British Red Cross helps hard-hit refugees in Thames Valley during COVID-19 crisis 

Kerri Chana, Service Manager from the British Red Cross (BRC) Refugee Support service explains how it is supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the region: 

The British Red Cross’ response to the Covid-19 outbreak focusses on four key areas of support: the NHS; the vulnerable and elderly; people facing economic insecurity; and refugees and those seeking asylum.

COVID-19 has wide-reaching effects on those who have fled persecution or conflict and who have sought sanctuary here in the UK. They may have been separated from loved ones and become isolated, without access to a support network of family and people they can trust. They can face barriers to accessing housing, employment and public services due to language difficulties and a lack of information and understanding about their basic rights. Many of the people we support in this situation are struggling to meet their basic needs. They are living in destitution and are at risk of homelessness, exploitation and abuse.

Some individuals rely on community members or friends while awaiting a decision from the Home Office regarding accommodation and support. Over time, these relationships can become strained and break down. We know this is even more likely in these unprecedented times. This can lead to people facing homelessness at a time when Government advice tells them to stay at home. Some of our clients also have complex health conditions that currently require them to remain in quarantine.

Red Cross Refugee Service works to relieve the effects of destitution, giving people information about their rights, and helping them access support. We usually deliver this face-to-face, either through drop-ins or appointments at our offices. Now, we have adapted to provide this support by phone and Zoom, focussing on delivering complex casework remotely. We are also working with our partners to deliver emergency parcels of food and toiletries to our most vulnerable clients. Our current casework priority is to explore entitlement and access to accommodation, to allow individuals to keep themselves safe.

One of the other main challenges our clients face is access to information. Red Cross has partnered with Doctors of the World – an independent humanitarian movement working at home and abroad to empower excluded people to access healthcare – to provide coronavirus information to patients, available in 44 languages at https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/coronavirus-information/

You can find out more about what BRC is doing in response to coronavirus here: https://www.redcross.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/uk-emergency-response/coronavirus

The British Red Cross has also developed a new step-by-step guide for anyone responding to the coronavirus outbreak. Whether you’ve been deployed by a charity or have decided to lend a hand to a neighbour, it tells you what you need to know to look after yourselves and others.

You can make a donation, however small, to help us reach those in extreme hardship and provide hope to those in crisis: https://donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/uk-crisis-appeal

If you know anyone who may need our support, they can call our Helpline 0300 333 5393

If you wish to get in touch, please email Thames Valley team tvrefugeesupport@redcross.org.uk

How you can help in the current crisis

(Click images for full-size poster)

MK Foodbank online donations: https://localgiving.org/charity/mkfoodbank/