As restrictions increase again across the UK, help refugees and asylum seekers to stay connected with friends and community online. Many refugees and asylum seekers are facing increased difficulties to get online during the Coronavirus pandemic due to a number of reasons:
- If they lack access to hardware (smart phones, tablets or laptops)
- If they don’t have money to buy enough data to join in with group activities online.
- If they don’t speak English and can’t find people who can give them support in their own language.
- They are currently unable to attend many community based English classes and other social groups where they would usually get help with getting online.
The result of this is that refugees and asylum seekers have become increasingly isolated during the pandemic. Many are also unable to join in with church communities and the spiritual and emotional support they offer.
We are encouraging churches across the UK to help refugees and asylum seekers to get online in 2021. Here are a few things to think about to get you started.
(Remember, at Welcome Churches we refer to refugees and asylum seekers as ‘Neighbours’ so whenever you see the term Neighbour, it means the refugee you are helping to welcome into community.)
Does your Neighbour have access to a computer, a laptop, a tablet or a mobile phone where they can access the internet? In order to join in with online community activities they are likely to need a device with a camera on too.
Your Neighbour may have access to a limited amount of data, or they may not have access to any at all currently. There are a number of ways that you can help to provide internet access for a Neighbour: e.g. through a dongle, a WiFi connection or through providing data. There are many internet providers to choose from and you will need to think through the financial implications of this as a church, particularly if you choose to take out a contract with an internet provider.
Once the hardware and data needs are sorted, you will need to think about what support your Neighbour may need to get online. Is there particular software or apps that your church uses to join in with community online (for example YouTube or Zoom)? Does your Refugee Neighbour know how to use them? Do they know how to download a Bible in their language to their device?
Does your Neighbour also know about what other support they may be able to access? For example refugee families are likely to be able to access support from their child’s school to help them access online home learning. Check with your Neighbour that they understand the information they have been given from their child’s school so that they can engage with the additional support available to them.
We are currently looking for refugee volunteers to sign up to become Digital Champions who will help other refugees and asylum seekers to connect digitally across the UK, by providing support in their first language. More information will be on our website soon, but please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest in volunteering.
Remember, for many refugees being visible online may pose a safety risk to them. Is there a way that your church can help refugees to join in with online community activities, without requiring them to have a public profile online?
Helping your Neighbour to get online will be hugely empowering for them – giving them access to a whole host of services, entertainment and activities beyond your church community. Try to help them in a way that empowers them to live independently, and doesn’t rely on another person’s support to access the internet in the long term.
We are delighted to be partnering with the Allchurches trust and Acts 435 to launch Refugees Online in 2021. Refugees Online will address:
- The additional challenge for refugees of accessing technology in a second language during the pandemic.
- The additional financial challenges faced by refugees during the pandemic, to access digital technology.