Just Another Day?

Life at GARAS can be full of life’s ups and downs. It can put us all through a roller coaster of emotions which can be a challenge to manage.

Tuesday was such a day.

Finally, after years of waiting, years of winning appeals yet having them thwarted by the Home Office, a young client received the news we have been long hoping for, that the Home Office would not appeal against the Court’s final positive decision. This is wonderful news. This young person can finally start to build their life, finally feel there is a future, finally take their life off hold. This has been a very fraught time for them, unnecessarily so and it has taken its extremely heavy toll on their emotional well being, so we really hope that their future is now bright. Therefore this news was greeted with great joy.

Meanwhile, in the background, another client was sitting in a Detention Centre not sure what their future held. A threat of removal hung over him but no definite date was known. We did what we could in the time available and right up till late that evening, were calling around possible leads to see if anything could be done. But the last heard from them was a call from the bus on the way to an airport and the assumption can only be that they have been returned to their home country, a country that they had not been safe in.

Such can be a day in the life of any organisation like ours that wants to care for those we serve and do our best by them. We can’t solve everything, in fact sometimes we can do little when decisions are outside our hands, but maybe, for a little while, we can be alongside to show a humane face.


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oops, please note that the The Transports will be performing at Cheltenham Town Hall on Wednesday 10th January, not the 11th as in my previous message.

There is also information on their Facebook page if you are interested


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The Transports

Happy New Year to all who read the GARAS blog. Maybe in 2018 I will be able to write more frequently.

As a starter to the year there is an event in Cheltenham on the 11th January at Cheltenham Town Hall by The Transports.

This information is from their website:

There’s nothing quite like The Transports. The music is stunning – performed by some of the best folk musicians in the land, often singing in ten-part harmony – but it’s much more than a concert. It’s a dramatic show, but without actors. It’s rooted in the past, but taps into anger and injustice today. We’re not quite sure why it works so well, but it does. Audiences are enthralled.

As part of their show they tell a little of the migration story of the place they are performing and you can read more about that at:


Tickets are selling well and can be bought from the Town Hall site or the Transports own site.

This sounds like a good night. GARAS and CWR (Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees) will be there so maybe we will catch up!

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Refugee Issues in the Arts

Over the next week or so, there a number of events being held in Gloucestershire that might be of interest to followers of this blog.

1) You may recall that I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina last autumn where I visited some of the places that were involved in the atrocities of the conflict in the war there. Amongst the people we met was a woman who was involved in helping women from Srebinica rebuild their lives and community. She will be visiting the University of Gloucestershire next week and you may be interested in hearing of the work she has been involved in. This link will connect to the booking page.

2) Meanwhile all week in Cheltenham, the Everyman theatre is showing a stage version of the Kite Runner by the talented Khaled Hosseini, retelling the story of 2 Afghan boys and their lives caught up as their homeland descends into war.


3) Over Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th of November, a play called The Bundle will be performed in Stroud and at GARAS, Gloucester. “Based closely on the story of a real woman and her three young children, who escape from domestic persecution and denial of human rights in Chechnya, to find a home in the UK. Here they encounter the
Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ to asylum seekers and refugees.The Bundle has been commissioned by QARN (Quaker Asylum Seeker and Refugee Network).”

The Stroud event will be on the 6th November at the Trinity Rooms, Trinity Road Stroud and will start at 7.30. If you miss that evening you can come to GARAS, 111 Barton St, Gloucester, the following evening for a 7pm start.


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Refugees at Home

Refugees at Home

Are you interested in hosting a refugee in your home on a short term basis? If so, please contact ‘REFUGEES AT HOME’ – http://www.refugeesathome.org/ . We are working with them to sort out accommodation for refugees who face a period of homelessness between being granted their Refugee Status papers and finding settled accommodation to move into. More information is available on their website. They come recommended. The more hosts in the Gloucestershire area (especially Gloucester itself), the better! Please forward this on to any friends or contacts who you think may be interested. Thank you.

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How to respond to strange times?

It seems we never learn. Once again we watch in helplessness as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are forced to flee their homeland due to the severe and outrageous persecution they are facing. Persecution they have had to face for generations as stateless within their own land. Now intensified as ethnic cleansing becomes ever more violent. Out of such gaze, similar events continue to the Darfurian peoples in Sudan. And elsewhere violence is perpetrated against people because of their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender or age amongst other reasons. It doesn’t have to be violent, it can be the denial of rights as a human being to education and health and justice.

If you heard the German politician yesterday morning talking about forcing people to leave Germany because they should not be there due to their faith you may have felt, like me, a shudder of “and this is how it ramps up!”

And yet, and yet…. so many good people choose the other route. Acts of love and generosity are poured out. There are Bangladeshis welcoming their new arrivals and ensuring they have food and help. So often, whenever there are attempts to march in the name of hate, their voices are silenced by anti-racists.

I experienced that side again, as I have so often, by the warmth of the welcome of World Cafe here in Gloucester . On Saturday evening a group of people enjoyed each others company, ate very good food produced by some of our Syrian friends and raised money through purchasing works of art donated by generous artists. In one evening £1000 was raised towards the work to support women supported by GARAS.

This kind of generosity has been experienced by GARAS from individuals and groups across the County. People raise money and volunteer their time in so many different ways. The power of love is stronger than hate. It can be difficult to speak out and contradict unpleasant voices. But when we remember that actually we are not alone then it is easier to speak a word of compassion, to put a hand out to the stranger, to argue against prejudice and do it all while staying calm and focused.

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Refugee Week – Day Two

Day Two

Yes, I know I am posting this on day three, but it was a very late night last night!

The day, for GARAS, started with preparing for an Audit. This was requested by OISC, the Office of Immigration Services Commission, the body that allows us to practice at Level One in Asylum and in Immigration Law. It was 15 years since we had last been visited by them, so, despite regular inspections by other bodies, we weren’t really sure what the process would be. I am delighted to say it went very well.
During his visit I went over to see the lovely people at St James Church, Tredworth. This is sort of our parish church and have been firm and reliable supporters since we began. On World Refugee Day, it was a delight to talk together and to answer their questions.

The day ended at Gloucester Guildhall, at the Black Men on the Couch event. This event, supported by UKCP, which has been promoting talking therapy for a number of years now, took a different twist last night as both of the "clients" in the the chair were refugees. Their stories were so very different. The one story of the long and challenging existence of someone managing to thrive despite years and years in Dadaab Refugee Camp and the other, the short, shocking story of being accidentally caught up in the terrible violence as civil war broke out in Libya.

On World Refugee Day it was vital to hear again such experiences and remember how these have long, long impacts, even when life may return to "normality", the truth is it is never the same again.

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