Practical information and advice on hosting a delegation

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Here is a Q & A with Paul from Brighthelmstone, whose district hosted a delegation of asylum seekers several years running, and Fleur from Woodcraft Folk Scotland, who brought two asylum seeking families to Global Village.

Q: How did you find the group? How did you make links beforehand?

Paul: We had a leader whose friend worked with Asylum Welcome. 

Fleur: We found the two families through a Woodcraft volunteer in Edinburgh who works for a refugee organisation.


Q: What sort of preparations did you do before the camp?

Paul: We liaised with the Asylum Welcome youth worker, but on reflection a more hands on approach would have been beneficial - some of the boys from Kosovo had experienced some pretty horrible things which affected their behaviour, and this would have been useful to know before hand.

Fleur: Before camp, we met with the families to explain what the camp would be like, how we would travel there and suggest what things they should bring / establish what they didn't have so we could provide it for them, answer questions. We also made sure the families had an additional worker / translator to help before camp and during camp.  We had specific volunteers whose job was to meet the families before camp and think about their interests - some in Glasgow and some in Edinburgh so they were local to the families.

Q: What sort of questions did the refugee group ask? Did you have any difficulties in answering any of their questions?

Paul: Their main questions were about logistics.

Fleur: I don't think we had difficulty answering their questions, I think they were quite practical. They were mainly about travel, the programme, tent arrangements etc.


Q: Did the delegation come to any group nights before the camp?

Paul: No. They lived in Oxford. We camped with them a few times before International Camp so we knew them by then.

Fleur: I can't remember if they went to group nights beforehand but I think they came to a few after. Unfortunately one of the families then moved to London. 


Q: Did any particular problems come up?

Paul: There was a little bit of conflict between our boys and theirs but nothing significant. Some of their parents weren’t prepared in the same way as Woodcraft parents were, and didn’t see themselves as responsible for their children. We resolved the situation with the involvement of their youth worker.

Fleur: The main problem was that one of the families were asylum seekers and didn't have refugee status yet (they do now). This caused quite a problem because they were told they would lose financial assistance if they failed to sign in weekly - back in Glasgow. As Global Village was over a week long this was going to be a problem and they thought they wouldn't be able to come for all of it, or at least one of them would have to travel back to Scotland to sign in. I spent a LOT of time trying to get this sorted with the Home Office, who were not very sympathetic. Eventually we got written signed permission but it was a long haul. It's worth considering this if you're hoping to bring asylum seekers to camp. 

Other than that there weren't many problems. Obviously there are always going to be culture clashes and we should be aware of possible causes of friction. Once we had invited the families and they understood about the camp, I did get quite a few enquiries from other refugees who wanted to come too, but we only had the budget for two families and had to make this clear.


Q: What did your district get out of it? Have you kept in touch with them?

Paul: We kept in touch for quite a while, but changes in Asylum Welcome meant the exchange died out after about 4 years. Our kids learned a lot about refugees in the UK.

Fleur: We got a lot out of it, including an amazing talk at camp about their lives and fleeing their countries which was very moving and reduced most to tears. They also cooked a traditional meal at camp for the village.


Q: What sort of advice would you give other districts when hosting a refugee group?

Paul: Make sure they understand what's expected of them and what they can expect from you. Allocate one main contact to liaise with them. Integrate them into clan duties etc. Make sure you know the backgrounds of the refugee group’s children and young people.

Fleur: Be very clear about what it is you're offering them and why, and what commitment you will need from them in return. Always think of the costs, including hidden costs of what you're doing, and reimburse people. For instance we paid bus fares for the families to come to the pre-camp meetings. We tried to be as welcoming as possible - we had their tents up ready for them when they arrived. Communication is very important so if they are not great at English try to get some translator help.

Have you got other questions about hosting a refugee or asylum seeker delegation? Contact us. You can also read advice from Cambridge District's Hilary, who has lots of experience of hosting delegations at camp.