Integrateleeds' Weblog

An organisation working with asylum seeking families and children in West Leeds

All change at Integrate February 1, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — integrateleeds @ 11:36 am

Thank you to everyone who has been volunteering for Integrate and/or has been looking at the site to find out more about volunteering with Integrate, it is a real pleasure to work with so many fantastic people and see so much amazing work going on!

However, I am very sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we have recently heard that the centre we currently work in, Angel Lodge, is due to close in a little over a month’s time…It is a real shame because things have been going so well and the centre has so much potential for great work to be done given a bit of time, but unfortunately we have to move with the times and the centre will be closed in mid March…

In light of this, it means that Integrate will no longer be taking on any new volunteers in Wakefield, or indeed at all until we have come up with a new plan for the project.  I’m very sorry, but watch this space and when we do have more opportunities for volunteering, we will definitely be advertising!

Thanks for all your interest and support, it’s been great working in Wakefield!


Part 2…The move to Wakefield January 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — integrateleeds @ 10:22 am

Happy new year to you!

Since I last wrote (a long time ago!) Integrate has made the move down the M1 to Wakefield where it has now got going and is beginning to make its mark on the scene there…but before I tell you what we’ve been up to, I want to tell you what potential there is for activities.

The centre used to be a training centre so it huge.  It has lots of space which can be used for all sorts of things and includes a playroom three times the size of the one in Leeds, a classroom/arts and crafts space, a greenhouse, two squash courts, and a gym!  Unfortunately the gym and squash courts are currently out of order but when they are fixed and ready to go, it will be amazing…having sports for the residents will make such a massive difference to their lives.  Many of the residents suffer mental health issues as a result not only of their traumatic journeys but also as a result of their present circumstances – with nothing to do, many are lonely without friends or family and with no right to work, their skills disappearing  – and sports are well recognised for their therapeutic effects on the mind.  Can’t wait!

So what has Integrate been up to?

Playroom sessions…we have had 3 play sessions so far, with an average of 22 kids at each!  It’s been hectic!  But great fun…kids ranging from 1 to 15 years old, although nearly 50% of them have been under the age of 5 and we have had lots of parents in too, so it’s been very very busy!  Obviously Christmas gave a good theme for arts and crafts so we made about 25 Christmas trees to decorate the room with and a pretty impressive ‘snow scene’ around it.  But it was when the musical instruments came out that things started to get noisy!  We must have had about 18 people playing percussion, singing and dancing around all completely spontaneously…quite a sight (and sound!)

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures yet of the play sessions, although I do of the fantastic party that we had just before Christmas…

We had a full Christmas dinner, followed by Santa giving presents to everyone (that’s 160 presents that we wrapped in the preceeding days!), then some good old fashioned party games followed by Bingo and a Table Tennis tournament.  It was a brilliant day and fun was definitely had by all!

Thanks for reading and I will drop by again shortly…I promise!


Integrate: Part 1, Final Chapter. Part 2 to follow shortly… October 13, 2010

Filed under: asylum seeker,events — integrateleeds @ 11:16 am

On October 1st 2010, the centre that Integrate has been working in for three years closed its doors for the final time.  All the residents had long gone; the final ones being moved out about a week previously, and all staff had set to clearing everything out.  The centre was a hub of activity for a couple of weeks until almost everything had been removed and all that remained on the final day were a few tables, chairs and cooking equipment.  With the centre empty, all there was left to do was celebrate all that had happened there since it opened 11 years ago.

Staff, volunteers, other agency workers and anyone who’s been involved with it came together to share some stories, meet old friends and eat some amazing food!  It was very interesting for us, meeting people who had been there right when it opened and hear how different it is now.  But it was also great for us, because we were able to showcase some of the brilliant pieces of art that the residents had produced over the last three years.  Paintings went up around the sitting rooms, the mosaics were displayed, kids’ drawings brightened up the empty hallway…

And at the end of it all, after everyone had left and all had been cleared away, I stepped into the empty playroom for one last time.  It was so eerily quiet and depressingly empty, and felt very strange, but the longer I stood there, I started to hear children’s voices echoing around the room.  Over the years, thousands of children have played in that room, and their laughter and giggles, happiness and joy were clearly audible.  When I looked at the door, I could still see the little faces poking in at the window, and I could hear the music and see the artwork around the walls.  There was something very special about that room – it brought a lot of light to a dark place.

