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How to become an asylum seeker and refugee supporter   

Refugees and asylum seekers arrive in Scotland fleeing persecution, violence, human rights abuses and war in their country of origin. The majority arrive afraid, penniless and without contacts in the UK. Once here many refugees and asylum seekers experience difficulties in accessing essential services (such as benefits and legal advice) and may also become targets for racial abuse in their host communities. Volunteers can provide refugees and asylum seekers with essential and immediate support.

On this page:

What does the role involve?
What will I get out of this?
What will I be expected to give back?
What skills do I need?
How can I get involved?

What does the role involve?

The majority of refugee and asylum seeker support organisations receive very little funding and rely on volunteers to support their key services. There are a wide range of volunteering roles available for people who want to support refugees and asylum seekers, including opportunities for people with specialist skills and knowledge.

Many asylum seeker and refugee support organisations rely on volunteers to fulfil key areas of their service. These roles could include:

  • clerical or administrative work
  • fundraising
  • befriending refugees and asylum seekers and meeting their immediate day-to-day needs (helping them to find their way about their host city, accompanying them to appointments, helping them when shopping for food etc)
  • providing support to asylum seekers being held in detention at Dungavel

    There are also volunteering opportunities for people with specialist skills and knowledge, such as:

  • solicitors to help with applications for asylum, give advice on housing, employment etc
  • English language teachers, for adults and children and other teachers to help refugee children with school work
  • interpreters
  • anyone with skills they can share, such as computing skills, crafts, music etc
  • established refugees who have direct experience of the process of arriving and settling in a new country

    What will I get out of this?

    Working with refugees and asylum seekers can be extremely rewarding. You get the opportunity to:

  • learn about different cultures
  • make a positive difference to the lives of refugees and asylum seekers
  • help them to feel safer in their host community
  • learn new skills and meet new people
  • learn first hand about the reasons people flee to this country and the experiences they have whilst here

    What will I be expected to give back?

    You should be able to give at least 3 hours of your time each week, dependent on the type of volunteer work you will be doing. If you are working directly with asylum seekers and refugees as a befriender or mentor you may be expected to be available for 1 full day each week.

    Remember, the voluntary sector is largely under-funded and under-resourced and by offering your time you will be helping them to provide essential key services.


    What skills do I need?

    You don’t need any specific skills, although some roles do require specialist knowledge and experience. However, the following qualities are important:

  • flexibility
  • reliability
  • commitment to equality
  • commitment to confidentiality
  • willingness to learn about the needs of asylum seekers and refugees
  • commitment to the aims of the organisation

    How can I get involved?

    In many areas of Scotland there are organisations working to support asylum seekers and refugees. Listed below are some useful contacts. However, we are aware that the organisations listed are concentrated in Glasgow and Edinburgh and so would recommend that you contact the Scottish Refugee Council for information about smaller asylum seeker and refugee support organisations that may exist in your area.

    Useful Contacts

    Scottish Refugee Council recruits volunteers to its support key services in a number of different areas.

    Scottish Refugee Council
    5 Cadogan Square
    (170 Blythswood Court)
    G2 7PH

    tel: 0141 248 9799

    Scottish Detainee Visitors Scheme is always looking for motivated volunteers to provide support to asylum seekers currently being held in detention at Dungavel. The SDV scheme visits asylum seekers within the detention facility on a bi-weekly basis. You can contact them on:


    Immigration Advisory Service is the leading charity giving free legal advice and representation to asylum seekers. They recruit volunteers to fulfil a number of roles within the organisation.

    Immigration Advisory Service
    115 Bath Street
    G2 2SZ

    tel: 0141 248 2956

    Student Action for Refugees (STAR) gives students and young people the opportunity to learn about and raise awareness of refugee issues in innovative ways. They provide support to refugees and asylum seekers in their local communities through volunteer projects.

    Edinburgh University STAR
    co Chaplaincy Centre
    Bristo Square


    Glasgow University STAR

    Strathclyde University STAR

    Positive Action in Housing provides support and service to asylum seekers and refugees. They recruit volunteers to fulfil a number of roles, including administrative duties, assisting with casework, fundraising and helping with the Refugee Aid Project (this is a volunteer-run collection point for refugees dispersed to Glasgow where they access quality second hand clothing and other essential household items).

    Positive Action in Housing
    98 West George Street
    G2 1PJ

    tel: 0141 353 2220

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