Refugee Action: Experiments
Problem
Refugee Action's provision in Liverpool and Merseyside forms part of Liverpool Asylum Outreach and Support Project, delivered in partnership with the British Red Cross North and Asylum Link Merseyside.

We see many people who face crises in the asylum system, but are unaware and ill prepared to deal with or avoid them. We have found that a majority of people seeking asylum lack basic knowledge about legal rights, accessing lawyers or negotiating applications and interviews.
Experiment 1
We have experimented with the best way of engaging with people at the very early stage of their asylum journey. We developed Asylum Guides to teach people about the asylum process, their rights within it, what to expect and how to prepare for the next stage, and where to go for help. Asylum Guides are trained volunteers, matched up with people seeking asylum to provide legal information about the asylum process. They explain the asylum system in a way that is accessible and easy to understand.
Impact
In the Asylum Guides pilot, around 58% of participants were granted asylum. In comparison 24% of the 30,747 total asylum applications made in 2016 had been successful by the following year.
Experiment 2
Asylum Guides is a flexible programme that develops alongside the needs of users. We have experimented with delivering the material over a series of weeks and in one-off meetings. Likewise, we have developed our delivery model to incorporate group work and longer-term, one-to-one work. This approach caters to an area receiving high numbers of people into Initial Accommodation (who may be moved out of the area at short notice) and into dispersal accommodation (who may benefit from longer-term support as they move through their asylum claim).
Impact
Asylum Guides group sessions are now conducted in small groups based on languages. The sessions are led by volunteers who have lived experience of the asylum process, and are trained to deliver the Asylum Guides content in clients' native languages, encourage discussion and represent us as an independent, sympathetic organisation with strong links to the rest of the UK's asylum support network.

Volunteers are encouraged to take ownership over the project and to help us embed Asylum Guides into communities, as members of those communities themselves. This helps us to promote a welcoming, sociable atmosphere in which people can feel connected to support services via volunteers who have shared their experiences. Incorporating ongoing one-to-one Asylum Guides work now allows us to provide more comprehensive, long-lasting support to people residing in Merseyside's dispersal accommodation. This additional volunteer autonomy also means that the project coordinator is able to spend more time directing complex queries, ensuring the sessions run smoothly and bringing the service to more people over a much larger area.
Experiment 3
Capacity Building and Awareness Raising – As part of the Strategic National Asylum Programme carried out in partnership with the British Red Cross and Asylum Link Merseyside, we have been delivering capacity building and awareness raising seminars to charities and statutory services across Merseyside. We aim to build capacity and awareness within any organisation working with people seeking asylum, however we particularly look bring this aspect of our Early Action work to those organisations coming into contact with people near the beginning of their asylum journey.
Impact
We are raising awareness of the serious issues faced by people seeking asylum and building the capacity to mitigate and prevent them in organisations across Merseyside. Over the last six months, for example, we have been significantly involved in helping Halton borough council, and local charity and faith sector organisations prepare, as the region becomes a new asylum dispersal area. We have raised awareness among staff running local services, as well as training and supporting volunteers in grass roots and faith sector organisations, who have now established the area's first drop-in service. Our presence will continue there as we deliver the Asylum Guides Project in Halton and support the new drop-in volunteers to carry out their work.