Refugee women arrive in the UK seeking a safe life. Despite being so close to safety, at every turn, refugee women are confronted with closed doors. Whether this is trying to find decent legal advice to assist with their asylum claim and being told there is no capacity, finding an education for their children and being told to wait for months, or being forced to live in inadequate, damp, rodent-infested housing and being told that this is irreparable, they must overcome a mountain of ‘no’ before doors are opened. Meanwhile, they are left feeling defeated and deflated, often at the brink of destitution.

We must work together to start saying yes to refugee women. Whether it is helping to change the public perception or giving a donation to support refugee projects, you can help too. We are asking our supporters to help open doors for refugee women so that they can overcome the barriers that are preventing them from having a safe life in the UK.

Here are 10 ways you can open the doors for refugee women this Christmas.

  1. Ask your children’s school what their refugee strategy is and if they don’t have one encourage one to be written. Providing more spaces for refugee children massively impacts how quickly they can enter education and allows for them to settle in to a routine. This in turn allows refugee women the time needed to ensure they can access essential services when the children are in school.
  2. Invite refugee women to your Christmas party, to a Carol service or social event over the festive period. Christmas and other festivals can be a time when refugees feel isolated and miss their families. Attending events can help refugee women make new friends and connections which in turn helps them to feel less alone. By decreasing social isolation, refugee women feel more confident to ask for the help they need and know how to go about getting it. 
  3. Hold a coffee morning with your friends and family that looks to raise awareness about the barriers faced by refugee women trying to build a safe life in the UK. If you know local refugee women, why not invite them to come a long and speak about their experiences. Share mince pies and traditional Christmas cake & maybe even try baking a delicacy from their home country. 
  4. Write to your local MP asking them to support the end of immigration detention where refugee women are detained for an indefinite period. During such periods of detention, women can be separated from their children. Their mental health can rapidly deteriorate by being imprisoned, particularly if they have suffered trauma such as being in a warzone or have experienced sexual violence.
  5. Organise a volunteering day at work where you and your colleagues give your time to a refugee charity. Not only will it make a big difference to the refugee women that are part of the charity, but volunteering is a way to achieve the *give* part of the 5 steps to wellbeing, making for happy, productive staff!
  6. Ask your local GP surgery if all their front-line staff receive cultural sensitivity training. Each GP surgery can train its staff differently and it is important that a refugee woman looking for help is not turned away by a staff member who may not know how to deal with the situation. We must let our GPs know that we think it is important that all staff are properly trained to work with refugee women.
  7. Organise a Christmas collection with your local church. Give the donations received to a refugee charity to support the work that they do in opening doors for refugee women. It is to these charities that refugee women turn when they can’t access essential services, they need for help with health issues, housing and immigration. Your donation would allow these charities to continue to break down these barriers and help refugee women build a safe life in the UK.
  8. Organise a Christmas fundraising event at school, university or with your colleagues. By organising such an event, you not only raise money for a refugee charity but you also expose a large audience to the consequences for refugee women of being told no over and over and how this affects their safety. You can change the mind of someone in the audience or of someone who sees your social media posts and they in turn may decide to take a positive step to help open doors for refugee women. 
  9. Suggest a book by a refugee woman for your book club to read. Some examples include The Journey by Francesca Sanna, Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb and The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen. When reading the book, compare their experiences to your own. Can you empathise with the story? What would you feel like if you were forced to leave your home and were not able to ever return? 
  10. Write a post on social media explaining to your friends the barriers that refugee women face in the UK when trying to build a safe life. Often, our friends do not realise the struggle that refugee women face to get help for health issues, damp, rat-infested housing or trying to get their children an education. Your one post could reach a large audience who may decide that they want to help open doors for refugee women.