Phone appeal aims to help people seeking asylum in Lancaster

A Lancaster resident is appealing for help with buying mobile phones to help people seeking asylum who arrive in the district.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Friday, 10th June 2022, 3:40 pm
Updated Friday, 10th June 2022, 3:41 pm

Maja Moller has organised the fundraiser on behalf of RAIS (Refugee Advocacy Information and Support) Lancaster.

"Many of the people seeking refuge and sanctuary who arrive here in Lancaster and Morecambe are without a phone as it got lost or broken on the journey," Maja said.

"They also have told us that at times it has been taken off them by officials when they arrived and it had not been returned to them before they were dispersed somewhere else in the country.

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Maja Muller.

"These are individuals fleeing war and persecution in many countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Sudan or Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Maja is part of the wider support network in Lancaster and Morecambe which offers a wide variety of support to refugees under the umbrella of Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary.

"Lancaster and Morecambe is an area that supports and welcomes people seeking refuge and sanctuary, and many locals are involved in expressing this welcome," Maja said.

Among that support offered is a weekly drop-in session in for those who have arrived recently.

The phones will help people to contact their loved ones back home.

During this session ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teachers provide English assessments and classes, volunteers offer drinks and snacks and social chats,

RAIS offers free hygiene bags donated by the hygiene bank, and food bags, advice and organising appointments with an immigration lawyer and for applications for further financial support via Section 95.

"Among these new arrivals the need for phones is urgent and desperate as without a phone they have no means to contact their families to let them know where and how they are, as well as finding out how the rest of their family are coping back home," Maja said.

"Some of them had to leave a wife or children behind which of course is really hard.

"They also need a phone to be able to communicate with their lawyer and other officials which is a vital part during the asylum seeker process."

The phones need to be smart phones as they need to be able to use WhatsApp as a minimum to be able to make international phone calls for free.

Also downloading a translation app is vital for them to be able to communicate with others.

"In our drop-in sessions we often have 50-60 newly arrived individuals turning up, and by now we do have a waiting list of over 50 people desperately waiting for a phone," Maja said.

"Those seeking refuge here can’t afford to buy a phone.

"The different volunteers helping in our or other drop-ins are part of a charity or support group such as RAIS, Global Link, St Thomas Church, East Meets West, and others.

"This is the reason I started this fundraising page to be able to afford purchasing about 50 cheap smart phones. Access to SIMS cards has fortunately been organised already.

"We would love to reach our set target in order to buy those desperately needed phones as soon as possible.

"If you would like to help us reaching this target, please do go to our funding page at https://gofund.me/615ac706."

You can also contact RAIS via their website to find out more at www.rais.org.uk.