Refugee Action: thirty years of support to the most vulnerable

Refugee Action was first established on October 26, 1981, making 2011 its 30th anniversary year.

This widely respected charity has been supporting refugees and asylum seekers rebuild their lives in the UK for the last thirty years, raising awareness on their plight and making their voice heard.

Refugee Action's work in the reception, resettlement, development and integration of asylum seekers and refugees included support for the second wave of Vietnamese refugee arrivals in 1989, the Bosnian medical evacuee programme in 1995, the Kosovo reception centre and a medical evacuee programme in 1999.

Special attention was given since the '90s to issues affecting refugee women, as refugee community organisations tended to be male-orientated and more often than not, were led by male community figures. Hence the Women's Project and the annual Women’s Conference, which brought together women from refugee community groups, NGOs, local government and other agencies to discuss women’s needs and how best to meet them.

In the first decade of this century, Refugee Action stood up to the challenges of an especially hostile public opinion as asylum seekers were increasly demonised in sections of the media, after the 'War on Terror' and the beginning of the global financial crisis.

"Suddenly it seemed barely a day went by without yet another headline screaming about the ‘scroungers’, ‘bogus asylum seekers’ and ‘illegal refugees’ teeming over our borders, taking our jobs, houses and benefits," says the Refugee Action blog.

"Asylum seekers were now dispersed away from London and into communities across the country, who felt they had little information about who they were and why they were there. It didn’t make a difference that asylum seekers had no choice about where they lived; the fact was they were arriving in towns and cities, and some people did not know why, " while the term ‘asylum seeker’ quickly became one of abuse.

"One of the problems was that asylum seekers and refugees did not have a human face or a voice. They were lumped together under a legal term. We placed their voices at the centre of our media strategies and ensured we spoke out to present the facts. "

In 2005, Refugee Action set up the Refugee Awareness Project (RAP) in Nottingham, Liverpool and Bristol, in which British and refugee volunteers visited statutory and community groups to speak with them about refugee issues and the asylum system and tell their own stories.

Happy anniversary Refugee Action. Keep up the good work!



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