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Monday, 8 August 2011

Resource: The Refugee Survival Trust

Picture Suzanne Smith
By Alistair Hayes

The Refugee Survival Trust is a small charity set up in 1996 that aims to tackle the destitution problem that affects numerous refugees and asylum seekers. It is no surprise that people fleeing persecution often arrive in Scotland disorientated, with little money and few language skills; many such people fall prey to destitution: they are left poverty stricken, sleeping on the streets or in inadequate housing; they have no money, no friends, no access to public services and no prospects.

The Refugee Survival Trust has two aims. Firstly, we provide small grants to help asylum seekers and refugees avoid falling into the steely grip of destitution. These grants can pay for a bus trip to the asylum application point in Liverpool, a few days financial support while the asylum system catches up with a change in circumstances, or payment for accommodation for a short period while longer term housing is arranged; these ‘destitution grants’ aim to plug the gaps in the asylum system. We also provide education and employment grants to help refugees and asylum seekers integrate into society.

We work closely with the Scottish Refugee Council. This partnership allows us to take advantage of their close involvement with refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland, and it gives them access to vital funds for refugees and asylum seekers in need of urgent financial support. The first step towards receiving a grant from the RST is to head along to the Scottish Refugee Council and speak to one of their fantastic caseworkers; the caseworker decides if an individual’s circumstances meet the criteria for an RST grant, and then send us an email request if it does. All donations we receive from the public go directly and in full to grants for refugees and asylum seekers.

Our second aim is to encourage policymaking and reform of the asylum system that will help reduce the threat of destitution. To this end we undertake research and produce reports that can be used by policymakers to help them make informed decisions. We hope that by highlighting the plight of refugees and asylum seekers we can increase awareness among the general public and policymakers to take action.

We are currently setting up a talks program that will be delivered by volunteers and inform people about what it is like to be a refugee or asylum seeker in Scotland and how only a small amount of money can make a huge difference to their lives. We hope to recruit an enthusiastic team of volunteers that includes former asylum seekers who can provide a personal insight into the pressures of the asylum application process.

If you think you might be interested in volunteering as a talks ambassador for the RST please email communications@rst.org.uk or call 0131 243 2660.

To find out more about any aspect of our operations you can visit our website.
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