The official site for ARKH (Asylum Seekers & Refugees of Kingston upon Hull) / Northern Refugee Centre (Hull and East Riding)

‘Safe Spaces’ for Women Refugees and Asylum Seekers

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This Project has established a partnership between ARKH and Haven Project to provide a structured and integrated support package of psychotherapy, immigration advice and therapeutic casework to refugee and asylum seeking women in Hull. The project aims to increase well-being, emotional resilience and the likelihood of success in an asylum claim.

ARKH and Haven Project are dedicated asylum/refugee service providers and have developed expertise and best practice through their combined experience of over 20 years of service provision in Hull. We rely on a user-led model of service development and the proposed project will seek to combine this with models of ‘Therapeutic Casework’ and provide a safe place for women to explore issues arising from multiple losses (include losses of actual people, their culture, country, home, status in society and language). The support provided will be enhanced by incorporating legal advice at OISC Level 2 and introducing trained psychotherapists into the process. The project will integrate the support provided by ARKH and Haven Project, eliminating gaps in service provision and promoting the disclosure of traumatic events which will feed into asylum claims. Success will be the validation of client’s voices and experiences within the asylum process; it is hoped that this will increase the likelihood of gaining legal aid funding for women’s asylum claims whilst providing a healing space in which they can achieve self reconciliation and regain self-respect.

Based on a 2011 sample by Asylum Aid, approximately 87% of women’s asylum cases are refused at initial decision stage as a result of a lack of understanding of their gender-based complexity. A more recent report by Asylum Aid identified that ‘the existing legal aid funding framework may not cover the additional work required of legal representatives before taking [gender-related claims] to appeal’. There is also a significant body of evidence indicating that ‘disclosure [of women’s traumatic experiences] will often not happen until a containing helping relationship has been established and until the women’s most immediate needs have been met (Refugee Council, 2009). This is explicitly recognised by UKBA in their guidance to caseworkers which states that ‘there may be a number of reasons why a woman may be reluctant to disclose information, for example feelings of guilt, shame, concerns about family dishonour…this should not automatically count against her’.

The closure of Immigration Advisory Service (IAS),Refugee Legal Centre (RLC) and further restrictions on legal aid due to reduced funding and strict ‘Prospect of Success’ testing have reduced local access to representation of asylum/immigration cases. The closure of local asylum and refugee services such as the 167 Centre has further reduced local sources of legal, practical and emotional support in addition Hull’s geographical isolation prohibits affordable travel to other sources of support.

The services will be provided to women asylum seekers and refugees based in Hull identified as vulnerable through a joint assessment procedure: ARKH will support clients with practical issues (immigration advice, housing, education, welfare benefits, health, advocacy, emotional support) and Haven will provide culturally appropriate counselling to women who are ready to address their emotional needs and support the submission of evidence to support their asylum case. Regular meetings will support the development of a cohesive service to support the recovery of women along with joint assessment procedures and sessions with clients.

Client appointments will range from weekly (for clients assessed as being of high need) to monthly (for low need clients). There will be significant fluidity between categories depending on the women’s circumstances especially as requirements resulting from asylum cases may create a situation of high need which then subsides.The project is the first local initiative to bring together immigration/ legal advice and counselling in order to help women disclose and then validate and represent their experiences within the asylum process and beyond.

OISC Registration: N200100496

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