Refugee support in Bristol reaches record levels

  • Watch Richard Payne's report here.

A charity supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Bristol is in such high demand it's urgently searching for bigger premises.

Aid Box Community has received around 6,500 enquiries in the last year, up from nearly 5,000 the year before.

The record levels of need means the charity, which started in 2015 to help migrants in northern France, has outgrown its current home. the lease on which expires in July.

Founder Imogen McIntosh said: "The charity now has four different services that we can't run under one roof. We want to be able to bring everything together so we can truly be that community. As the numbers have risen and people know about us more, we are finding that that real community feel is less easy to achieve."

More than a thousand people who've fled conflicts and persecution in their own country have been placed in the city by the Home Office, many waiting years before their futures are decided.

With no right to work, the asylum seekers are reliant on hand-outs which are provided at ABC's free shop on Cheltenham Road.

Asylum seeker Mohamed Abdalla has been living in a hotel with his wife and three children for eight months

Mohamed Abdalla had a marketing job in Qatar before his company shutdown just as his homeland of Sudan plunged into civil war. The 41-year-old and his family couldn't gain entry to nearby countries so fled to the UK.He said: "Everything has gone."

For the last eight months, with his wife and three young children, Mohamed has been a living in a Bristol city centre hotel.Mohamed said: "We are trying to cope with the situation. We are living in two rooms but it's a matter of how you keep yourself together and try to survive. I understand it is not heaven but you have to work with what you have."He gives back by volunteering at ABC while waiting for permission to remain. He's confident it will arrive, less sure of when.

Imogen McIntosh started ABC in 2015 to take aid to migrants in northern France

Imogen said: "As our service has evolved, we now need more physical space so people can connect and help our team work in a more suitable environment. We need a place of between 3,000 and 5,000 sq ft, and can pay rent for the next three years at least."

The charity has a budget of £45,000 a year to spend on new premises, preferably outside the Clean Air Zone (CAZ), while still being as central as possible and near a bus route, preferably north of the city centre.

Mother-of-three Mehbooba Ferdoush won her right to remain after a three-year wait for a Home Office decision. A political activist in Bangladesh, she was an opponent of the ruling regime and hasn't returned to her homeland and family in more than a decade.She said: "It was a very very hard time but if you are in need, Aid Box Community are there. I always get emotional when I talk about them because it is a huge support. I feel Aid Box Community is my second home."

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