And after spending a few last minutes in the playroom, looking at the walls and seeing the rainbow over the nations, I went outside and, as if it was a sign to show that there is still hope for the next stage, a beautiful rainbow arched over the centre.

And so onto the next chapter…

Over the next few weeks, Integrate will officially be moving to Wakefield where we will seek to bring the same light and hope to the residents of the IA centre there.  Watch this space…

Thanks for reading, and thanks for all your support over the last three years.  It’s been a special place to work and will always be remembered as that.


City of Sanctuary September 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — integrateleeds @ 8:59 am

Over the course of the last few weeks I have had one particular thing mentioned to me so many times, so I thought I should find out some more about it…

City of Sanctuary

This is a growing movement that aims to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary, or asylum, in the UK.  It is beautifully simple.  Local people from city communities across the UK are opening their doors and their lives to people from across the world who have come to the UK in search of safety because the situation at home for them is so bad that they felt they had no choice but to leave it.  Doesn’t that sound right?

If we were in such desperate fear that we had to uproot ourselves and leave our home, family, culture, job, friends and neighbourhood, wouldn’t we just hope that someone, wherever we end up, would at least show a bit of respect for us?  Even an interest and some kindness…

City of Sanctuary is about bringing people together to develop a culture of welcome and hospitality and it is sweeping across the UK like wildfire…

It started in Sheffield in 2005 and in September 2007, with the support of the City Council and over 70 local community organisations, Sheffield became the UK’s first official ‘City of Sanctuary’ — a city that takes pride in the welcome it offers to people in need of safety.  Since then it has spread to 14 other cities and more are joining the movement each year.

A City of Sanctuary is a place of safety and welcome for people whose lives are in danger in their own countries.

It is a place where:

  • the skills and cultures of people seeking sanctuary are valued, where they are included in local communities and able to contribute to the life of the city.
  • community groups, local government, media, business, schools and colleges have a shared commitment to offering sanctuary, so that it is seen as part of the city’s identity by local people.
  • people seeking sanctuary can easily build relationships with local people as neighbours, friends and colleagues. Through these relationships, local people come to understand the injustices refugees face, and become motivated to support and defend them.

Watch this short film to find out more:

To find out more, go to the City of Sanctuary Website


Fundays Galore!! September 16, 2010

Filed under: events,Fundays,refugee week — integrateleeds @ 1:48 pm

After the announcement of the bad news that the centre was going to close, we thought that we would go out with a bang and splash out on as many trips and fundays as we could possibly lay our hands on at short notice.  So within the space of a few weeks, we treated the families to three fantastic fundays – one on their doorstep within the centre itself, during which Umojaa performed their amazing drumming and dancing spectacular, and two nearby run by Leeds City Council.  Here are some photos of the fun we had at our own funday:

And then we visited the Breeze Leeds event in Armley Park with 23 residents and 4 volunteers!

And finally we took 11 residents and 4 volunteers to Kirkstall Abbey to enjoy the day there too:

Sadly, they were the last of the fundays that we shall enjoy in Leeds for the time being, but hopefully we will have more to report back from Wakefield…

Thanks for reading, drop by again soon!


Change is coming…

Filed under: Uncategorized — integrateleeds @ 1:14 pm

Well….apologies for the silence on my behalf, things have been pretty busy here!  So much has happened in such a short space of time!

First, I have the rather startling news that the Initial Accommodation Centre that Integrate has been working in for three years is to close at the end of September 2010.  This decision came after the Emergency Budget and hit everyone as a huge shock.  There were three centres in Yorkshire – Leeds, Barnsley and Wakefield – all of which have been running on half capacity for quite a while now, but from 1st October, only the Wakefield IA centre will remain open, meaning that all newly-arrived asylum seekers to come to the north of England will be housed in Wakefield.

Integrate has now decided to follow the clients and will be moving to Wakefield from October 2010.

