Asylum Link Merseyside
Ewan Roberts is the Centre Manager at Asylum Link Merseyside, based in Liverpool. They’re one of 78 asylum seeker and refugee charities we fund and are currently in the second year of a £75,000 three-year grant, which contributes to salary costs for the Centre Manager
Ewan says: “When someone in Liverpool tries to seek asylum, they’re told they have to go to Croydon, but most of them don’t know where that is, let alone how to get there. They aren’t even given a map. So a lot of people see us as the default place for help; even the Home Office refer people to us.
“The process usually starts with a tea and a welcome in the kitchen – it’s the beating heart of this place. We provide support, advice and a meal, whether you’ve just arrived, you’re stuck in the system or you’re destitute having been kicked out the other end. We deal with issues from the start of the asylum process to the very end.
“The deficit in the asylum system is that nobody wants you and you’re prohibited from working, which takes away your purpose. We’ve tried to challenge that, so of our 130 volunteers, around 50 are asylum seekers. It allows people to showcase the skills they’ve got and bring their taste of home with them, especially for the kitchen volunteers. Being able to share something like that and give a bit of yourself to others is such a
powerful thing. We all need to feel useful and loved or appreciated.
“The people who rely on us are terrified at the thought of us not being here. Most asylum seekers don’t have a safe place to go – but the people who come here do.
“That’s why receiving core funding from Lloyds Bank Foundation has been so vital for us. It doesn’t cover all our costs, but it gives us a base to work from. Often people like to fund new projects, new ideas and actually you struggle to cover the basics. Core costs are fundamental to what we do, and the Foundation recognises that.
“The future for us is always unknown to a point, as it is for so many doing charity work. It’s partly about being sustainable but it’s also about just surviving. Having secure funding from Lloyds Bank Foundation means having some of those basic core costs covered, so we can focus on sustainability – and on doing our jobs for the asylum seekers who need us.
Wilson Mukerjee is an asylum seeker from Pakistan. He’s been visiting and volunteering at Asylum Link Merseyside since 2014 with his wife Ruth. Wilson says:
“Everybody at Asylum Link has welcomed us like a family. Each and every visitor, staff member and volunteer – we’re all part of the family.
“I’ve been coming here for five and a half years – I started volunteering on the reception and I’ve moved around. Now I work in the food store helping manage the supplies.
“In April I spent seven days in Yarlswood Detention Centre with my wife and son. We went for a meeting and they just took us away. Every day the staff here were fighting to get us out. Someone called every half an hour to check in until we were released.
“Without them here I’d be in hell. They have done so much for me and so many others – so many people have been helped all over the country.”