MP Thangam praises Bristol refugee charity for ‘helping people make a home’

September 28 2018
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Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire has praised the work of local charity Aid Box Community after she visited its Free Shop and Hub in Redland on September 20.

Thangam, who is also the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees, was given a tour of the premises, which acts as a base to help refugees and asylum seekers source vital, everyday items, from socks to saucepans, that they would otherwise struggle to obtain.

The charity was established in April 2017 after a group of people, mainly from North Bristol, began voluntarily collecting and transporting aid to the Dunkirk refugee camp in Northern France in 2015, during the first wave of the European refugee crisis.

Following the camp’s demolition in the winter of 2016, the Bristol team, led by founder Imogen Mcintosh, were still receiving large donations and the idea to help refugees and asylum seekers in the city became a natural next step.

The charity, supported by a small staff and team of around 60 volunteers, has now supported more than 300 refugees, asylum seekers and their families since it opened.  

Thangam Debbonaire said: “The global refugee crisis continues to grow, yet the UK still takes a tiny number of refugees compared to many other countries. And when they arrive here, current laws mean asylum seekers and refugees are often forced to live in desperate situations. As chair of the APPG on Refugees I hope to change this. “Thankfully, many Bristolians do not share the government’s hostile attitude to refugees and asylum seekers. Aid Box Community does fantastic work helping people who have fled persecution and war.

“When people come here with nothing, essential items can help them make a home. Even more importantly, this generosity makes them feel welcome in our city.”

Refugees and people seeking asylum on average have very little to live on and often find it hard to gain employment or access education or healthcare.

There are also problems around language barriers, isolation, poor mental and physical ill health and extreme poverty, which makes this section of people one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.

The Hub in Redland has been designed to be a warm and welcoming place for people to have a cup of tea, it has a sorting and distribution area for donations and a Free Shop.

More than 200 deliveries to people’s homes with larger items such as beds, tables and wardrobes have also been made since January this year.

Imogen Mcintosh said: “When we first began helping in France the problems faced by displaced people was obvious. There was a clear need for a humanitarian response as you could not look away from the horrific conditions adults, children and babies were dealing with.

“Now these problems are not so visible, as refugees and asylum seekers in our local communities are not often seen to be in crisis.

“Thangam has done so much to consistently get these issues on the agenda in Parliament and in Europe so it’s great to be able to discuss with her the work being done in her constituency by our incredible volunteers. We are really lucky to have her as our MP.”

Photo courtesy of James Beck