Please note that due to the nature of this project we’re currently only recruiting volunteers from the local area.
We are currently setting up a Dignity Centre to support asylum seekers in the city of Bournemouth on the UK’s south coast.
At the moment in the UK, we hear dangerously racist rhetoric about “migrants” from the highest levels of government almost every day. This filters through to every level of society, from access to basic services to xenophobic media reports that influence public sentiment. The deliberately created ‘hostile environment’ has been exacerbated by the UK’s newly passed Nationality and Borders Bill, which, according to the UN, further increases risks of discrimination and human rights violations.
Last year, 84,132 people applied for asylum in the UK. More than half travelled here by small boat, arriving on the south coast after a traumatic and perilous journey. While many of the towns and cities along the coast are served by a number of charities and community groups supporting refugees and asylum seekers, we have identified a gap in coverage in Bournemouth. While asylum seekers receive food and accommodation, most do not have suitable clothing.
According to our partner, International Care Network, which is the main charity supporting asylum seekers in Bournemouth and the first point of contact for new arrivals, there are over 700 men housed in hotels in the city who are desperately in need of clothing—especially as winter is coming.
Men make up the majority of asylum seekers in the UK for a number of reasons. In many countries, men are the main breadwinner and also expected to join the army—factors which make them more likely to be targeted in situations of political and social turmoil. According to Professor Nando Sigona, the chair of International Migration and Forced Displacement at the University of Birmingham, “the journey to Europe is dangerous and expensive, and raising enough money for all members to seek protection abroad is difficult, so often men are sent abroad first to secure an income to support the family and also a safer route to international protection via family reunion.”
While there is some support for people in the UK once they get refugee status, there is very little for asylum seekers, who must wait an average of one to three years for their asylum application decision, living in temporary accommodation that often compounds feelings of isolation and precarity, and are not permitted to work during that time.
We’ve secured a lovely premises in Bournemouth city centre and are converting it into a Dignity Centre, complete with a boutique where clothes are distributed using our ‘free shop’ model. The space will also host a social cafe with free hot drinks, and provide signposting to help asylum seekers learn about and access services.
Staffed by a team of welcoming and friendly volunteers, the Centre will have an open-door policy and is envisioned as a community space where we can listen to the evolving needs of the people we serve and respond appropriately. As with all our Dignity Centres, our location in the heart of Bournemouth also provides an opportunity for local residents to get involved and serves as a space that brings people together and helps build strong relationships in and across communities.