supporting refugees, asylum seekers and those with no recourse to public funds
December 2020: Covid 19 update & changes to service
We will be pausing our frontline services over the Christmas and New Year period this year to enable our staff and volunteers to take a very well-deserved break. Please see below for details of what will change:
Food bank delivery service:
Our last food bank delivery for existing clients will be on Friday 18th December. We will not be able to take new referrals for this service until we re-open in the New Year. Our next food bank deliveries will be on Friday 8th January.
Advice & casework:
We will not be taking on any new referrals after Friday 18th December and until Monday 4th January.
Our last phone advice session will be on Thursday 17th December, 2–4pm: 01273 082105
Our phone advice line will re-open on Tuesday 5th January, 1.30-3.30pm.
We won’t be able to respond to email advice enquiries after Friday 18th December and until Monday 4th January.
From January 2021 we will be running the services below:
Advice & casework:
Phone advice line – 01273 082105:
Tuesdays 1.30-3.30pm – immigration advice
Thursdays 2-4pm – generalist advice (immigration, housing, asylum support)
Fridays 11am-1pm – destitution advice (NRPF, food & fuel poverty, asylum support, housing & homelessness, immigration)
We will continue to provide advice by email: please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org after Monday 4th January and we will respond as soon as we can.
We will continue to accept new referrals after Monday 4th January where we can.
We will continue to support existing clients remotely from Monday 4th January – by phone, email, WhatsApp and Zoom – until we can safely meet in person again.
We will resume our weekly food bank delivery service from Friday 8th January. Please email us on email@example.com if you would like to refer yourself or someone else.
Migrant ESOL Support Hub (MESH):
We will continue to support MESH clients remotely until it is safe for us to meet again in person.
Migrant Welcome Project:
We will continue to run our weekly online support group in the new year for anyone feeling a bit isolated and who would like to meet and practice their English in a friendly and supportive online space.
Green Spaces support group:
We will continue to run this small Covid-safe support group for those who would like to meet outdoors, weather depending!
All of us at Voices would like to wish you a very peaceful, restful and safe Christmas after this very difficult year. Please stay safe and make sure that you are following the latest advice on how to deal with Covid-19: Doctors of the World
Donate to our food bank
Our crowdfuner is now live!
We also accept these goods for our food bank:
Pasta, lentils, rice
Dried or canned foods
Tuna, sardines, tomatoes, fruits, chickpeas, olives etc
Salt, pepper, spice
Tea, coffee, sugar, long life milk
Toiletries male & female
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Shampoo + conditioner
Period products (pads NOT tampons)
Please contact Alice via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01273 328598 to arrange a safe drop off time.
All for providing an essential food service to our clients and those in need. Thank you!
We also encourage financial donations towards our food bank, you can now send donations via text message.
Text VIE (amount) to 70085
For example, to donate £10, text ‘VIE 10’ to 70085
To donate £20, text ‘VIE 20’ to 70085
For other ways to donate please scroll down to our donations section
Are you an asylum seeker, refugee, or someone with no recourse to public funds?
What we do
Voices in Exile works with refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants with no recourse to public funds in East and West Sussex and Surrey. We offer practical and legal support including generalist advice and specialist immigration casework (up to OISC Level 2) for those who would otherwise be unable to access justice. As part of our holistic approach we offer practical support including a weekly food and toiletries bank for those who are destitute; and also advocate for, accompany and enable people to access services, build community, and develop their own potential through a programme of learning and creative activities. We seek to encourage people to find positive ways to address their own needs, build skills and resilience, and work towards integration in the UK through an active programme of volunteering and mentoring.
Services & activities
For amended services please see above
Advice & casework:
We are accredited to provide specialist immigration advice up to OISC Level 2, and can also provide generalist advice on welfare benefits, housing and homelessness, asylum support, children’s and adult community care.
Generally, all our services are for vulnerable and/or destitute migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who are not eligible for legal aid and/or do not have the means to pay for private legal advice. As a general rule we cannot currently assist EEA nationals – but will consider particularly vulnerable/complex cases. You can download our referral form here.
We currently deliver the following free advice services from our premises in Kemptown, Brighton. Please note that we cannot see clients without appointment or outside drop-in times, so please don’t simply signpost people to our offices! If in doubt, please call us first to check whether signposting is appropriate.
