Refugee Month

Refugee Week is 24th-30th June but for us at ElyRRC it feels like Refugee Month – there’s so much happening behind the scenes.

We are working with Citizens UK and the Home Office to take part in the Communities for Afghans scheme, which mostly involves a lot of safeguarding checks and training for the group and we have now started to look for suitable accommodation.

A bit more about the scheme: the refugees will be families from camps neighbouring Afghanistan and will be eligible under the ACRS scheme. This scheme prioritises those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law or vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups at risk (including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT+)

We will be sharing a stall with Amnesty outside the cathedral on 22nd June so do come and say hi.

We also have a charity quiz and raffle on 2nd July in the Prince Albert, we hope to see you there!

Finally, with the election coming up please do consider writing a letter to your MP asking them to pledge to support safe passages for refugees. There is some suggested text here on our how you can help page. You can also use Safe Passage’s lobbying guide for ideas on questions to ask candidates on your doorstep.

Refugee Week 2023

Ely Refugee Resettlement Campaign (ERRC) Briefing  – facts, figures and current issues

See our letter to the council (and write your own) here.

Asylum is the protection granted by a nation-state to a person who has fled their country to escape serious threat to their life or liberty.

People granted this protection, arising from the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (to which over 140 nations are signatories), are called refugees.

Refugee is also used more generally to encompass anyone fleeing their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster, even if they have not been granted protection under the Refugee Convention.

The core principle of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) 1951 Convention on Refugees [i] is that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. The Convention also outlines the basic minimum standards for the treatment of refugees, including the right to housing, work and education while displaced so they can lead a dignified and independent life.

Most refugees are unable to travel far beyond the borders of their home countries. They often live in refugee camps or in poverty in neighbouring countries for years. Many children have lived their entire lives in camps.

Refugee resettlement is separate from the asylum process. To claim asylum, people must apply when already in the UK, whereas some refugees, who are at high risk of harm or exploitation or particularly vulnerable due to ill health, are selected for resettlement by the United Nations. These families and individuals are transferred to the UK in agreement with the Home Office and receive refugee status on arrival.

The UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) operates alongside the Community Sponsorship Scheme, through which groups such as ERRC, offer practical and emotional support to empower families to rebuild their lives in safety, and to become self-sufficient members of their new community.

The number of refugees seeking asylum in the UK is increasing with 75,492 applications (relating to 91,047 people) in the year ending March 2023 (33% more than in 2022 and the highest number for 2 decades). Protection (in the form of refugee status, humanitarian protection, discretionary leave and resettlement) was granted to 22,648 people, of which 4.414 were as the result of resettlement schemes.[ii]

In 2021 Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Albania and Syria were the top five most common countries of nationality of people who applied for asylum in the UK.

Small boat arrivals accounted for 44% of asylum applications in the year ending March 2023.

In 2021, when compared against EU+ countries, the UK ranked 6th in the absolute number of people to whom it gave protection, including asylum seekers and resettled refugees. However the UK falls to 19th place in the ranking when adjusting for population size.

The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme opened in January 2022 and aims to resettle 20,000 people in three years. 

Two visa schemes are in place for people fleeing the war in Ukraine. The Ukraine Family Scheme allows Ukrainian citizens and close family members to apply for a visa, free, to come to the UK to join relatives, who must be either British citizens or have permanent residence. The Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, also known as Homes for Ukraine, allows Ukrainian nationals and immediate family members to come to the UK if they have a named sponsor, which could be an individual, community group, local authority or business.

The following is extracted from Asylum and refugee resettlement in the UK, the Migration Observatory, Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford, August 2022 [iii]

  • On 31 December 2021, around 101,000 people (the highest level since 2003) were awaiting an initial Home Office decision on their asylum application, with only 6% receiving an initial decision within six months.
  • Of all refugees resettled in the UK from January 2010 to December 2021, around 70% were Syrian citizens.
  • Despite nominal increases, in real terms the asylum support payment level in 2022 was 27% lower than in 2000.
  • The distribution of asylum seekers and resettled refugees is highly uneven across the UK.

The Illegal Migration Bill 2023

  • The Illegal Migration Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, will change the law so that people, including accompanied and separated children who come to the UK illegally as refugees will not be able to stay.  They will be detained and then promptly removed, either to their home country or a safe third country (a plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda is still awaiting decision in the Court of Appeal).  Once removed they will not be eligible to reapply for asylum.

