Here & now: Natalie Gibbs
Natalie Gibbs volunteers with Care4Calais
Taliban forces took control of Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul on 15 August 2021. You may remember the scenes that hit the news in August this year – the desperation of people at Kabul airport trying to board planes and flee Afghanistan. I can vividly recall the pictures of people clinging to the side of a US Air Force plane as it prepared to take off.
I felt I had to do something to help those who were arriving in the UK, leaving everything behind, even their family members, for the chance of a better life. After talking to some friends and looking online, I decided to volunteer for Care4Calais, a volunteer-run charity working with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, France and Belgium. During my volunteer induction session I was shocked by some of the facts and figures the team at Care4Calais shared with us and the difficulties and challenges asylum seekers face after arriving into the UK.
An asylum seeker is someone who has arrived in a country and asked for asylum. In order to be eligible, you must have left your country and be unable to go back because you fear persecution. Until you receive a decision as to whether or not you are a refugee, you are known as an asylum seeker. In the year ending March 2021, the UK received 26,903 asylum applications from main applicants.
When asylum seekers arrive in the UK they are often housed in large hotels while they wait for their claims to be processed. A report published in 2021 by the Refugee Council revealed that the number of people waiting over a year for an initial decision on whether they will be able to remain in the UK increased from 3,588 people in 2010 to 33,016 in 2020….
Natalie Gibbs is a former Moderator of the United Reformed Church Youth Assembly and works for The Leprosy Mission. For more information about Care4Calais and to donate, visit care4calais.org
This is an extract from an article published in the December 2021/January 2022 edition of Reform