Local Advocacy: The CLEAR Project

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The City Life Education and Action for Refugees (CLEAR) Project was set up by the local City Life Church in 2001. It was set up as a direct response to the Government’s dispersal policy (The Immigration Act, 1999) on refugees and asylum seekers.

As a result of this policy, Southampton was, and is, a dispersal city, with approximately 150 places for Home Office assisted asylum seekers. On top of this, there are many asylum seekers and refugees who don’t have the support of the Home Office, making them all the more vulnerable and in need of specialist advice and support; the 150 refugees and asylum seekers in Southampton supported by the Home Office are just the tip of the iceberg.

Being a refugee and therefore having to settle in an entirely unfamiliar country comes with several challenges. A lack of knowledge of the English language, English literacy skills and the complexities of the UK system means that they can struggle to integrate into British society.

Subsequently, the purpose of the CLEAR Project is to give refugees and asylum seekers advice, resources and guidance on every step of the way of their journey, in order to help them fully settle and integrate into British society. Several refugee advice centres have closed down over the years, which makes the service CLEAR runs all the more vital to an unestimatable amount of refugees and asylum seekers.

The CLEAR Project has two main services on offer to help refugees and asylum seekers: Advice and Learning.

The Advice portion of the CLEAR Project has two subdivisions. One of these subdivisions is based on integration. It offers refugees and asylum seekers the support of advisors who work closely with them to help them navigate the British legal system, as well as practical advice on several other matters such as budgeting, housing and how to set up and pay bills.

The second subdivision is based around improving asylum seekers’ and refugees’ employability prospects by guiding them on skills such as building a CV, applying for jobs and setting up a bank account.

Meanwhile, the Learning & Development department leads several adult learning short courses to help refugees and asylum seekers become more qualified, gain transferable skills, and improve in confidence. The arguably most important course led by the CLEAR Project gives lessons on the English language, which greatly help refugees and asylum seekers communicate.

As of now, the CLEAR Project is the only organisation in Southampton operating to help refugees and asylum seekers. Mike Brown, manager of the CLEAR Project, explains in a blog post why the service CLEAR provides is so vital:

In order to comply with international law, the Home Office provides refugees, somewhat grudgingly, basic shelter, a meagre subsistence and a degree of security – the base level of Maslow’s hierarchy of human need – during the asylum process. But even this basic support may be withdrawn or suspended at the whim of an immigration officer, and CLEAR advocates on behalf of those unjustly denied. But an existence is not a life, so CLEAR applies itself to the higher levels of the Maslow model: belonging, social relationships, self-esteem and fulfilling true potential. It is self-evident that the English language is the most important determinant of successful integration in the UK, and ensures that refugees can take full advantage of the opportunities which their new home has to offer. That’s why CLEAR puts such an emphasis on education and in particular the mastery of English.

You can support the CLEAR Project by donating to or volunteering with them – enabling you to help those most affected by the refugee crisis, whether directly or indirectly.

To find out more about the project as well as more information on how to donate or volunteer, please visit clearproject.org.uk.

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Wessex Scene Editor // meme queen // fan of chocolate digestives // @colombochar on Twitter.

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