LASSN’s Director expects to be intimidated

Yesterday I visited Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre. I’d expected to be intimidated by high walls, barbed wire and a security check that is more onerous than when visiting a prison. These aspects of Yarl’s Wood were safely hidden behind the friendly front face of the building and polite and efficient attitude of staff to me as a visitor.

 What I had forgotten about was the impact of meeting people living in such devastating captivity.

Read about my visit here:

Great need for volunteers with language skills

Meet and Travel Together requires volunteers with at least a medium grasp of English who are also capable of conversing in one or more other languages.  This project helps newly arrived asylum seekers find certain government buildings in Leeds and provides moral support during the journey.

You can find out more about the project here :

We are seeking speakers of all languages, however of great need at the moment are the following –

Farsi, Arabic, and Urdu.

It will only take a small amount of time every month to help make a wonderful difference to someone’s day, so if you can speak these or any other languages please get in touch with Matthew Neill to talk further about how it all works –



Submissions wanted for next edition of One Planet Leeds magazine


One Planet Leeds magazine is looking for submissions of articles of 500 words or less. Target audience is people who don’t know much about asylum issues and may not really be all that interested. So strong personal stories, creative pieces such as stories or poems, and good public interest links such as sport, arts, food or current affairs are required.

LASSN projects

  • Grace Hosting Manager Katrina
  • English at Home Manager Catherine
  • Befriending Manager Pauline
  • One Planet Leeds Magazine
  • Directory of services for Asylum Seekers and Refugees
  • Leeds Press Gang

Leeds City Council resolves to act on destitution

In response to the Deputation to Council on Destitution in the Asylum Seeking Population of Leeds, the City Council Executive Board met on 17 July and RESOLVED:

(a)          That the Chief Executive write to the Home Secretary voicing concerns that the current application of the asylum process is allowing too many people to fall destitute, and that the burden of responsibility needs to be more equally shared between local and national government.

(b)          That the findings of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry be endorsed, and that approval be given to act on the findings that can be achieved by local government

(c)          That relevant policies of the ‘Still Human, Still Here’ campaign to end institutional destitution for asylum seekers, be supported.

Full minutes of the Executive Board are here (see item 45):

LASSN projects leaflet

LASSN leaflet 2013 Ebor Court final

Good relationships

Hello Pauline,

…I probably gain as much out of the friendship as he does – maybe more! Thanks for making the link, and thank you LASSN for giving me such a rewarding activity in retirement.

Best wishes,

Peter, Befriending Volunteer.


10k run in the heat

Before the 10k runPlenty of smiles before the race

Thanks to David, Helen and Jennie from Chapel Allerton Methodist church for running 10k on one of the hottest days of the year. Temperatures were already hitting 24 degrees at the 9.30 start this Sunday morning.

The three were raising money for charities including LASSN.

After 10k

Still looking cool after 10k Run

The benefits of volunteering with Grace Hosting

Hi Katrina,

I would like to say on behalf of both of us that we’re so glad we’ve become hosts and although we’ve not done a huge amount yet, we’ve really enjoyed it. It’s such a great way of getting some more understanding about the issues people face whilst doing a little thing to help them, and it just seems so obvious now we’re doing it – why wouldn’t we when we have a spare room sitting there empty?? Anyway, thanks for your support with it and I hope it continues to be successful – we’re really looking forward to meeting lots more interesting people! It certainly helps keep things in perspective when you’ve got someone there who’s slept in a bus shelter a couple of nights before.

Thanks and look forward to seeing you

Volunteer Host

Why I support LASSN

Last week, I realised that the woman in front of me in a supermarket queue was a client we’d supported when I worked at LASSN between 2005-7. At that time, she was classed as a ‘failed asylum seeker’, fearful of detention or separation from her children. I remember that, although she tried to be cheerful, you could always see the anxiety in her eyes. I knew that she’d had a successful appeal and gained refugee status after I’d left LASSN. Anyway, we chatted as the queue moved forwards, and I was amazed at how she’d changed in the intervening years. Relaxed and confident, she told me about the new job she’d just started and how well her children are doing at college and university.

LASSN are far too modest to claim full credit for this happy outcome, and of course the whole story is a more complicated picture of legal and other support for asylum seekers. But LASSN’s incredible team of staff and volunteers stand alongside people who are isolated, distressed and far from home, and help them find the resources to keep going. The impact of LASSN’s work is that now a young family who went through a very difficult time are now settled and doing well, and two young adults are now reaching their full potential.

So that’s why I’m doing this sponsored walk: quite simply I want to do my bit to help LASSN’s 250+ fantastic volunteers who give hope and encouragement to the asylum seekers/ refugees they support. Providing emergency accommodation, English tuition or befriending support might seem to be ‘just’ helping people keep going from day to day, but the benefits can last a lifetime. Many of LASSN’s clients are parents with young children, who deserve a settled home. So please sponsor us if you can!


Atomic bomb, owls and Florence Nightingale.

Just received a sneak preview of the LASSN sponsored walk route, with 19 interesting and in some case unusual Leeds City Centre sites. Including links to the atomic bomb, owls, an historic library and Florence Nightingale.

Find out more by joining us on 29 June – details here.

Debut novel – by LASSN volunteer which raises awareness of human trafficking and also the caste system in India

Scar Tissue – a debut novel by David Skivington (LASSN volunteer)

While the story of Scar Tissue is purely fictional, the issues of human trafficking and/or caste inequality raised are all too real.

