RSS Feed


More Articles: Latest Popular Archives

Supporting Asylum Seekers and Refugees from Exclusion to Belonging

Charmaine Sew - Marketing and Fundraising Volunteer - Borderlands

Over the last few years, refugees and people seeking asylum have regularly made the headlines. Headlines tend to be littered with facts and statistics, ranging from poor living conditions in accommodation, discrimination, and deaths on the journey. The UK is no exception. Obtaining status is often a long, drawn-out, complicated process. People seeking asylum or refugee status have to wait years before receiving an outcome to their application. While waiting, their rights in the UK are mostly limited. Until the point they are granted ‘Leave to Remain’ (refugee status), they are unable to access mainstream welfare benefits, and are mostly unable to work as well.

While waiting for updates and progress on their application, many of them stay in Home Office accommodation. Conditions may vary depending on where they are placed. These can range from hotels in remote locations to disused army barracks. Currently, there has been a steady rise in the application backlog from the Home Office. According to Refugee Council UK, there were 143,377 people waiting for the outcome of their initial claim for asylum. Out of which, 68% have been waiting for more than 6 months. With the process having become extremely drawn-out, this means some find themselves stuck in hotels or other accommodation for extended periods of time. Faced with language barriers in completely new environments, many become isolated from the community and find it difficult to integrate. Being unable to work also exacerbates this issue of isolation and loneliness. Stuck in the waiting game, they are left to grapple with an uncertain future.

However, not all hope is lost. Many charities around the UK have been set up to reach out to refugees and people seeking asylum to help them navigate the system and find their way around a new environment. Borderlands is one of them.

To be welcomed, empowered to belongs form the backbone of our work at Borderlands. Within the charity, refugees and people seeking asylum (members) are allowed various avenues to get involved in the community. Many are our long-term volunteers who help at our drop-in or social supermarkets. From our work, we have seen how volunteering has led to improved levels of mental health as members feel empowered and included in their new communities. Empowerment also comes in the form of communication abilities — as the ability to communicate with one’s surroundings is key to feeling belonging and empowerment. Members also have access to regular English lessons conducted by volunteer teachers to equip them with basic English language and literacy skills.

A core facet of our work is the Mentoring Project, which provides members with personalised 1-1 support to guide them on their journey. Our mentors are trained to provide emotional and practical support for up to six months depending on their needs and aims. These can range from accessing services to applying for jobs to engaging in local activities.

Anyone can be a mentor: a willing and eager heart is all that is needed. However, working with a vulnerable population means there will be safeguarding measures to adhere to. That being said, mentoring has proven to be highly rewarding and fulfilling for both mentors and mentees. Giving our members a chance to take charge of their own future is a way to counter the disempowerment that can come from being embroiled in the waiting game.

I’m still really enjoying mentoring after 6 years of being involved which to me illustrates what a great organisation Borderlands is with such dedicated staff who are supportive of volunteers and committed to offering a valuable service to asylum seekers and refugees. Thank you again. And I can’t wait to mentor and/or work with refugees in the future. I’m inspired and passionate. Borderlands Mentor 2022

I wasn’t sure of my mentor at first, but then I realised he is young at heart. I couldn’t look people in the eyes, I was nervous to, but my mentor showed me how. He showed me how to communicate. We weren’t just getting coffee in Bristol; he was teaching me how to be confident. Borderlands Mentee 2022

If anyone is keen to be a mentor, do reach out at We are also regularly looking for volunteers to support our work, so we are always happy to have people on-board with us — to work together in solidarity and dignity, from exclusion to belonging.

Borderlands understands that time can be a limiting factor for some. There are also other ways to support the work that we do. From our social supermarket to yoga sessions or English classes, all of these run on the goodwill of the community. This means individual donations are essential for us to continue providing all these valuable services and better the lives of our asylum seekers and refugees in Bristol. Donations can be made through our online fundraising portal ( which can be found on our website as well.

theHRDIRECTOR chosen charity, 25% of all Subscriptions fees, in both print and digital, will go to Borderlands, a very worthy charity who are helping so many at their time of need.

Receive more HR related news and content with our monthly Enewsletter (Ebrief)