In June 2007, the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network decided to conduct a survey of Quaker Meetings to try to build a picture of the work done by Friends in support of asylum-seekers and refugees. All PMs were sent a copy of a questionnaire and, as well as this, many meetings were sent e-mails. The letter pages of The Friend were also used to encourage responses.
A total of 116 meetings replied, of which 32 reported no activity. Of those 32 meetings, several gave as a reason that there were no asylum-seekers or refugees in their area, or that their meetings were small and elderly (e.g. “We have five members between 85-104 years”). Several expressed their support for the work being done on asylum issues. Several meetings also hoped that there could be a more coordinated Quaker response.
18 Monthly Meetings in England and Wales did not respond at all. From Scotland there were only four replies, including two meetings with a nil response.
There was a degree of confusion amongst those who responded as several filled in the questionnaire on behalf of their meeting, and several filled it in on an individual basis. The latter group however frequently referred to support being given by meeting so this has been included.
The members of the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network are aware that the activities listed below are likely to be an under-estimate of the level of Quaker activity in this area.
The main type of activities are listed below along with the number of times they were mentioned in the reports:
Conversation and social activities (including holidays) 13
Asylum seekers supported by meeting 7
Provision of mid-, long-term or emergency accommodation 7
Fundraising and financial support 24
Collecting items 9
Meeting House used 8
Teaching English 6
Visiting detention centres (including airports) 10
Accompanying asylum seekers to court 2
Political activity 13
Awareness-raising amongst Friends 2
Regular public witness 1
Ecumenical & interfaith activities 13
Trustee / board member in asylum-related charity 5
Action in other pressure groups and charities 27
Employment (including legal) 9
Work related to asylum-seekers’/refugees’ health (physical and mental) 8
Publicity (photography project) 1
Local campaigning 1
Clusters of activity were reported in the following Meetings: Leeds – Leicester – Manchester – Settle – Sheffield – Warwickshire
Some examples of Quaker activity:
Some meetings in rural areas provide short breaks and holidays for asylum-seekers. One meeting hosts an annual summer party on the beach.
Meetings which are based near detention centres (including airports) make regular visits to support the detainees.
Several Friends have a great deal of individual professional expertise. One Friend has written 35 expert opinions on asylum cases, and others have been active in setting up and running advice centres.
One meeting has maintained a fortnightly vigil in support of asylum-seekers outside the local cathedral since November 2006, with some support from other churches.
Several meetings have befriended individual asylum-seekers, used the meeting house for accommodation, and accompanied them when they need to sign on or attend court.
Several Friends are committee members or trustees of organisations which support asylum-seekers and refugees.
Several Friends offer short-term or long-term accommodation to asylum-seekers in their homes.
One meeting has supported a Friend who has invested in two houses in their city to be used for accommodation for asylum-seekers. Meeting has helped by providing furniture and equipment and paying utilities bills.
Two meetings are involved in “City of Sanctuary” projects.
One meeting provides a library for the local Refugee Centre and Peace House.
We received supportive comments from some Meetings which do not have asylum-seekers in their geographical area. We would like to suggest to those Meetings that they can perform a valuable service by keeping themselves informed of developments and writing to their MPs and other decision-makers.
It is the intention of the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network to produce a directory of the main Quaker activities throughout our Yearly Meeting. This is an ongoing project and will be undertaken in consultation with Local Meetings. Those meetings or individuals who are willing to have their details included in such a directory should reply to the e-mail address on the page ‘About us’.