Yorkshire refugee group wins prestigious Queen’s Award

Image credit: Stella Perrott

Bradford Immigration and Asylum Support and Advice Network (BIASAN) has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2021 (QAVS). The Queen’s Award is the highest UK award for service to the community.

BIASAN has been welcoming and supporting immigrants and refugees in Bradford for over 20 years. It is run entirely by volunteers. There are 64 active volunteers at the moment, many of whom have been there since the start and some were themselves refugees when they came to the UK.

BIASAN: working with immigrants and refugees in Bradford

The range of activities BIASAN undertakes is impressive. The network runs a weekly drop in where legal advice, support, fun, crafts and a communal meal are provided for over 100 people. It organises trips to the country and seaside, activities for children and has a woman’s group.

During lockdown it has provided over 50 food and toiletry parcels a week along with furniture, clothing and household goods. It has continued its English language classes via Zoom – 50 lessons a week by 15 volunteer English language teachers.

BIASAN contributes to Bradford’s rich cultural life through exhibitions and wider community engagement, including Bradford’s ‘open Iftar’ when all communities come together to share a meal at the end of Ramadan. Unfortunately singing, dancing, gym sessions and some other group activities have not been possible throughout the pandemic.

Image credit: Stella Perrott

Support from other refugee groups in Yorkshire and beyond

BIASAN works closely with other refugee groups, especially those in the Yorkshire Dales where there are few refugees but communities keen to help. These groups raise funds for BIASAN, provide household goods, food and toiletries and organise welcome days or weekends. Upper Wharfedale School has welcomed visitors, including refugees to the school to talk about their experiences and have sent presents to BIASAN for children at Christmas.

BIASAN is one of the 240 organisations or voluntary groups receiving this year’s awards, announced on 2 June, the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. It recognises outstanding work by volunteer groups benefitting their local communities. Recipients receive a crystal, a certificate presented by the lord lieutenant of Yorkshire, and a QAVS logo to use on their publicity. Two representatives of BIASAN are invited to attend a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2022.

The dedication of volunteers in a hostile environment

Volunteer English teacher for over 20 years Richard Hargreaves said, “BIASAN was absolutely delighted to be recognised for its work and that the dedication of so many volunteers in so many ways and for so long had been appreciated at the highest level of government”.

He went on to say:

“We feel it is especially significant for BIASAN to be awarded for its help to asylum seekers and refugees at this time. The mood in government and nationally continues to create an environment of increasing hostility towards asylum seekers, people who have had to escape from desperate circumstances in their own country and make a desperately dangerous journey to what they hope will be safety in a welcoming country like ours.

“We are pleased that there are some people in government and in the royal family who recognise in giving us this award that they value not just what BIASAN does to help asylum seekers and immigrants but also the human richness which they bring to us all in society”.

You can learn more about the work of the Bradford Immigration and Asylum Support and Advice Network via this website.

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