Unfortunately, this has an enormous impact on our volunteers, as the trip to Wakefield is considerably longer than it was across Leeds.  So when we move to Wakefield, we will be on the look out for good and reliable volunteers from the local area.  If you are interested in getting involved in the activities that we offer, please get in touch.  More details can be found on the ‘Projects‘ page.


Hurdles Home: The Lord Mayor’s opening of the exhibitions and the dedication event June 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — integrateleeds @ 4:36 pm

On the first day of the ‘Hurdles Home’ Exhibition in Armley Mills Museum, we were very privileged to be visited by the new Lord Mayor, Councillor James McKenna.  He listened intently to the students from Raynville Primary School and City of Leeds High School as they explained their paintings and what they had learned and spoke very highly of their achievements.  He commented that “this fascinating exhibition shows the scale of the issues affecting asylum seekers and refugees.  Seeing paintings by local children, about the work that local organisations do to help, puts the situation in perspective. It is good to see so many different groups working alongside each other towards the same aim.”

After the exhibition had been in the Armley Mills Museum for a few days, it moved to the Leeds City Museum and took centre stage in the Arena from Friday until Sunday.  It was a fantastic success and was seen by approximately 550 visitors in just two days.  On Friday we held a very successful dedication event attended by over 100 people. The pupils of both schools who had painted the pictures very bravely and eloquently described their painting and what they had learned.  We want to congratulate all of the pupils from Raynville Primary School and City of Leeds School for their amazing enthusiasm and openness to learning about and from asylum seekers.  And we would of course like to thank all the organisations for the time and energy that they put in to make it happen, the City Museum and Armley Mills Museums, Gadsby’s, Adam Knowles and the funders – West North West Area Committee, Refugee Council and Artforms.

The dedication event:

The paintings:

‘Far From Home’ was also exhibited in the Swarthmore Centre at the same time, featuring artwork by local refugees living in Leeds.  For pictures of that exhibition, please see the ‘Far From Home‘ page.

There was an article in the Yorkshire Evening Post this week about the exhibition and another in the Leeds Guide which can be found here.

Hope you are enjoyed celebrating Refugee Week!  Thanks for all your support.


More information May 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — integrateleeds @ 3:23 pm

For more information about ‘Hurdles Home’, please see this page

For more information about ‘Something I Want You To Know’, please see this page

For more information about ‘Far From Home’, please see this page


‘Hurdles Home’ and works by refugee artists May 11, 2010

We are very excited to be able to announce the details for two exhibitions that have been months in the planning to be held over Refugee Week 2010, June 14th-20th.

Hurdles Home looks at issues faced by people seeking asylum in the UK and how these issues are addressed by some of the many organisations who work with them across Leeds. Ten organisations have taken part in this exhibition to highlight the transitional experiences of people seeking asylum, tracing their steps from arrival in Leeds through to their decision and its consequences. The organisations involved are:

Leeds Refugee and Asylum Service
Manuel Bravo Project
Meeting Point
Refugee Council
Refugee Integration and Employment Service
Refugee Education Training and Advisory Service

Children and young people from Raynville Primary School and City of Leeds High School are working over the next few weeks with members of each organisation, refugees and local artists to produce large pieces of artwork depicting the work of each organisation.  These will all be displayed along with information about asylum in the UK as well as real facts about immigration and what asylum seekers are entitled to and what they are not.

This will be a unique and collaborative look at what the realities of seeking asylum in Leeds is like and how many organisations aim to make their transition into life in the UK as trauma-free as possible.

Where will the exhibition take place I hear you ask?

Armley Mills Museum from Tuesday 15th to Thursday 17th June

The Arena in the Leeds City Museum from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th June.

We are immensely grateful to all the organisations for getting involved, the children, young people and staff from City of Leeds High School and Raynville Primary School for using this opportunity to learn about something new in a different way, the Inner West Area Committee, Artforms and Refugee Council for funding the whole project, Armley Mills Museum and Leeds City Museum for allowing us to use their space, Refugee Week for their support and promotion, Rachel Slee, the artist behind the idea and making it come to fruition and to everyone else who has helped out along the way!  Thank you!!

