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How the community is supporting refugees

Lewisham has an active and engaged voluntary and community sector willing to support the integration of refugee families who have resettled in Lewisham. Offers of support and donations from the local community are coordinated by us and charity SHP in order to best meet the needs of the families.

Resettling families

Their work includes:

  • liaising with landlords before the arrival of a family

  • meeting and greeting refugees as they arrive at airports

  • supporting families with translation and access to English language lessons

  • ensuring families are registered with services such as GPs, job centres, schools

  • signposting families to appropriate education, employment and other integration services.

We meet SHP and other local agencies every month to discuss the resettled families. This includes considering their progress in English language, their health, their education and employment opportunities, and their level of involvement in voluntary work and community activities.

Volunteers

The Lewisham branch of Citizens UK has been particularly active in their voluntary support of the families, with members donating extra items for the households, spare furniture and even English lessons. They have also organised welcome events and dinners, invited families out to have the opportunity to socialise and see local sights and given their time in befriending.

The Point community centre invited the refugee families to join them on a day trip to Hastings in Summer 2017, and many were able to join, seeing some of the UK and meeting others in the process.

Lewisham Islamic Centre has welcomed many families to worship with them. They also held a fundraising event with Lewisham Citizens in which they raised over £900 to support the families. This has been used to purchase extra items to support the families such as English-Arabic dictionaries, welcome hampers and extra English lessons for those with mobility issues.

Restaurants

Ten local restaurants have offered Lewisham’s refugee families a free meal. These are:

  • Meze Mangal in Brockley

  • Damascus Chef in Hither Green and Lee

  • Aloosh in New Cross

  • Spice of Life in Lee High Road

  • Big Fat Gourmet in Lewisham

  • Haidy's in Lewisham

  • Cafe of Good Hope in Hither Green

  • Good Hope Café in Ladywell

  • Turkuaz in Catford

  • Le Delice in Ladywell.

Abdullah Alawayed of the pop-up restaurant Damascus Chef, a Lewisham resident of Syrian origin, has also met with the families on various occasions to talk with them about cuisine and opportunities for local entrepreneurship.

English lessons

Lewisham’s refugee families have participated in English lessons offered by various local groups, some of which are drop-in sessions already running which they are able to join.

So far, the families have benefitted from English lessons from:

Properties

We've reached out to landlords who can provide safety and protection for these vulnerable people by letting properties that have not been otherwise available in Lewisham. These are all privately owned homes, meaning local families who are waiting for social housing are unaffected.

All properties are rented at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate. Lewisham Citizens (Citizens UK) have particularly promoted the need for properties to local communities.  

Five of our eight families are now living in properties offered by these community members. These landlords have all agreed to rent their properties at LHA rate to refugee families for at least 2 years.  

The Diocese of Southwark has also offered one Syrian refugee family housing in an unused vicarage. This was furnished using funding provided by the Home Office’s standard tariff for the family. 

Two of our families have been housed in properties offered by Atlantic Lettings, who have offered these properties at LHA rate rather than market rate.