This week we speak to April Humble, Director of the Borderlands community project
Borderlands is a community space for refugees, asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers, working to combat destitution and isolation. At informal drop-ins they’re free to access a hot meal, food bags, classes in English, maths, IT, etc. With our mentoring project, they’re assigned someone to call with whatever needs they have: getting to their GP, signing in at Patchway Police Station, even how to boil an egg.
Our housing project offers 6–12 months’ accommodation for people who’ve just got their refugee status, allowing a moment of calm before moving onto the next stage: looking for work, applying to university, etc. Any ideas for getting members more involved in the community are very welcome.
We’re signed up to the Dignity not Destitution campaign, demanding the right to work, shelter and education. Asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work while they’re waiting for refugee status, and can become destitute because they don’t know how to apply for support, and can end up in government accommodation without furniture or electricity. If they get refugee status, they’re effectively chucked on the street and told to fend for themselves without knowing how to get a deposit for a house.
There’s a perception people come here for our benefits system. I’ve spent time with refugees in Turkey, Greece and Germany – nobody has heard of the benefits system! They’re thinking of getting away from the person trying to kill them, not whether they’re going to get a free house.
The vast majority of our members have been subject to torture or persecution, or seen it in close proximity, arriving from places like Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. Maybe a couple are economic migrants. When people say “just” economic migrants they obviously have no understanding of poverty: of the heartache when your children can’t get clean water, or eat; these are places that don’t have food banks.