supporting refugees, asylum seekers and those with no recourse to public funds
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
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-1pm: 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:
We will be working with service users to devise and develop a programme of learning, social, cultural and fun activities over the next year. Past activities have included a thriving cookery class, women’s support group, sewing group and mixed support group. If you would be interested in helping us run these activities, you can download more information about volunteering here.
Support Voices in Exile
Volunteer and become part of a small team doing big work to improve the lives of refugees and migrants.
- Advice & casework support
- Syrian resettlement project casework
- Destitution and food bank support
- Mentoring (including accompanying & advocacy and additional ESOL language support)
- ESOL classroom assistants
- Community interpreting
- Admin & reception
- Fundraising & finance
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. All client-facing volunteers undergo enhanced DBS checks and a thorough induction and training before taking up their role.
Who we are
Voices in Exile staff, volunteers and supporters at our Refugee Week relaunch event, June 2018.
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.
I work on the Migrant ESOL Support Hub (MESH Project) and the Migrant Welcome 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 one of the caseworkers supporting families who have come to the UK on the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. I help clients to get used to life in the UK, navigate the often complicated benefits system, explore education and employment options and identify goals and dreams that they would like to work towards. My background is in human rights and migration and I have worked for several other organisations that fight to defend the rights of marginalised people such as Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.
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.
I joined our team in May 2018 as administrator, from a varied background in administration & project management. I find the charity sector interesting and a big change from the pharmaceutical industry where I have spent the past ten years or so. I am the friendly voice that will most likely greet you when you call our office!
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
Too many to mention! If you are interested in volunteering with us, please see links in the ‘What we do’ section above.
Volunteering & mentoring: email@example.com
Advice queries & referrals: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Migrant ESOL Support Hub: MESHcaseworker@voicesinexile.org
“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.