In a single phone call, Rachel’s entire life unravels. Transported to a dingy basement in Kolkata to identify the body of her murdered husband she has no explanation for his presence in India. As she searches for answers about who the man she married really was she finds his death surrounded by allegations of drug smuggling, child trafficking and murder. Unsure of what is true and who she can trust, Rachel has no idea of the danger her husband’s hidden life has put her in.

Using the link above means that LASSN will receive at least 5% donation from Amazon.

Meet and Travel Together – volunteers make a huge difference

Meet and Travel Together aims to reduce stress and anxiety for asylum seekers needing to make their way to Waterside Court in Kirkstall, Leeds, for a Home Office Interview, an asylum case hearing at Phoenix House in Thornbury, Bradford, or a biometric scan at one of the post offices in Leeds.  For our service users, these are unknown destinations in an unknown city, using unfamiliar systems of transport.  All too often, language creates yet another barrier, and they find themselves lost and unable to ask for help or directions.  The day they are about to face already has the potential to be overwhelming, frightening, emotionally charged, and mentally and physically draining.  Meeting them at Leeds Rail or Coach Stations, or Bradford Interchange, our volunteers act as guides and travel companions for their journey, providing some relief and moral support.  It is also our goal to help familiarize our service users with the public transport system, so we use buses instead of personal cars or taxis.

A small amount of time with a huge amount of meaning

 Thanks so much for being there for me when I felt stuck at the railway station not knowing what to do and time was running out very fast. It made my day so much better”

Mariam arrived in the UK with her husband and three children seeking asylum from a violent and war-torn life.  Very soon after arriving, her husband, the only English speaker in the family, then left her and the children to return home.  Moved from her arrival point in the South to West Yorkshire then told to move again a few weeks later to the North-East, she was alone in a strange world with three children to tend to.  Then she received a letter to come to Leeds for her Home Office Interview.  She had never been there before. Where should she go when she got there?  How would she reach her destination?  And what should she do when she arrived?

A fellow asylum seeker who speaks Mariam’s language and is a volunteer with Meet and Travel Together agreed to meet Mariam at Leeds Rail Station and accompany her to Waterside Court, and was even kind enough to meet her again after the appointment to take her and her children back to the train station.  Though they only spent a short time together, our volunteer’s effort greatly allayed Mariam’s fear and anxiety, and helped to keep an eye on her children during the travel.


Coordinator for Meet and Travel Together

Email mneill(at)

LASSN call on Leeds City Council to prevent destitution

At 1.30pm today, Grace Phiri, a trustee of Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network will ask the 99 councillors of Leeds City Council to take action to prevent destitution among asylum seekers in Leeds.

Grace will speak of the struggles of surviving on little over £5 per day and of the even more devastating affects for those in destitution with absolutely nothing to live on.

A recent Children’s Society report highlighted the alarming levels of destitution among refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant children and young people, including many in Leeds.

Ten charities in Leeds are therefore calling on the council to write to Home Secretary about the impact of destitution,  to support the recommendations of the Children’s Society report and endorse the aims of the Still Human Still Here, a coalition of 59 charities seeking to end destitution.

Downloads and links:

Full text of Grace’s speech to Leeds City Council: Asylum destitution deputation to Leeds City Council

Briefing paper on destitution in Leeds: Asylum destitution briefing

Children’s Society report on experiences of destitution among young refugees and migrants

Still Human Still Here

98% say it is just right

Thumbs up

98% of our volunteers say that the support they get from LASSN is JUST RIGHT.

New volunteers – take note and sign up NOW to join our next volunteer training session on 20th and 27th April.



Daily Fail exposed – 12 myths about asylum seekers

Unity in the Community say:

Daily Fail

The papers say Britain is under siege from asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers are blamed for higher taxes, crime, rising
house prices, hospital waiting lists, cheap labour, terrorism and AIDS. Mainstream politicians either agree or refuse to challenge these stories. There are two possible reasons for this press campaign. Only one of them can be true. The first is that fake refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe really are responsible for most of Britain’s problems. Many people believe asylum seekers are one of our society’s biggest problems. No wonder. The scare stories printed every day in the Sun, Express, Star and Mail are hardly ever challenged in the press or in parliament. That’s why we’ve set out some facts that might make you see things differently. We think they show that asylum seekers are not causing these problems, but that asylum seekers are being used as scapegoats.Asylum seekers are blamed for higher taxes, crime, rising house prices, hospital waiting lists, cheap labour,

It’s the oldest trick in the book. Blame the other fella. Divide and rule. We

produced this leaflet because we’re fed up too. Fed up with services that get worse instead of better  Fed up with council tax hikes and impossible house prices. Fed up with schools and hospitals being run down and sold off piecemeal. Fed up with low pay and crime.

Above all, we’re fed up being lied to about why this is happening.

It only takes a simple act to change the world

This little animation reminds us that it only takes one Simple Act to change the way we see refugees, and ourselves.

Royal College of GPs – asylum seekers have right to NHS

Royal College of GPs – “all vulnerable migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, have the right to be fully registered with a NHS general practice.” It also noted that GPs “have the discretion to register refused asylum seekers, to the same extent that they have this discretion to registering any patient, irrespective of residency status – unless the list is full or the person resides outside the practice boundary.”

See full report here:

Wanted: trustee with marketing/PR experience

We’re looking to enhance our charity trustee board by co-opting someone experienced in PR/marketing to support and advise on our press/media work. Commitment required: bi-monthly meetings, annual strategy days and providing additional one-to-one support to staff/volunteers.

Such a rewarding activity

We have a good relationship together – and  I probably gain as much out of the friendship as he does – maybe more! Thanks for making the link, and thank you LASSN for giving me such a rewarding activity in retirement.

Peter, volunteer befriender, January 2013