The Refugee Council has teamed up with organisations in Leeds to help asylum seekers settle into life in the city, and to publish a new booklet promoting the project. The Welcome to Leeds project, run in Partnership with City of Sanctuary and RETAS, was set up in January 2012, and has since worked with 85 asylum seekers from 28 different countries to ensure they know their way around and can find services they need.
The Refugee Council’s role in the project is to refer newly arrived asylum seekers staying at initial accommodation centres to the Welcome to Leeds co-ordinator, who assigns friendly volunteers who speak the same language to show them around the city. During their 3 or 4 meetings, the volunteers help them to access specialist services, and places of worship, with the aim of reducing isolation and aiding integration.
Welcome to Leeds has just produced which explains the details of the project, and also how people in Leeds can get involved, either by volunteering for the project, welcoming asylum seekers to their home for a meal, or donating to the project. It also tells the stories of people who have benefited from their experiences of meeting volunteers.
One woman, who came to Leeds with her 6-year-old son explained that she felt overhwhelmed by the city when she first arrived, and was depressed. A volunteer showed her around the city and helped her access services to help with her problems. She said:
“Without Welcome to Leeds I would have been lost in Leeds. I found out where to start my life from.”