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?

Interested in
supporting
us?

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 not currently taking on any referrals for immigration casework.

Immigration Advice & Casework:

We are accredited to provide specialist immigration advice up to OISC Level 2. We provide one-off advice via our advice line or email, as well as immigration casework provided by our qualified caseworker. 

 

Generalist Advice & Casework:

Our generalist advice and casework includes: welfare benefits, housing and homelessness, asylum support, children’s and adult community care, and digital inclusion.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Phone Advice Lines

01273 083105

Immigration Advice Line

Tuesdays: 1.30 – 3.30 

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, visitor visas, or any enquiries relating to the points-based system (work and student visas).

 

Generalist Advice Line

Thursdays: 2-4

Advice and signposting services offering support with destituion, housing, community care, welfare benefits, etc

 

 

Email

You can also email advice@voicesinexile.org which is checked throughout the week by several staff members.

Resettlement programmes:

We work closely with families resettled in Brighton & Hove under various resettlement schemes, including; the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme, United Kingdom Resettlement, Afghanistan resettlement, and Chevening scholards, on behalf of Brighton & Hove City Council.  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 during their first three years in the UK.

Peer-support groups:

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.

Green Spaces – Tuesdays 10am-1pm Green Spaces are all about exploring exciting and interesting outdoors areas of Brighton. The group meets every week during term time to explore our local area and explore different activities within the community.

For more information or to express interest in attending either group please contact Hayat Shehab: hayat.shehab@voicesinexile.org  / 07367123855

 

Food Bank:

We run a weekly food bank for our destitute clients across Brighton and Hove. We rely heavily on donations to keep our food bank going, serving weekly approximately 90 people. For more information on our food bank, see our donations page.

News

Our news page keeps you updated with our charitable partners, article features and Covid19 campaigns that we are supporting

Resources

Covid 19 guidance, immigration support and signposting

Immigration Toolkit

Voices in Exile have created a bespoke immigration toolkit to assist service users going through various immigration applications. The toolkit features breakdowns of evidence needs, guides on how to gather evidence, and online forms needed.

This resource can be used by anyone submitting these applications, and is not just for Voices in Exile clients. Please share the toolkit to whoever may find it useful.

“Thank you for having me here for short time. I feel very warm and nice place. People are very friendly and the workers are really helpful. Will be part of my memory. Thank you to all of you!”
– recent service user

Who we are

Staff

Mel Steel

Director

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.

Charles Brown

Immigration Caseworker

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.

Stewart Wheatley

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.

Alice Harwood

Office Administrator

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.

Dr Alison Kelly

Projects and Development Manager

I have been co-ordinating and managing provision that supports people to access services and learning for 25 years in a variety of contexts and roles. My work has always focused on 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. My role at Voices in Exile also includes fundraising, operational management and strategic development, and I chair the Brighton & Hove ESOL Network and the Brighton & Hove Migrant Caseworker Forum. Underpinning my work is the view that education and knowledge are necessarily transformative of the way in which individuals view themselves and others – and, crucially, how they inform power relationships and the potential for equality.

Hayat Shebab

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.

Rosa Jones

Generalist Advice Worker

I provide support to service users around needs such as destitution, housing and homelessness, food poverty, and access to healthcare. While people often come to us while they are in crisis, it is key to our ethos that people of refugee and migrant background deserve to live fulfilling and dignified lives, and therefore we provide a holistic service that recognises the importance of mental health and wellbeing, education, community engagement, and access to volunteering and employment opportunities. My background is in human rights and migration, and within this field I have experience in frontline community- based roles, as well as in research and policy. I love being part of VIE because I have the privilege of working directly with people of refugee and migrant background, and so I am constantly being inspired by their skills, attitudes and contribution to Brighton’s community.

Jamal Bastawi

Generalist & Resettlement Caseworker 

I have always been interested in working with refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers. This stems from my own personal experience of living in Sudan and from my family life. My dedication to improving the lives of vulnerable communities inspired me to study international development with Arabic at university. I provide generalist advice and support as well as working with long term clients as part of my casework. I am proud to be part of the VIE team because it has given me the opportunity to work directly with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. The VIE team are extremely supportive and have provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn and expand my knowledge on issues that vulnerable communities face and how I can help.

 

 

 

Sylwia Dudek

Finance Worker

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.

Stephen Cummiskey

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.

Trustees

Nick Scott-Flynn

Chair

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.

 

Adam Hickie

treasurer

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.

Catherine O’Donnell

I became a trustee of Voices in February 2017 after volunteering at the food bank. I am a barrister practising in social housing law. I previously worked at the Low Pay Unit campaigning for a national minimum wage. I wanted to be part of Voices to help sustain and expand its vital work.

Canon Andrew Wingate, OBE

I am an Anglican priest of the Diocese of Chichester, living in Lewes, and offering support to churches in Lewes and Ringmer. I am the inter-faith advisor to the Diocese, and was previously involved in this field for many years in Leicester, Birmingham, India, and more recently in Sweden, where there are vast numbers of refugees. I became a trustee of Voices in autumn 2016, and have a deep concern for the way we should receive our appropriate share of refugees, and how they can be properly cared for and integrated. I feel this both as a concerned citizen and as a Christian minister. I see Voices as a vital way to facilitate this in Brighton and Hove, and in East and West Sussex.

Ezinda Franklin-Houtzager

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.

Andrew Jackson

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.

Alex Sutton

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.

Jyoti Kakad

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.

Volunteers

 

Too many to mention! If you are interested in volunteering with us, please see links in the ‘What we do’ section above. 

 

Contact Us

Email:

General: alice.harwood@voicesinexile.org 

Volunteering & mentoring: sue.shaw@voicesinexile.org 

Advice queries & referrals: advice@voicesinexile.org

Advice & immigration casework (for existing clients):  charles.brown@voicesinexile.org

Advice and outreach worker:  stewart.wheatley@voicesinexile.org

Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme: rebecca.boyer@voicesinexile.org & nicola.green@voicesinexile.org

Finance Worker: sylwia.dudek@voicesinexile.org

Food bank coordinator:  stephen.cummiskey@voicesinexile.org

General Advisor: rosa.jones@voicesinexile.org

Group Facilitator: hayat.shehab@voicesinexile.org 

Projects Manager: alison.kelly@voicesinexile.org

Director: mel.steel@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

Background

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.

If you’d like to support our vital work, you can donate here and see what your money can buy here.

Mission

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.

Our funders

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Contact us

9 + 9 =

Address:

Fitzherbert Centre
36 Upper Bedford Street
Brighton
BN2 1JP

General Opening Hours: 

Monday to Friday: 9AM to 4PM  

*Excluding bank holidays

Phone:

Reception: 01273 328598  Monday – Thursday 9-4pm 

Advice line: 01273 082105 Thursday 2-4pm

 

Data Protection

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