Impact of the Illegal Migration Bill on Child Refugees, as outlined by the Refugee Council [iv]

In the year ending September 2022, the UK received 5,152 applications for asylum from unaccompanied children. Many of them come from Sudan, a country facing political instability following years of civil war. Sudan is the 29th highest nation in the world for child marriage where girls as young as 10 years of age can be legally married.

  • The Home Secretary has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and their right to protection from persecution, discrimination and violence, as set out in UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1992).
  • There is concern that the Illegal Migration Bill will significantly undermine these rights: “the proposals will leave children locked out of claiming refugee protection; detained; removed; if unaccompanied, accommodated by the Home Office outside the established care system …” [v]
  • The Home Secretary retains the power to remove children separated from their families and this becomes a duty when a child turns 18.
  • According to the Refugee Council’s impact assessment, between 13,089 and 14,935 unaccompanied children and between 26,483 and 30,218 children with family members will have their claims for asylum deemed inadmissible.

Safe Passage supports the thousands of unaccompanied child refugees that arrive in Europe in search of safety.  Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT UK) works to protect children from trafficking and transnational exploitation.

[i]  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees





Refugee Week 2022 – Walk Together

Ely Refugee Resettlement Campaign is supporting this year’s Refugee Week ‘Simple Acts’ programme which emphasises the importance of meeting together in everyday ways to build connections and community. 

During the walk we will encounter the lives of those who came to Ely as evacuees, refugees and prisoners of war.

Join us for all or part of the walk.  We will gather for a picnic at the end of the walk. Please bring your own food.

Ely RRC Refugee Week Circular Walk, Saturday 25 June 2022

Start: 11am Riverside Bar and Kitchen, The Maltings, CB7 4BB

End: 1.15 pm Jubilee Gardens (next to the Maltings)

Full walk – approx. 3.1 miles, 2 ¼ hours

10.30 -11am:

Meet outside the Riverside Bar and Kitchen which is next to the River Great Ouse and part of the Maltings building.

The Maltings is a few minutes’ walk from the railway station and next to the Ship Lane Car Park.

From the station walk past Tesco’s, cross the main road using the pelican crossing, at the mini roundabout take the first right into Annesdale which takes you to the riverside path, follow the path passing the Cutter Inn and Jubilee Gardens. The RBK is on the left.

For Free All Day Parking (so long as you arrive after 8.30am) – Ship Lane Car Park (CB7 4BB) is next to The Maltings.  Should that be full, Fisherman’s Car Park (CB7 4AT) is a little further along the river, simply walk back along riverside path to the Maltings (if you walk under the railway bridge you’re going in the wrong direction).

All car parking in central Ely is free but in other car parks check the time limits.

Walk details:  Approx. 3.1 miles, 2 ¼ hours (mainly flat with one very short uphill section and two short downhill sections)

11 am:

From the Maltings we walk along the riverside path to Roswell Pits lakes, up Lime Kiln Lane and head back towards the city centre across Ely Common, using part of the Bishop’s Way.  Cut through Springhead Lane and The Vineyards to Archer House and the market place. Along Market Street to St Mary’s Street. Cross to Cathedral Green and the Crimean War cannon. Return to the river via The Gallery, the Porta, Cherry Hill Park and Jubilee Gardens.

Click the map below to view the route in detail:


Ely – City centre map for the cathedral city of Ely in the UK

How to Sponsor Ukrainian Refugees

Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine at this heartbreaking time and Ely RRC stands ready to do what we can to help. At the moment we are still learning what we can about the sponsorship scheme as more details emerge. Here is what we know so far:

The ‘Homes for Ukraine’ Scheme

If you have accommodation (either a house or room) you would like to offer, you can register your interest with the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. (This is separate to the Ukraine Family Scheme which is specifically for people in the UK with family members from Ukraine).

After you sign up you will receive an email with instructions on how to proceed if you have already identified an individual or family from Ukraine that you’d like to sponsor. If you haven’t identified anyone yet the scheme will match you with someone if your application is successful, however this part of the scheme has only just begun so it may take some time for you to be matched.

