Three hundred and twenty-five pounds

I’m raising money to pay Home Office fees for refugees.

Read this short post to find out more about those fees or, if that’s not your thing, just go straight over and make a donation to help refugees and asylum-seekers in Watford.

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When you come to Britain as an asylum-seeker you have to make an application to the Home Office for asylum. It costs £650 (about US$925).

For asylum-seekers, who often have nothing, that’s a huge sum to raise and a real obstacle to a settled life. So, at Watford Refugees, we try to pay half of that fee for the people we’re helping. That’s why £325 is an important number for us.

There are other costs, of course. Your application will need to be submitted by a solicitor. Your legal bills will usually take the cost of the application to about £2,000. And, since last April, asylum-seekers also have to pay in advance to use the National Health Service (there’s a calculator on the Home Office web site — it could be £500, it could be a lot more).

Sometimes asylum-seekers can call on friends or relations for help. Sometimes it’s much harder. Most asylum-seekers are not allowed to work and can’t claim benefits (there’s a phrase: ‘no recourse to public funds’). Finding thousands of pounds to pay fees can be the last straw for a desperate family.

So, here’s my small contribution. I jumped on my bike and rode all the way to work (a round-trip of 50km) to raise money to help pay these fees. I was aiming to raise enough for one £325 payment but lots of generous people have already taken me right past that amount, so I’ve increased my target to £975, enough for three. Please make a donation — every little helps — on the Just Giving web site.

At Watford and Three Rivers Refugee Partnership, that’s not all we do. There’s a comprehensive service for asylum-seekers and their families. We have a weekly food distribution (which we run with Watford Food Bank), we try to provide basics like nappies, clothes and sanitary towels, we befriend newcomers, we help with legal and travel costs, we put on twice-weekly English language classes, drop-in advice sessions and regular parties for the children. It’s a mixture of practical and emotional support for people at the most vulnerable time in their lives — about sixty families at the moment, but the numbers are going up and the pressures increasing.

I’m a trustee at the amazing Poppy Academy Trust, a social media editor in radio, a poet and a volunteer at Watford Refugees.

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