Immigration advice drop-in – Tuesdays 1.30-3.30pm: for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants unable to pay for immigration advice or to access legal aid services elsewhere.
Please note that we cannot currently assist with citizenship applications (unless particularly complex), family or visitor visas, or any enquiries relating to the points-based system (work and student visas).
Drop-in sessions are delivered from the parish hall of St. John the Baptist Church – entrance on Bristol Road, BN2 1AP
Phone advice – Thursdays 2-4pm on 01273 082105
Email advice – we will respond to email advice enquiries sent to email@example.com as soon as we practically can.
Destitution service and food bank – Fridays 11am-pm: by referral only (through our referral form, an email or phone call) for clients who are destitute or with no recourse to public funds.
EU Settlement Scheme : Migrant Help is now providing assistance at our weekly drop-in advice sessions for people who need additional support to apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Advice and support is specifically aimed at EU nationals or family members who are currently homeless, living in Roma & traveller communities, young adults who have left care, the elderly, victims of modern slavery, and people with disabilities, literacy or health issues. For more information and advice about how to apply and what documents to bring, contact Charlotte: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07483 090715.
Referrals – we have limited capacity for referrals for immigration casework, but will consider and respond to all referrals as soon as we can. You can download our referral form here. If you are making a referral on behalf of someone else, we will need you to provide the client’s signed consent for you to do so.
Vulnerable persons resettlement programme:
We work closely with families resettled in Brighton & Hove under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme, on behalf of Brighton & Hove City Council. Families resettled under this scheme are all from Syria or from neighbouring regions affected by the Syrian conflict, including other countries in the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. We meet families on arrival, settle them into their new homes and schools, and provide integration assistance, dedicated casework, one-to-one mentoring, ESOL classes and additional language support (in partnership with the Friends Centre) during their first three years in the UK.
We provide volunteer-based one-to-one mentoring, advocacy and accompaniment for vulnerable migrant service users who are struggling to achieve their immediate goals, improve their English skills, or access the services they need. Mentoring is an incredibly rewarding experience for both service users and volunteers, and provides a rare opportunity to build a one-to-one relationship with someone you might not ordinarily get to know. We are always looking for qualified ESOL teachers willing to provide additional one-to-one English language support for those who find it difficult to access formal classroom-based learning; and are also always looking for volunteer mentors who can help our clients navigate complex UK systems, accompany people to appointments and interviews, and advocate on their behalf, where necessary.
Group work & activities:
The Migrant Welcome Project – Thursdays 10am-1pm The MWP is a friendly and welcoming group that meets weekly during term time. The group explores how to access practical and leisure services and meet people in Brighton and Hove. About half the sessions take place at Voices in Exile, while the other half are organised trips and visits around the City. Topics and visits are chosen by the group members, with support from paid workers and volunteers. All travel and other expenses are paid for by the project. For more information or to express interest in attending the group please contact Hayat Shebab: email@example.com / 07367123855
We are crowdfunding to provide continued support to out destitute and vulnerable clients over winter, via our food bank, hardship grants, and reducing isolation.
Please share and donate.
Support Voices in Exile
Volunteer and become part of a small team doing big work to improve the lives of refugees and migrants.
We are a very small staff team and rely heavily on volunteers to help us deliver our work in a range of frontline and back-office roles. We are currently looking for volunteers in the following areas:
- Immigration advice & casework support
- Resettlement project casework and support (VPRS)
- Destitution advice, casework and food bank support
- Mentoring (including accompanying & advocacy and additional ESOL language support)
- ESOL classroom assistants
- Community interpreting (you will need to be in training or have an interpreting certificate)
- Admin & reception
- Fundraising & finance
Covid 19 Update
We are currently only recruiting for drivers for our Friday food bank delivery service, volunteers must:
Our recruitment process has been postponed until further notice, please keep an eye on our website & Facebook page for further updates.
if you are looking for other volunteer opportunities across Brighton & Hove, please visit https://volunteer.bhcommunityworks.org.uk/
We offer an incredibly friendly and supportive staff team, a thorough training, ongoing support and supervision, and the chance to make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable migrants. We are particularly looking for people who have skills in the above areas and who have a good understanding of the issues faced by migrants in the UK – but who above all have passion, empathy, a commitment to human rights, and the time to commit at least one day a week for a minimum of six months.
