EMBRACE is working to provide a Covid response in partnership with NICRAS (NI Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers) and South Belfast Roundtable.

Funding for this has been given to EMBRACE both from the Community Foundation for NI and Belfast City Council – a total of £30,000 which EMBRACE are administering while the other organisations working on the ground are delivering services.

A phone line is available 10 am – 4 pm Monday – Friday with interpreting to take referrals. While the project is focused mainly on the provision of food and baby essentials, those involved are able to deliver additional services as appropriate.

Working with Storehouse and South Belfast Foodbank we initially provided and delivered food parcels to any asylum seeker who contacted us, as well as to a small number of refugees needing specific support.

We now receive 136 food parcels weekly for Asylum Seeking families, which have been funded by the Department for Communities through Belfast City Council. Other donated boxes means that we are able to deliver over 160 parcels weekly.  These parcels are delivered by staff members from Homeplus, NICRAS, South Belfast Roundtable, and volunteers from Storehouse, SCANI (Sudanese Community Association Northern Ireland), NISA (Northern Ireland Somali Association) and other Refugee Asylum Forum members.

Parcels are limited in their content, and so BCC funding has been used to cover the provision of additional culturally appropriate foods/baby essentials. Additionally 30 refugee families get deliveries with parcels from SB Foodbank. Tins of tuna, bags of rice, tinned tomatoes and oil are added to all 186 parcels along with nappies/wipes/formula as necessary

We initially delivered parcels from Foodbank and Storehouse to single asylum seekers but it was exceptionally difficult to deliver to these 190 users as well as the families. So as an alternative to food parcels, we are now giving £40 Tesco Vouchers to each asylum seeker during the months of May, June and July. These vouchers were distributed by staff members, who also distributed leaflets in six languages clearly explaining what the vouchers were for and how to use them. Those receiving the vouchers feel that this is far more helpful than a food parcel, as it allows them to buy culturally appropriate food as they wish and removes the stigma and attention of having parcels delivered to their doors.

It is anticipated that we will continue at this level of service until the end of June and then work on an exit strategy which will allow the users to adapt to whatever the new normal will be.

Volunteers at The Storehouse in Belfast pack food parcels to be distributed to Asylum seeking families