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syrian family 246Refugees - what churches are doing

We are seeing a refugee crisis across Europe. So far a relatively small number 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. Also asked was 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 another 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%. More specialist actions (e.g. ESOL provision, housing, etc) were given by a smaller number of churches.

As a church increases in size, it is more likely to provide goods and housing, and help the local authority.

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%).

If a church had previous experience with refugees, they were more likely to have already taken more actions since the recent crisis.

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 openness to a lot of further action but this will depend on the capacity and capability of the church.

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
  • Communication
  • Co-ordination
  • 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 for them to be effective, they need a lot of information, advice, linking with others and support.

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 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.

Read more here

Geoff Knott, 28/02/2016

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