We currently hold two rounds of volunteer recruitment and training each year, in spring and autumn – if you are interested in applying, you can download our volunteer application pack and read up on our volunteering information pack.
Good to know: Recruitment for most volunteer roles includes a short, written application, an interview with two ViE staff members, a general induction session, and at least 2 half-day or full day training sessions, related to the role. Volunteers applying for any client-facing roles will also need to undergo an enhanced Child and Adult DBS check. Some roles (for instance, advice and casework roles and some admin/back-office roles will need to demonstrate a high level of written English (equivalent to at least GSCE or B1/B2) and to complete a short, written exercise as part of their interview
Please note: all volunteers need to attend all the necessary interview and training dates in order to start volunteering with us.
Who we are
I have been working in the refugee & migrant sector for 18 years, in a number of roles and for a number of organisations including the Refugee Legal Centre, Asylum Aid, the Terrence Higgins Trust and Praxis Community Projects. I am passionate about the essential work done by the voluntary refugee & migrant sector, and particularly about the current crisis in access to justice that means so few people have access to the free, competent legal advice they deserve. I am also a firm believer in the skills and abilities of refugees and migrants to create their own change. I am excited to have been given the opportunity to lead Voices in Exile at such a critical moment for migrants in the UK, and look forward to the challenge of sustaining, nourishing and developing our work well into the future.
I am an OISC-accredited immigration adviser and have volunteered and worked for a number of other charities that provide legal advice to vulnerable migrants, including Bail for Immigration Detainees and Asylum Aid. My current caseload includes a wide range of immigration legal issues. I enjoy being part of Voices – a small charity that has a big impact in the local community.
Advice & Outreach Worker
I joined Voices in Exile in May 2018 as advice and outreach worker. My role covers non-immigration advice, including destitution, housing, welfare benefits and asylum support. I am currently working towards becoming OISC-accredited and will soon be delivering outreach advice in Hastings and elsewhere in Sussex and Surrey. I bring considerable experience of the asylum decision-making process to Voices, together with an in-depth knowledge of asylum policy and research. I have also volunteered as an advocate advisor for the Greenwich Migrant Hub in London.
I am one of the caseworkers supporting families on the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme. My favourite part of the job is spending time with the families and helping them meet their goals for life in the UK and assisting them to resolve challenges they face in adapting to life here. I feel very lucky to work for Voices in Exile and contribute to the service they provide to the local migrant community.
I am a qualified Social Worker with over 20 years experience working with vulnerable and marginalised people in the voluntary and statutory sector. My previous work experience has included roles with Brighton Housing Trust, Brighton Women’s centre, Terrence Higgins Trust and Brighton and Hove City Council.
Dr Alison Kelly
I have been co-ordinating and managing provision that supports people to access services and learning for 20 years in a variety of contexts and roles. I am passionate about equality and removing barriers in order that learning in its widest sense can empower people to develop their own potential and enrich the world around them. To this end, I manage projects from the concept stage, through bid writing and design, budget management, staff training, execution and monitoring and evaluation. The projects that I currently manage include the Migrant ESOL Support Hub; Migrant Welcome Project; Migrant Employability; and Migrant Awareness Training. My current role at Voices in Exile also includes fundraising, service development and strategic development, and I chair the Brighton & Hove ESOL Network and the Brighton & Hove Migrant Caseworker Forum. Underpinning my projects is the view that education is necessarily transformative of the way in which individuals view themselves and others – and, crucially, how they view their relation to, and their relationships with, others.
MWP Group Worker
I’m the group facilitator for the Migrant Welcome Project. My main role is to to organize trips, workshops and activities that help migrants to navigate both the practical and fun aspect of life in Brighton. I love being part of a supportive team and enjoy collaborating with the volunteers and project coordinator as we strive to empower members and ensure that the project is group-led. My background is in education and law, and I’ve worked in both refugee advice and teaching and as a high school English teacher and department head in Beirut for 12 years. I enjoy the informal and supportive connections that are made during the sessions, and I’ve loved watching the group members bonding and supporting each other. As well as building community and friendship, the sessions also allow everyone to practice English skills in an authentic, inclusive and safe setting. It is more than a privilege to be allowed to contribute to this project.
