Kent Refugee Help, now in its 10th year, is a small user-led charity supporting refugees and migrants in Kent and London prisons.
Our early work concentrated on supporting individuals detained in Dover Immigration Removal Centre. Since the Centre closed in autumn 2015, our focus has been on those held in prisons in Kent and London, some of whom remain in prison even after they have finished serving their sentences. In prison they are considerably more restricted than they would be in a detention centre. Mobile phones are not allowed, so it is difficult for our clients to contact family or friends, or to find a solicitor. In this situation of prolonged uncertainty and frustration, people can feel very isolated and despair of anything changing.
Kent Refugee Help offers emotional and practical support, encouraging prisoners to remain optimistic and pursue their rights. Our caseworker makes an initial visit to discuss the prisoner’s situation in confidence. Essential follow up work includes making referrals for legal advice and representation. We will also raise concerns about health and welfare and other issues according to need. In some instances we can help by finding a surety for immigration bail, or a befriender if an individual is particularly lonely and isolated. Our support continues after release if requested. We welcome the involvement of refugees and migrants in our organisation; their ideas and experiences are crucial to informing and developing our policy.