Supporting Refugees in Bristol
As we come towards Christmas and remember Jesus our asylum seeking saviour, it brings home all the more the Biblical imperative to be open armed to the ‘stranger and foreigner’ (Leviticus 19:34) who lives on the margins in the UK; to learn to welcome them with love and grace. This often places those of us who follow Jesus in opposition to our neighbours who might follow the general opinion about refugees as ‘scroungers’ rather than ‘sanctuary seekers’.
I knew very little about asylum seekers before I met some! I expect that is like most of Britain. However, as God has taken hold of me and led me to walk alongside them, I have ended up with my small terraced home full of asylum seekers; my 5 current guests are from Iran, Iraq, Algeria and Sri Lanka. It is a life full of challenge but also of adventure and joy.
Asylum seekers are the 4% of all migrants to the UK who come because their life is at risk in their country because of war, politics, religion etc. Around 41% are accepted first time and a further 28% of appeals are successful. If asylum seekers are refused they lose the right to accommodation and financial support. They are not allowed to work throughout the asylum process. I manage a charity in Bristol called Bristol Hospitality Network (BHN) that provides full board accommodation to refused destitute asylum seekers in a large men’s hostel and a network of volunteer host households. We currently host 23 people and have hosted 92 people since 2009 on a shoestring budget. Over half of our members end up getting refugee status with our help to make fresh asylum claims, after sometimes years of enforced destitution at the hands of the UK government.
Mahmoud from Somalia has been living in BHN accommodation since 2013. He said ‘I was really destitute…BHN was the only organisation that gave me shelter…so the life would have been hard for me without BHN’
Mahmoud playing Backgammon
Zahra cooking an amazing feast at our Welcome Centre
Zahra from Iran stayed with two different BHN hosts for 5 years until her claim was finally accepted: ‘BHN found a place to live for me and my 22 year old daughter for over 5 years’.
BHN also runs a weekly Welcome Centre in our local parish church, Easton Christian Family Centre.
Asylum seekers have lost everything to flee to a place of safety in the UK. We can welcome them with great love in Jesus name. In doing so, perhaps we ‘entertain angels without knowing’ (Hebrews 13:2)
If you are interested in hosting a destitute asylum seeker in your home, live in Bristol, have a spare room for at least 3 months and don't have small children still at home.
Please contact Rachael Bee directly on 07734 347817 or wearebhn a_t gmail d_o_t com
How can I help refugees in Bristol through BHN? : Click Here