New post to support refugee work

The Diocese of Canterbury has announced the creation of a new Refugee Projects Officer post.

The position is being advertised this week and is available to view on the Diocese of Canterbury’s website. The position has been developed in partnership with Migrant Help, Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) and has been funded largely through money donated by parishioners in the Diocese as part of the Bishop’s Advent Justice Appeal. The fund has so far raised nearly £60,000.

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, has been keen to further the Churches’ work with migrants and refugees both in Kent and in the camps around the French coast. He said the new role is a sign of the Diocese’s long term commitment to the issue: “As a Diocese we have been moved by the plight of refugees from across the continent, and have particularly tried to reach out to those vulnerable adults and unaccompanied young children who find themselves in one of the makeshift camps in France, or assessment centres in Kent.

“Churches have responded by donating goods, informing themselves of the often complex issues, praying, and where possible showing welcome. As our involvement with those already working with refugees deepened, it became increasingly clear that we needed to move beyond our initial acts of compassion, and do something more sustained. This is what this post is all about.”

It is envisaged that the person taking up the position will help sustain the relationships that have already been made by the Diocese with local and national organisations working with refugees, as well as seeking out and develop new partnerships. The Refugee Projects Officer will also:

  • Source and co-ordinate volunteers from within the parishes and identify venues where partners can deliver hospitality and training to refugees.
  • Research and identify the complex needs and issues relating to refugees and migrants in Kent and use this information for awareness raising both locally and nationally.

The Bishop explained that the role is an exciting opportunity to support excellent work already taking place in Kent: “This is not about us as a Church reinventing the wheel, but rather providing a dedicated officer who can come alongside those already engaged in this work and seeing how we can aide and assist them. As a faith community we have much to offer, whether that is buildings where language lessons can take place, networks through which we can help organise collections of practical goods, or sourcing volunteers from within our church communities.”

John Powell, Director of National Operations for Migrant Help UK said: “Migrant Help UK welcomes the creation of this new role which will extend our close work with the Diocese in supporting migrants. This post will provide valuable additional support to all of us who work with compassion to help migrants.”

Ann Whitbourn, Chair of KRAN, added: ”Kent Refugee Action Network believes that the creation of the new post will be a very valuable addition to the work that is already being done in the area to support the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. The engagement of the wider community is extremely important in enabling the young people to integrate more easily and to give all concerned the opportunity to work together and to obtain a real understanding of each other and to enjoy the experience of working together.”

The Diocese is also exploring how it can support more permanently those living and working in the camps in France through the local churches there, and discussions are currently taking place with the Anglican Diocese of Europe and the long relationship our Diocese has had with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arras whose area of responsibility covers many of the places where camps are located.