Refugee and asylum seeking members
Welcome refugees and asylum seekers to guiding
Girlguiding can have great value to people who are refugees or asylum seekers. It can be a support network, a place to make friends and a chance take part in activities and adventures. Even if they might not stay in the UK long-term, we should welcome them into guiding.
Who is a refugee?
There are nearly 152,000 refugees living in the UK, according to reports from The United Nations. These are people who have fled war or persecution, and the UK Government has recognised they would be at risk if they returned to their home country. Refugees can stay in the UK long-term or indefinitely. And they can bring their immediate family members to join them.
Who is an asylum seeker?
An asylum seeker is someone who has fled their home country and is seeking refuge, but their application is still in-progress. They have a legal right to stay in the country while waiting for a decision on their application. If an asylum seeker’s application is granted, they become a refugee. If the application is declined, they become a refused asylum seeker. Then they may choose to return to their home country themselves or the Government may remove them.
Welcoming refugees and asylum seekers
Girlguiding is open to all girls and women. Every unit should welcome and accept asylum-seeking and refugee children and adult volunteers. Take the time, care and attention to understand their needs.
You should be aware that -
- Those seeking asylum can have limited or no choice in where they live.
- Families will receive limited funds for living costs and may struggle with costs for activities
- They may have limited access to health care
- Many will have uncertainty as to their long-term status and whether they will have the right to live in the UK
- They are at a high risk of discrimination and other prejudice. Be mindful of the stresses they will be under.
Refugees and asylum-seekers will have experienced a lot of disruption and can be quite vulnerable. They might have fled wars, seen or experienced abuse, been separated from loved ones and have difficult memories of leaving their home country.
Be aware that that everyday discussions – for example about extended family, about early childhood or religious practices - may be upsetting and bring up difficult issues. Don’t probe for the reasons why they left their home country or ask about their route to the UK. They might choose to share their story with you and with friends, but always be led by them and what they want to share.
Children cope in different ways. Some might start to share their experiences with adults they trust, including leaders, or talk to girls in their unit. If you have a concern about a child always seek support from your commissioner or our safeguarding team.
Many asylum-seekers will have limited or no English. You should adapt your activities to include them as they pick up a new language:
- Use drama, puppets, mime, pictures or music-based activities.
- Where you need to give print outs, try using a tool like Google Translate to help you communicate key points.
- Make labels or signs in English and their first language to show common guiding terms or areas of your meeting space.
- If appropriate and they are willing, you could encourage other members of the unit to learn some of their first language. Learning greetings like hello and goodbye is a good place to start.
- Adult volunteers can look online to find activity instructions in their first language. These can then be adapted for them to run with the whole unit.
Asylum-seeking adults may find it difficult to learn English, as they don’t have the same access to education. Many child asylum-seekers can start to become interpreters for their families and friends. Some can be proud of this role, but it can also expose them to difficult issues.
Be careful when asking children to translate conversations with their families or peers. If you’re worried that a young member is being exposed to inappropriate materials, or that translating is affecting their wellbeing; share your concerns with your commissioner or our safeguarding team.
Refugee and asylum-seeking parents and carers might be unfamiliar with life in the UK, misunderstand what Girlguiding is or not have experience of women-led organisations or organisations specifically for girls and young women.
You can tell them that we are a volunteer-led organisation which isn’t attached to the government or any faith groups. They may have specific queries about data protection and confidentiality.
The UK Government allows asylum-seekers to volunteer, so adult asylum-seekers are welcome as Girlguiding members.
It can be difficult for those seeking asylum to produce the the identification or records needed for some DBS and recruitment checks. Each situation should be handled on a case-by-case basis and if you have any questions you can contact: [email protected].
Depending on their legal status, refuges and asylum-seekers can have difficult when travelling internationally. Refugees who can’t use or get a passport from their home country are generally issued with a Refugee Travel Document to travel outside the UK.
Many will be able to travel visa-free to many countries all over the world. However, each country can have its own restrictions and could require a visa. You should seek specialist advice when making initial plans.
Talk to your unit about global migration
Refugee Week is held every year in the third week of June, to coincide with World Refugee Day on 20 June. You can use this as an opportunity to explore conversations around migration and refuge in your unit. Find out more about refugee week
The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has issued a Policy Paper which outlines what they believe local, national and international decision makers can do to better support asylum-seekers and refugees. Read the WAGGGS policy paper.
UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency - provides information about international law and the status of refugees and asylum seekers.
The Red Cross - home to a range of information for young asylum seekers, including a database of specialist support groups.
The Refugee Council - information and specific advice and support for unaccompanied children seeking asylum.
The Children’s Society - for those supporting young asylum seekers and refugees.
Home Office - The Government provides details of travel documentations for people living in Britain, who can't use or get a passport from their country.