At the same time, we are also running another exhibition called ‘Far From Home’ at Swarthmore Education Centre.  This will feature works by refugee artists who have been given leave to remain in the UK and are now making their contribution to the UK through art.  Siamak Foroutan, Mahsa Rahbari and Dereje Kebede are the artists who have come to the UK in difficult circumstances and the art that they produce tells a thousand stories.  This exhibition will be running from 14th to 20th June in the cafe area of Swarthmore.

Entry to all exhibitions is free of charge and we hope that you will be able to drop in and view both exhibitions and spread the word to everyone you know!


Asylum and the General Election 2010 April 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — integrateleeds @ 5:25 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As we all know, the general election looms on 6th May…not long to go now.  We have heard the debates, we have read the news and seen the manifestos…but in amongst all this talk of “immigration” where is the differentiation between economic migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants?  We  keep hearing about the “uncontrolled immigration” that has been going on since Labour came into power, but what does that mean?  Jobs going to migrants rather than to British people is an important aspect of their discussions but asylum seekers are not entitled to work, so how do they fit into this?

Gordon Brown copyright World Economic ForumLabour

Labour deals with asylum and immigration in the ‘crime and immigration’ section of their manifesto. Their approach emphasises the record low number of asylum claims and low cost to the taxpayer of the asylum system. They claim faster decisions are often fairer decisions and they will continue to aim to process all applications within six months. They also promise to continue to tackle human trafficking.

David Cameron copyright Paul ClarkeConservative

The Conservatives 2010 manifesto does not mention any proposed changes to the asylum system but the party has recently condemned slow decision-making and increasing backlogs. In the past, the Centre for Social Justice (led by Iain Duncan Smith) suggested an asylum system in which applicants are given more leeway to establish a good case and which encourages voluntary returns. In 2005 their manifesto called for all asylum applications to take place outside the country and for the UK to withdraw from the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Nick Clegg copyright Alex FolkesLiberal Democrats

The Lib Dems would take the responsibility for the asylum system away from the Home Office and hand it over to an independent agency, while pushing for an EU wide plan to ensure that the responsibility is shared fairly between EU states. They would allow asylum seekers to work, end the detention of children and explore options such as residence restrictions and tagging for adults considered at risk of absconding.

Green Party copyright Rupert ReadGreen Party

The Greens would deal with applications within three months and allow asylum seekers to work during this time, ending detention for all but the most exceptional circumstances. They would also allow asylum seekers to be joined by their partner and partner’s family. Asylum seekers would receive full welfare benefits, boost reception facilities, housing, language training and legal support, oppose destitution and support the recognition of LGBT people as a social group as defined by the 1951 convention.

maniffesto 2010Plaid Cymru

They promote tolerance, mutual understanding and difference; support the right of asylum seekers to work in the UK while they wait for decisions; oppose detention of recently arrived asylum-seekers, especially children; concerned by recent UK Borders Agency decisions that fail to reflect Welsh links with Argentina.

Scottish National Party

They seek to give Scottish Parliament control over immigration, give asylum-seekers in Scotland the opportunity to work while awaiting decisions on their right to remain, encourage skilled immigrants and Scottish ex-pats to settle in Scotland and are opposed to dawn raids on asylum seekers and the detention of their children.

UKIP leader Lord PearsonUKIP

They would withdraw from the 1951 Convention and replace it with a UK Asylum Act specifying the conditions which decide who should be granted asylum and with a limit on the number of refugees the country would accept. All asylum seekers will be held in secure and ‘humane’ centres until a decision is made. There would be no right of appeal. The party would also end what it calls the ‘doctrine of multiculturalism’ by government and public bodies.

Nick Griffin BNP leaderBNP

The BNP would immediately deport two million people it claims are here illegally and deport anyone who has committed a crime whose nationality is not British. It would review all recent grants of residence or citizenship and offer financial incentives for those of foreign descent to leave the country. It would automatically reject all asylum seekers who passed through safe countries on their way to Britain.

Wow.  Some differing opinions there but I wanted to give you the broad spectrum of all the parties to enable you to bear them all in mind.

This summary was compiled from the BBC website and by Refugee Action through their Action Matters! e-newletter. It is well worth signing up for if you are interested in the rights of people seeking asylum in the UK.

Thanks for reading, now please vote on 6th May!!