Finding Someone to Sponsor

If you don’t know anyone you’d like to sponsor and you’d like to speed up the process, you can register as a host on the Reset charity’s Homes for Ukraine matching service, which is supported by the government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

You can also register as a host on the Ukraine Take Shelter site. It was developed by two Harvard University students to provide a way for refugees to find potential sponsors. Once you register as a host your details will be added to a database that refugees can search. Once you have a match you can then proceed via the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. The site EU4UA offers a similar service.

As these are unregulated services please take care and once you have been matched only proceed to sponsor refugees via the official Homes for Ukraine scheme – they will carry out various checks, including safeguarding. Ely RRC is not affiliated with any of these services.

Other Non-Governmental Schemes

Alternatively you can register your accommodation at Room for Refugees, although please note that this is not part of the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and therefore does not benefit from the £350 per month ‘thank you’ payments.

You can also register with the Sanctuary Foundation who are working to help scale up and accelerate the government scheme.

Further help

The local Facebook group Ely Sponsors for Ukraine has lots of help and useful information on the process.

Members of Ely RRC are available to help you navigate the government’s schemes. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Some local Ukrainians may also be wanting to bring their families over via the family visa scheme and will be looking for accommodation for them. They will likely need more than a single room, but if you have the space to welcome a small family into your home or you have a house to rent in Ely then please get in touch. Please note: where a family is renting an entire house they will be entitled to the usual housing benefit element of Universal Credit so you would receive rent as usual, rather than the government’s £350 a month ‘thank you’ payment.

Petition: Afghan Refugees Welcome in Ely

To everyone who has been asking what they can do to help: Joan Wall will be representing ElyRRC at the next full council meeting (Monday 27th September, 7pm at the Maltings.) She will be giving a short presentation on our personal experiences of working with refugees and why what we do is so important.

Ahead of that meeting please do sign our petition to East Cambridgeshire District Council, and if you are interested and available on 27th, feel free to go to the meeting to show them that Ely residents support welcoming Afghan refugees to the area.

The Afghanistan Crisis

The last few days are black days for humankind and I am sure everyone here is as heartbroken and devastated as we are at all of the news coming from Afghanistan. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to ask how they can help. We will post here and on Facebook when we have more information about what practical help might look like but for now please do sign this petition – the target of just 5000 refugees in year one is far too small:

And do write to your MPs asking them to call on the government to do more:

Petition to restore language support for UK driving test candidates.

Ahmed, the father of one of the families we support is a skilled carpenter and has been driving to work using his International Permit. That has now expired and to continue driving he must take the UK driving test. His English is not yet good enough to tackle the theory test but he could pass it easily with an Arabic voice-over to assist him.

Until 2014, UK driving test candidates could take the driving theory test with translating voice-overs in non-national languages. Following a flawed consultation this facility was withdrawn. The removal of language support for driving tests is impacting on those attempting to settle in the UK and means that with no transport Ahmed has had to quit his job. There will be a big impact in particular on the cohort of 20,000 refugees being brought in by the Government under its ‘Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Schemes’.

Please sign our petition to get the government to reassess this policy change:

Sign this petition

Refugee Week Quiz Night

Come along to our quiz night! It’s a great opportunity to meet the small working group of ElyRRC, to test your general knowledge and to help raise funds so that we can keep providing support for our two wonderful families! The Facebook event page is here.

Seeking Refuge: An Interactive Journey

Ely RRC invites you to an interactive event to mark the anniversary of the Syrian war.
St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s Street, Ely – 2nd March, 12-4.30pm

Imagine you could walk through a refugee camp in Jordan and experience first-hand what life is like for its inhabitants. Imagine you were faced with deciding the safest way to get your family to safety in a war-torn land.

Ely Refugee Resettlement Campaign will be offering you the opportunity to experience these things yourself on 2nd March in an afternoon of virtual reality events and interactive activities. 

Using an Oculus Go and a Google Cardboard we will be showing two powerful ten-minute films that aim to bring the refugee crisis home to the residents of Ely through immersive story-telling. With refugee poetry, quizzes to test your knowledge, case studies of real-life experiences and activities for the children this will be a thought-provoking and inspirational afternoon.

Poppy Pearce, founder of Ely RRC and co-organiser of the day said “we are very excited about this event. As the Syrian civil war enters its ninth year we felt this was a good time to reflect and understand better what life is like for millions of displaced people.  Advances in virtual reality have really helped humanitarians tell a story that is compelling and provokes genuine empathy.”

Visit our Facebook event page