienced torture, trauma and loss. Many have been subjected to violence and rape or have witnessed their family and friends being tortured or killed. The route they normally take to safety is risky, dangerous and often very long. Leaving behind their home, belongings and all that they were familiar with, they come to the UK facing many additional challenges, the main one being to build new lives for themselves in an unfamiliar and sometimes hostile environment, with poor linguistic skills and little or no knowledge of their rights and entitlements. Listening to the life stories of so many different people from diverse backgrounds has revealed the impact that a combination of pre- and post-migration experiences has had on the mental and physical wellbeing of this client group.
We strongly believe that while it is important to understand and address the mental, physical and practical problems of refugees, it is also respectful to honour their capacity for resilience. Our years of experience of working with this group confirm that they have a remarkable
degree of both resilience and resistance to any difficulties caused by their forced migration, and that, in a supportive and safe environment, they can adapt and rebuild their lives.