World Refugee Day: How you can help refugees in the UK

Make a real difference today

Sarah Young
Thursday 20 June 2019 12:38
British Red Cross campaign for Refugee Week

Every year, millions of people are forced to flee from their homes in order to stay safe from war, persecution or natural disasters.

According to the United Nations (UN) every minute approximately 25 people have to leave everything they own behind in search of safer life, and many of vulnerable individuals end up here in the UK.

While the British Red Cross suggests there are almost 120,000 refugees living in Britain, the UN states that, in 2018, the UK offered protection to 15,891 people. Of these, more than two in five were children.

On Thursday, people around the world mark World Refugee Day – a day that aims to raise awareness of the struggles refugees face around the world and encourage people to take steps in solidarity with them.

But as the refugee crisis worsens and more people face uncertain futures, what can you do about it?

Here, we take a look at five things you can do to help refugees in Britain, from donating to volunteering.


To refugees who have lost everything, your support can make a massive difference and there are a number of organisations you can donate money and even belongings to.

Refugee Action helps refugees living in the UK to build better lives for themselves. Donating to the company’s website will help the charity provide emergency care and even a safe place for someone to stay the night. Donate here.

The British Red Cross funds work with refugees in the UK and across Europe. The money is spent on everything from food and clothes to advice and support. Donate here.

The Refugee Council works directly with refugees across a range of financial, legal, health and training issues. Donate here.

If you’re unable to donate money, there are a number of organisations who can accept physical goods.

Help Refugees accepts donations of specific items of clothing, goods and food, while Carry the Future can accept certain kinds of baby carriers, and The Bike Project welcomes donations of unwanted bicycles that will help give refugees in the UK access to transport.

Phone Credit for Refugees also provides help to refugees by giving them phone credit so they can contact family and friends who might be miles away.


You can also make a real difference and have a rewarding experience at the same time by volunteering at a number of organisations.

Doctors of the World UK holds clinics run by volunteers with and without medical experience. The clinics, which are located in London and Brighton, provide medical care, information and practical support. Find out how you can get involved here.

The Refugee Council also takes on volunteers who contribute to the organisation in many ways, from providing mental health support and arranging trips, to giving English language lessons. You can read more about volunteering at the charity here.

There are a range of ways you can help at Refugee Action too, from making refugees welcome in their new communities to helping the team in its offices. Find out how you can get involved here.

Offer living space

According to Citizens Advice, when asylum seekers are given refugee status they often have to vacate their accommodation quickly, making it difficult for them to qualify for housing benefits in time.

As such, many refugees can end up homeless. In fact, a recent report by the charity No Accommodation Network (Naccom) found that almost a quarter of those seeking shelter with homelessness agencies in Manchester, London and Leicester are refugees.

If you would like to help, there are a number of charities that work with volunteers to provide accommodation to refugees.

Assist in Sheffield, the Boaz Trust in Manchester and Housing Justice in London all rely on volunteers and are continuously looking for more people who are willing to share some space in their home.


By campaigning with registered organisations, you can join a growing movement of people that are pushing for refugees to be treated fairly.

For example, Safe Passage UK fights for refugee rights through campaigning and calling on councils to sign up to resettlement.

Similarly, Refugee Action campaigns for more refugees to get the chance to learn English, and for changes to the law to help reunite divided refugee families.

The British Red Cross is holding a number of events across the country during World Refugee Week, offering many ways to get involved with the cause from film screenings to exhibitions. You can find out more here.

Welcome refugees to your community

While monetary and physical donations can be life changing for many refugees, it is also important for them to feel welcomed into the community they find themselves living in.

Refugee Action suggests making newcomers feel welcome by helping them learn how to use public transport, improve their English language skills and being a friend.

“Rather than being ‘helped’, socialising can really help a refugee move on from what they’ve lost and rebuild their lives in their new country,” the charity states.

You can also join a refugees’ welcome group via Sponsor Refugees which gives power to local volunteer groups to resettle a refugee family in their neighbourhood.

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