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People are rejecting a ‘politics of hate’ and offering refugees a home

Areej Osman of Refugees At Home has written for The Big Issue’s Refugee Special about the charity’s work pairing people with guests – providing shelter and restoring faith in humanity.

Refugees walk, run, swim and crawl thousands of miles to get to safety. They rely on themselves to escape the horrendous circumstances they find themselves in, whether that be thirst in the desert or police trying to enforce border controls, or worse.

Some have lost friends or family members along the way and did not get to mourn them. Yes, they want to be recognised as refugees and start a new life in the UK but this process is far from straightforward.

Then came the pandemic and lockdown. Imagine if you had been refused asylum or were a refugee who had no stable accommodation and relied on sofa surfing with friends when this happened! When people shut their doors and did what they could to keep their loved ones safe, refugees no longer had the option of sofa surfing and again found themselves in the perilous situation of needing to survive – on their own.

On the bright side there are generous and compassionate people who offer their spare rooms to refugees and asylum seekers in need. Not only in a pandemic, but all year long through Refugees At Home, a UK-based organisation that focuses on accommodating refugees and asylum seekers temporarily. In the past six or so years, it has hosted almost 2,500 people and now exceeds 187,000 individual hosted nights.

Hosting is not just about offering a safe place to asylum seekers and refugees when they have no statutory support, but about restoring belief in humanity.

Hosts and guests tell us the experience is emotionally and intellectually enriching to both

A smile and a warm cup of tea would go a long way for someone who has experienced nothing but rejection since they left their homeland. We have seen mentorship and long-lasting friendships sparked from hosting.

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As one of our hosts said: “We hosted a Syrian guest a few years ago who is a life-long friend and like an uncle to our kids. We need to keep resisting the politics of hate, division and dehumanisation. Thank you for everything you are doing and I am sorry you have to do it.”

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Hosts and guests tell us that the experience is emotionally and intellectually enriching to both. If you are reading this and have a spare room or a sofa bed and are thinking of getting involved, please do get in touch with Refugees At Home.

But of course, we want you to host for the right reasons. If you feel angry about homelessness – in particular refugees and asylum seekers in need – and want to do something about it, then join the large number of the humane, kind-hearted humans who are making a real difference to other people’s lives.

K’s experience of being hosted

I was hosted for the first time when I was an asylum seeker for four months and the second time now after being granted refugee status for one month.

Hosting has helped me a lot, to be honest. The first time it rescued me from the former MoD camp in Penally, west Wales, and for the first time since I left my house in Syria, two years before, I felt like I was home.

The family helped me understand the culture and helped me rebuild my life again. We are still friends and family.

The second time, I was searching for a room to rent and I couldn’t find any. I had to leave the asylum accommodation when I got refugee status – so I called Refugees At Home. In no time I had a new host.

I am inspired by their charitable work and they are one of the reasons I decided to change career from finance and the insurance business to charity work – I’m a trustee at Life Seekers Aid charity and adviser at Humans for Rights Network.

Areej Osman is placement coordinator for Refugees at Home.

The Big Issue’s Refugee Special is out now. Get your copy from vendors around the UK. If you cannot reach local your vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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