Jubilee Plus
Standing Ready To Do More - Refugee Crisis

The current refugee crisis across Europe is well documented. It attracted significant media coverage in the second half of last year in particular. So far a relatively small number of refugees have arrived in the UK, but over the coming months the number is likely to increase dramatically.

In December 2015, Jubilee+ launched a short survey to understand what actions churches have already taken and what they are planning to do to help refugees if and when they arrive in their area. We also asked what help they need to effectively support initiatives.

Only a small number of churches in the sample (11%) have a great deal of experience of helping refugees prior to this crisis, while 45% have ‘a little’ and 44% ‘none’.
Church size (adults attending on a Sunday) does not seem to matter – churches of all sizes have experience of helping refugees.

The top three ‘helps’ of churches that had some experience of supporting refugees prior to this crisis were: provision of goods (furniture, food, etc.) – 73%; money – 51%; and befriending – 44%.

Since the recent crisis, 40% or more of the churches in the sample have: encouraged prayer (86%); donated supplies and/or money as a church (65%); had discussions at leadership level about how to help (55%); shown relevant materials to their congregation (43%); and have contacted or been contacted by other local churches to discuss actions (40%).

There is a cause for concern, in that local authorities seem to have already been contacting churches with a lot of experience as these are probably already well known to them, but they have made little contact with those churches with some experience versus those with no experience.

There is an open-ness to a lot of further action but this will depend on the capacity and capability of churches.

There is a strong sense of churches wanting to co-ordinate efforts with other churches so that actions are effective and sustainable.

In order to play a more effective role, churches pinpointed their needs as:

* Information especially what the needs are – an accurate understanding of needs and timing;
* Communication especially communication between all agencies involved, advice and training;
* Co-ordination – especially a co-ordinated local approach, linking up with other churches, agencies, local authority;
* Volunteers and finance.

The top seven problems that churches are seeing and experiencing over the handling of the refugee crisis in their area are as follows:
* Perception of immigrants by the public, media and politicians;
* Information about refugees in the area and needs not being shared so difficult to help;
* Some local authorities reluctant/don’t work well with churches;
* Difficulties with applications to stay in the UK;
* The availability of good quality ESOL provision for those seeking asylum;
* Housing and infrastructure;
* Local authorities slow and over-cautious.

The Church has already been helping with refugees in a significant number of ways and has already taken action to help with the latest crisis. They stand ready to do more. There is a real appetite for churches to work together in their local areas to meet the needs and to work with local authorities and other agencies as well. However, in order for them to be effective, they need a lot of information, advice, linking with others and support.

The results of our snapshot survey indicate that local authorities and Government should share as much information as possible so that churches can effectively help those that arrive in the UK with virtually nothing, having faced many trials and dangers on the way.

Local authorities should also ensure they include all churches in their area in any consultation so that they do not bypass those with some experience already. Local authorities should also be open to listen to those churches with experience and change initiatives as necessary.

Churches in an area should liaise with one another to co-ordinate effort and resources so that initiatives can be effective and sustainable.

The rhetoric about immigration should be addressed, taking care to make a distinction about the case for the UK to take and help genuine refugees.

You can read the full report here.
This article by Geoff Knott, originally appeared on the Jubilee+ news feed here.

Geoff - based in Dorking, 
Geoff has lived in 6 countries and has run a number of start-up companies and had a corporate career. He was called out of that and became Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK for 9 years, stepping down in 2008 due to a term limit. Since then he has been involved in helping many campaigns, charities and companies. He is currently engaged in various social reform and social enterprise initiative

Image Credit: Sodelovanje Slovenske vojske pri podpori Policije - fotoreportaža Rigonce, Dobova, Brežice - by MOD of the Republic of Slovenia - CC by 3.0