I work on the Migrant ESOL Support Hub (MESH Project) at Voices in Exile, where my role is to help people access English classes, mainstream and community services, employability support, and volunteering opportunities. My background is in human rights and migration, and within this area I have worked in research, field support, policy, and communications. I love my role at VIE because I work with clients directly, and so I am constantly inspired by their skills, attitudes and contribution to Brighton’s community. Key to this project is the understanding of integration as a positive two- way learning process with which the whole community can engage.
I first joined Voices in Exile in April 2018 as a volunteer. Since March 2019, I have worked as an assistant caseworker, supporting Syrian refugees who have resettled in Brighton under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. I have recently completed my Master’s in Conflict, Security and Development at University of Sussex. I enjoy working with refugee families, helping them to adjust to life in the UK and practising my Arabic language skills with them.
I am also working as a trainee volunteer adviser under the supervision of the immigration caseworker at Voices in Exile, and working towards my OISC Level 1 accreditation. In addition, I also regularly volunteer at Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group and Brighton and Hove Independent Mediation Service. I have recently completed my Master’s in Conflict, Security and Development at University of Sussex and my previous working experience include working at The Trust for Developing Communities and the Consulate of Panama in Hong Kong.
I have over 13 years’ experience working in the community and voluntary sector in roles such as administrator, development worker and office manager. These roles have always included working with volunteers. My contact with refugees started when I was a development worker supporting small community groups. Over the years I saw several refugee community groups flourish, people who left their own countries to seek safety and start over again. Their resilience and positive attitude really touched me. I knew then that I always wanted to work with and around people, supporting meaningful and positive change.
My experience working with displaced communities in Calais led me to want to provide essential services for refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in the UK. I am very proud to be part of the team at Voices in Exile and strive to provide a dignified and supportive service to all those that come through our doors.
I am a qualified management accountant with experience working across rage of sectors including SMEs, higher education and non-for -profit sector. My role at Voices in Exile involves dealing with the day-to-day finances and the management accounts of the organisation.
Food bank Coordinator
I have been volunteering for Voices in Exile since February 2017 and in July 2020 was appointed to coordinate the operational side of the food bank during the Covid-19 crisis. I have previously worked on projects with refugees and internally displaced people in the Middle East and Africa, and this work inspired me to be more involved with helping people closer to home who have been forced to flee their home. At Voices I work closely with the caseworkers and provide customised food parcels appropriate to the cultural diversity of our clients. I’ve seen the transformation in the lives of families as they’ve progressed through the support network. Regardless of where in the process a new arrival finds themselves, they are always made welcome, treated with respect and offered food if they need it.
I have been a Trustee since the beginning of 2018. I first had contact with the organisation 14 years ago when I was conducting research into the destitution being experienced by asylum seekers and refugees due to the invidious changes to the asylum process. I was impressed by the pioneering work that Voices was doing to support people who had been badly let down by the system, and became a trustee to contribute to the development of the much-needed services that the organisation provides. I work as a consultant in the humanitarian sector and am based in Brighton.
I became involved with Voices in Exile back in 2009 when the charity was formally set up, and have acted as the charity’s treasurer since then. In my professional life I am a partner in a local accountancy firm specialising in small business growth and development. We work with a number of charities and community interest companies, which enables me to bring my accounting expertise to Voices.
I first became aware of Voices in Exile in 2007 when my wife volunteered for the group before it was formally constituted as a charity. I was bowled over by the amount of fantastic work that was being done to help people who are all too often marginalised and forgotten, and I wanted to help in any way I could.
Canon Kieron O’Brien
Canon Andrew Wingate, OBE
I have developed an awareness of the challenges that refugees, asylum-seekers and vulnerable migrants face through previous work as a caseworker with these groups. Though I moved out of the sector some years ago, the urgency and need for this work, especially in the current climate, is clear to me. I have over 9 years of experience in many aspects of digital engagement, marketing and strategy and can add value through this expertise and experience. In my most recent roles,
including my current role at the Blue Cross, I am responsible for developing digital strategy to further the charity’s objectives taking into account their own particular challenges and resources.
