Local volunteers and council win awards for work resettling refugees

Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes (3rd right) with local winners at the awards ceremony in the Royal Society ©iBRODIEfoto

A community initiative working to resettle refugees locally has been recognised as one of the nation’s leading groups of its kind.

Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees (HHWR) were joint winners of the Best New Sponsorship Group award at the 2018 Sponsor Refugees Awards. This came in the same week that its application to become an official refugee sponsor was approved by the Home Office.

It was a night of success for more Brixton-based refugee advocates. Khairunissa Dhala won the volunteer of the year award for her work with the Welcome Committee, whose volunteers are based in SW2.

Simon Sandberg, who has overseen Lambeth council’s pioneering refugee resettlement work, won the Local Authority of the Year award on behalf of the council.

Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood and “refugees welcome” advocate in parliament, spoke of her pride in taking part in the event as a judge.

She later took to Twitter to congratulate the Herne Hill group who she continues to support: “Moving, joyful evening at the #communitysponsorshipawards celebrating work of local groups across the country”.

The Home Office approval indicates that HHWR has fulfilled a set of strict criteria to prove that it has the capacity to oversee the resettlement of a vulnerable refugee family.

This has been the culmination of months of hard work in the form of research, community engagement, and meetings with Lambeth council and the Home Office by HHWR’s team of volunteers.

The group, formed almost exactly a year ago, has featured in local and national press for the work in resettling refugees in Herne Hill. It works under the Home Office’s Community Sponsorship Scheme.

Announced in 2016, the scheme allows community groups to play a leading role in making sure the most vulnerable refugees are resettled as quickly and safely as possible.

These groups must take responsibility for everything from finding a private property, language provision and formulating safeguarding strategies.

As the government’s refugee policy stipulates that it prioritises only a small number of the most vulnerable refugees for resettlement, mental or physical trauma can be common among those being resettled.

Community sponsorship groups must ensure that they have the necessary resources and access to relevant institutions to handle this care if needed.

Refugees resettled under this scheme are less likely to suffer from the many dangers of isolation and culture shock, and are also more likely to find work and grasp the English language more quickly compared to those resettled by the government alone.

If you would like to get involved or learn more, contact hhwelcomerefugees@gmail.com or follow @HHWR_.