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GM VCSE response to emergency humanitarian events

We want all refugees and asylum seekers to feel welcomed and supported in their new home country with us, and we are proud of the people of Greater Manchester for their compassion and generosity, through donating clothes, money, and even sharing their homes.

Charities, community groups, faith organisations and social enterprises across Greater Manchester are committed to taking a collaborative approach to supporting all those fleeing persecution and adversely affected by their immigration status, including those impacted by the horrific events occurring in Afghanistan and Ukraine. We aim to provide ongoing support, resources, and information to arrivals, hosts and organisations across GM.
Action in our boroughs to support and stand with people seeking safety is hindered by the Government’s cruel and divisive Nationality and Borders Act, which punishes refugees rather than seeking to protect them. This differentiates between people based not on their need for protection, but the journeys they have been forced to make, and will directly increase destitution, homelessness and exploitation in Greater Manchester. We unreservedly condemn current Government efforts to remove people seeking sanctuary to Rwanda, and call for a fair and effective UK protection system, that treats people with dignity and compassion and helps them to rebuild their lives.

Please join us in fighting these cruel new laws. Stand with us and pledge to defend the right to seek safety.
- For individuals: https://act.refugee-action.org.uk/page/106452/petition/1
- For groups and organisations: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdCiLuUO41L2p8TeqoBCq3eiSEPMnnPM2lYopuZ5pbVpFz7Lw/viewform

Our recent response to the Afghanistan and Ukrainian emergencies has, in summary, included these actions:

Response to Afghanistan arrivals:
- A GM-wide VCSE sector meeting was scheduled with 6 VCS organisations (Macc, Bolton CVS, Action Together Rochdale, Action Together Oldham, Halton & St Helens CVS and Salford CVS) and 34 organisations including Foodbanks, Churches and Mosques, St John’s Ambulance, and Refugee and Asylums support groups to discuss the current response, donations, support and services available
- A Hotel Lead was assigned for each hotel in Manchester to liaise with the residents, hotel staff, VCSE sector and Home Office and Local Authority teams
- An online shareable directory of GM VCSE services and support was created for hotel leads to access
- Manchester City of Sanctuary and Manchester Refugee Support Network coordinated a programme of activities for residents, including wellbeing sessions, ESOL classes, and children’s arts and craft sessions. This was alongside responding to donation requests, as well as coordinating appointments at barbers and dentists. Manchester City of Sanctuary and Manchester Refugee Support Network have published a response on their support here: https://manchester.cityofsanctuary.org/2022/05/coordination-and-delivery-of-afghan-response-donations-and-activities-support-across-manchester/
- The GM VCSE organisations met weekly with the Hotel Leads to share information, resources, available support as well as identify areas of concern. This has developed into a collaborative approach to hotel support from the VCSE sector that Manchester City Council are supporting. To find out more about this collaborative work please contact Mona from Caritas Shrewsbury – Mona.Moussa@caritasshrewsbury.org.uk

Response to Ukraine arrivals:
- Extending our weekly meeting attendees to a total of 24 organisations across Greater Manchester to collaborate on a more efficient, inclusive response
- Together we launched the Greater Manchester Community Response Fund: Ukraine Crisis. The funding is being overseen by the local VCSE sector infrastructure organisations: Salford CVS, Macc, Bolton CVS and Action Together, in collaboration with Europia and other partners, including: Caritas Salford, Caritas Shrewsbury, Foundation 92, Manchester City of Sanctuary, and The Pankhurst Trust.  All donations received will be split with 50% going to an individual hardship fund and 50% as small grants going towards local organisations which are making a difference https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/GM4Ukraine   
- We also share a weekly email of the latest resources, guidance, events, and information for arrivals, hosts, and organisations, as well as campaigning for change

Our Learning:
Globally, there have been different responses to emergency humanitarian crises and the impact this has had on refugees and asylum seekers has not been equally or equitably supported.

As our response to these emergencies has progressed, organisations across the North West and Greater Manchester have come together in support and solidarity of those who have been forced to resettle. We recognise and understand that our response to these emergency events has also differed. This has been a result of learning and responding as the events progress, and reflecting on how to respond more efficiently and to better support those of us arriving or supporting Afghanistan and Ukrainian citizens.

Whist we have been able to coordinate support on a much more immediate scale with our Ukrainian arrivals, a changing landscape has been an ongoing challenge, particularly where local authorities at times limited communication, resulting in duplicated actions and/or at a slower pace than we would have liked.

We aim to utilise the learning from our actions and response to inform a template action plan to support those of us seeking refuge and healing more effectively and equitably, as well as campaign for governmental and structural change to prevent unequal responses towards those seeking protection and in future resettlement.

We recognise this learning will be ongoing, and this template plan will need to be adapted to support those of us seeking refuge and asylum and the specific needs.

We welcome support, advice, and feedback from all.

Macc
Salford CVS
Action Together
Sector3
Bury VCFA
Bolton CVS
10GM
Europia
Caritas Salford
Caritas Shrewsbury
Manchester City of Sanctuary
MCR Women’s Aid / Pankhurst Trust
SWAP Wigan
Asylum Matters
Boaz Trust
Manchester Refugee Support Network
Foundation92
Lingua GM
Mustard Tree
We Stand Together

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