What do you think is the most important thing to provide for people in Napier Barracks?
It is important to create a safe place for refugees and asylum seekers and to create a support network for them. They come from afar and they go through difficult journeys.
Accompanying refugee friends residing in Napier is the focus of my work, we encourage people to participate in community events and to share in the local community as much as possible. We recently attended an Eid event and a Refugee week event together. They truly enjoyed the atmosphere. It makes it easy for someone who is not familiar with an environment to join an event if they have friends to accompany them too. Having a friendship and a connection with friends is very important.
We work to raise awareness amongst the local Folkstone community, near Napier Barracks, and the general public about the hostile environment towards refugees and people held in immigration detention in the UK. We try to remind the community that these are normal people, like you and I, who just found themselves in a catastrophic situation.
What kind of support do you offer at Napier Barracks?
We offer emotional and practical support. We accompany refugee friends to the hospital, to the dentist, and/or to the opticians. We also refer them to legal support. Sometimes I interpret and sometimes I provide physical items, like phones for example, if needed.
JRS is collecting used smart phones and tablets that are in good working condition to give to refugee friends experiencing the asylum and immigration system donate now.
What is it like supporting people in Napier Barracks?
We support people in so many different situations. For instance, one of the people we support was going through a mental breakdown. He left the country with his uncle but then lost his uncle on the way and was trafficked into the UK. He was scared and he did not have a solicitor. We managed to refer him to a solicitor on the same day, which was a great relief.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
What inspires me the most is that I work on something I believe in, and I am always happy doing it.
It makes me happy to make a difference, even a small one. I am a ‘people person’, so I am in my most joyful moments when I speak to people in Napier…
Plus, my role provides me with new opportunities every day. I am always learning something new and even though there is so much bad news, there is still a lot of good news. I jump in excitement when I hear that someone’s leaving Napier, or has revived their papers, as his life is about to transform for the better.
Do you face any challenges?
What upsets me at times is that we work with limitations and there are things that are beyond our limits. For example, we were trying to help a young man whose brother was being held in North Africa, he had a few calls from his brother asking him for money so that he could get released… Sadly, we couldn’t help much, the only thing we were able to provide was emotional support… and we also referred him to appropriate organisations for further support.
What makes you happy the most?
Hmm… I think the little unexpected things. When we see people in the community stepping up.
I was helping someone to get a dentist appointment, and as you can imagine, it was a nightmare! It is already a nightmare for British nationals, let alone refugees and asylum seekers.
This person had a big problem with his jaw and an infection in his gum. He couldn’t eat anymore. He just needed to see a dentist. I tried my best to get him an appointment and it was so hard. Luckily, he was able to see someone private because someone from the community offered to help, it was heart-warming to witness…
Another incident was of a man who lost his glasses. He was not able to see without them. We managed to get him an optician’s appointment, but it was far from the city… and out of nowhere, someone from the community offered to drive us there!
The community stepping up without us asking brightens my day. This is where our outreach, network and resources come into place. These were a couple of stories to share, there are many more…maybe I can share more of these success stories in the future…
Did the above article inspire you to support refugees and asylum seekers in the UK? If so, we are always looking for donations to continue our outreach into Napier Barracks.