Having been Chair of Brighton and Hove Freedom from Torture Supporters’ Group since 2016, I have insight into issues that refugees face in the U.K. and have experience of fundraising for Freedom from Torture and the Red Cross. I have a commitment to humanitarianism and awareness of the principles of humanitarian action based on the Christian faith whilst recognising the legitimacy of other faiths in this. I am currently a member of the Brighton and Hove Interfaith Contact Group. As a supporter of Safe Passage Campaigns I have been able to raise current refugee cases in both a chaplaincy and church context.
I have a keen interest in the migration and integration policy areas as well as interest and experience in developing service provision. I am currently head of the migration programme at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and was previously Social Protection Programme Manager at the Overseas Development Institute and Deputy Chief Executive at Praxis Community Projects, an organisation supporting vulnerable migrants in London, where I led the development of the ‘Challenging Exclusion’ strategy as well as its highly successful youth programme, giving a voiceto young asylum seekers and young people with irregular status using participatory arts. I am anexperienced trustee committed to promoting good governance.
I joined ViE as a volunteer in March 2018 and became a trustee in March 2020. I arrived in the UK as a refugee and I grew up hearing of the vital support and nurture received by my family from the voluntary sector. As a volunteer, I quickly came to appreciate the commitment, breadth of service and significant impact of the Voices in Exile family, which motivated me to become a trustee. I have a legal background and a strong instinct for sound and ethical governance, which I hope to bring to that role.
Too many to mention! If you are interested in volunteering with us, please see links in the ‘What we do’ section above.
General: Alice Harwood – firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteering & mentoring: Nora Mzaoui – email@example.com
Advice queries & referrals: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advice & immigration casework (for existing clients): Charles Brown – email@example.com
Advice and outreach worker: Stewart Wheatley – firstname.lastname@example.org
Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme: Nicola Green email@example.com or Louise Yu firstname.lastname@example.org
Finance Worker: Sylwia Dudek email@example.com
Food bank coordinator: Stephen firstname.lastname@example.org
Migrant ESOL Support Hub: Rosa Jones- MESHcaseworker@voicesinexile.org
MWP Group Worker: Hayat Shebab – email@example.com
Projects Manager: Alison Kelly – firstname.lastname@example.org
Director: Mel Steel – email@example.com
“I’d like to thank staff and volunteers at Voices in Exile for all that you do. I know from the constituents I speak to at my surgeries, and the emails and letters I receive, the tremendous support you give to families in desperate need at times of crisis.”
– Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion
Voices in Exile was set up in 2005 to address the urgent need for practical support and legal advice for refugees and vulnerable migrants in Brighton and Sussex. We began as a small, volunteer-led grassroots organisation providing a safe point of contact, advice and practical support for people who didn’t know where else to go, and soon developed a range of social and skills-based activities for clients alongside our advice, casework and destitution services.
We became registered as a charity and limited company in 2009, and became OISC-accredited in 2011, so that we could deliver immigration advice and casework up to Level 2. This means that we can represent in most initial immigration and asylum applications up to the point where an application is refused by the Home Office and needs representation at the appeal stage.
Since the EU migrant crisis of 2015-16 we have experienced a huge increase in interest in and demand on our services, and at the same time a huge outpouring of goodwill from people wanting to help. This has been fantastic but also challenging, and our small team has undergone a number of changes as we have grown.
One thing we know for sure is that demand on our services is not going to decrease anytime soon. The south east of England, including Brighton & Hove, is acknowledged as an immigration legal aid desert, and we are the only provider of free, regulated, out-of-scope immigration advice in the region. This is crucial because, as we have seen in the aftermath of the Windrush scandal, good legal immigration advice is the key to unlocking almost all entitlements in the current hostile environment – including the right to work, claim benefits, rent accommodation, open a bank account, get married, study, drive, and even own a driving license.
Our charity is based on a multi-faith, human rights-based ethos, and our core values reflect our very basic belief that all people should be treated with respect and dignity within a system that is fair and just. We aim to offer a practical, holistic and high-quality service that reflects and responds to the needs and strengths of our migrant service users – both individually and collectively.