Relief & Refugee
Relief & Refugee
The Relief and Refugee Fund
Since the First World War, members of the Catholic Women’s League have assisted refugees, initially those from Belgium. During the Second World War the Catholic Women’s League felt that we should join other societies in preparing for work among the civilian population. We were already working for the Forces with the huts and canteens.
In 1942 a Relief and Refugee Committee was established, with the blessing of Cardinal Hinsley, to organize aid for refugees. Since then we have continued to help support the needs of many Asylum seekers and refugees from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Far East.
In 1979/80 members from Portsmouth Branch helped Vietnamese refugees settle into their temporary homes in a local disused services camp, the refugees arrived with nothing. Following their ordeal, members gave food, household items, rosaries and religious objects as many people were Catholic. They also organized a reception following the wedding of two refugees.
The Relief and Refugee fund has also supported the work of CAFOD, a charity formed in 1962, following the successful first Fast Day in 1960, organized by the Catholic Women’s League, Union of Catholic Mothers and members of the National Board of Catholic Women.
Recently we have concentrated our support for those seeking asylum in the U.K. through agencies working for asylum seekers and refugees. The fund is supported through the generosity of CWL members and individual donations. Some of our members support their local Refugee Centre or Refugee organization, raising funds and supplying warm clothing for adults and children.
Applications for grants are accepted from recognised agencies on behalf of clients, the majority of whom are isolated, deeply traumatised and disempowered. Many of them sleep on the floor of a friend’s room, church or even on a night bus, keeping themselves warm. A small grant is a great boost to their wellbeing, enabling them to buy food or warm clothing, especially shoes, or bedding. Occasionally we have requests for household items when a person or family is given leave to remain and allocated accommodation. We often refer to other agencies for help with household items, clothing and bedding.
There are many myths circulating about the services and benefits given to asylum seekers and refugees in our country. The Refugee Council publish facts about the hardship that asylum seekers face. Many are deeply traumatised, destitute and in need of a place of safety.
International and national law distinguishes between asylum seekers and illegal economic migrants. The vast majority are law abiding and do not know of benefits when they arrive here, they have no expectation of receiving financial support. Almost all are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support of approximately £5 a day. If accommodation is allocated it is not provided by local councils and is usually ‘hard to let’ properties anywhere in Great Britain.
Many people want to return home when conditions have improved there and it is safe to do so.