Frequently Asked Questions


Bristol Refugee Rights membership and the Welcome Centre

I need help! Where do I start?

The best place to start is visiting this page.

What is the Welcome Centre and when is it open?

Due to the risks of coronavirus we have temporarily closed face to face services.   You can contact staff by telephone/Whatsapp/email.

The Welcome Centre  is a support service and social space for asylum seekers as well as new refugees. At the Welcome Centre we offer drinks, snacks and a cooked meal on Thursday, a free shop, board games and pool, and arts and crafts.

The Welcome Centre is based at the Malcolm X Centre, 141 City Road, St Paul’s, Bristol, BS2 8YH on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Welcome Centre opening times are:

  • Wednesdays 10:00 am to 12:30 pm,
  • Thursdays 10:00 am to 3:00 pm,

The Welcome Centre is based at St Paul’s Learning Centre, 94 Grosvenor Road, Bristol, BS2 8XJ on Fridays.

  • Fridays 10:00 am to 12:30 pm.

Please do not come to the Welcome Centre outside of these times.

Who is the Welcome Centre for?

We have a membership system and the Welcome Centre is only open to our members. To become a member please come to the Welcome Centre and we will arrange a short interview to see how we can best support you. If you are eligible for membership you will be able to use our services, including the Welcome Centre. If you are not eligible we will try to refer you to other organisations that can help you.

Who is eligible to become a member of Bristol Refugee Rights?

Our services are for those seeking safety from persecution in their own country and seeking to build a new life in the UK. Primarily:

  • All asylum seekers, including those who have had their claim refused.
  • People who have recently been granted leave to remain.
  • Family members joining refugees via family reunion.
  • People who wish to claim asylum but have not yet done so.
  • People who have been trafficked.

For more details read the Membership Eligibility PDF.

Can children and young people become members and use our services?

Due to our insurance and the lack of specific support unaccompanied minors cannot be members. However, temporary membership can be offered to eligible people between 16 and 18 but they must be accompanied by a support worker or foster carer.

Can I visit the Welcome Centre if I’m not a member?

Yes, we usually have open mornings on the first Thursday of every month from 11 am until 12:30 pm. Please don’t visit the centre at other times, we are always very busy running our services and are not able to receive visitors.

If you are planning a visit, please email .

Can I get a bike at the Welcome Centre?

Every week 2 or 3 of our members are chosen to go to the Bristol Bike Project where they can make a bike which they can keep. There is a long waiting list for bikes and members need to sign-up to the list at the Welcome Centre. Applicants should try to sign the list every Thursday between 12 pm and 1pm; the list operates on a point system and each time you sign in, you gain a point.  The list can be found at the Welcome Centre on the table with the bicycle sign.

Access to our services

Can you help with my solicitor / housing / money / health problem?

The Advice Service runs a Help Desk for our members on Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Welcome Centre. Our trained volunteers can provide practical help including making phone calls on your behalf, explaining letters, or referring you to other organisations such as solicitors. However, the Advice volunteers are not qualified to give legal advice and cannot complete legal forms on your behalf.

Can I make an appointment to see the Advice Team ?

No, we do not have appointments. The Help Desk operates on a drop-in, first-come, first-served basis. However, we can get very busy and recommend that members sign-up in the Main Hall between 10 am and 12:30 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays . Please visit the Advice Service page for more details.

I am living outside Bristol, can I phone you and get help?

No, unfortunately we do not have the capacity to offer telephone support. A list of other organisations that help refugees and asylum seekers can be found on the British Red Cross website; use the ‘Find your local refugee service’ search box.

I am a refugee with leave to remain, can you help with family reunions?

Bristol Refugee Rights members can ask the Advice team for information about which organisations can help with family reunions. BRR itself is not legally accredited to give advice on reunions, nor can we help with family reunion applications.

How can I join the English classes at the Welcome Centre?

You must be a member of Bristol Refugee Rights to be able to attend our language classes (see above). We are not an accredited English and Other Languages (ESOL) provider, neither do we offer exams or qualifications. Instead we provide a rolling programme of English and computer classes . These classes are taught by volunteers and places are offered to members on a first come, first serve basis.

I want to do the IELTS exam, could I get help from BRR?

As well as our Entry level English classes, we also run International English Language Testing System (IELTS) preparation classes. You must be a member of Bristol Refugee Rights to attend these classes.

Supporting us and Volunteering

How can I become a volunteer for Bristol Refugee Rights?

We recruit volunteers two or three times a year. You can register your interest on our Volunteer with Us page and join our mailing list which will give you notice of our next recruitment session. There are only roles available for volunteers during the daytime on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

If you are a member of Bristol Refugee Rights and would like to become a member-volunteer, please ask in the Welcome Centre.

Is it possible for my child to be in the crèche whilst I volunteer?

While we would like to provide childcare to non-members, to make it easier for them to volunteer with us, we cannot. This is because we receive funding to run the crèche for our member’s children and there is a high demand for places. However, if you are a member-volunteer please speak to the crèche manager to see if the crèche is suitable to meet your needs.

Are there other ways I can support BRR?

Make a Donation
We are a charity and to deliver our large range of services we rely on and regular donations as well as one-off contributions. If you want to support us visit our Financial Donations page or visit

Destitution support
Sanctuary seekers who lose an asylum claim receive no financial support from the government and thus they may face destitution. You can people in this position by donating clothes, toiletries and food. Please visit our Free Shop page to find out more.

Whether you enjoy sport, baking, crafts or watching films there is bound to be a way that you can raise much needed funds for BRR’s work.

Become a Friend
As a Friend of the organisation you are able to vote at the AGM.  You will also be invited to special events and kept up to date with BRR activities. The minimum annual subscription is only £12. You can find out more on our Become a Friend page.

I want to drop off items for the free shop, what do you need and when can I bring it in?

Please see our Donations for Our Free Shop page for a list of that are items that are suitable to donate. Before collecting large amounts of clothes or bringing a donation to the centre, contact to find out how much space we have and what the current needs are.

Please only bring items to the Welcome Centre during opening hours.

Other access to BRR

I want to do research about asylum seekers and refugees, can you help?

We want to help facilitate research that will benefit our members and refugees and asylum seekers in general.

If you have questions for Bristol Refugee Rights as an organisation please send us an email and we will do our best to answer them.

If your research involves talking directly to asylum seekers and refugees we will always put our member’s needs first. Thus we will submit all proposals for research that will involve our members to the Member Consultation Group  for consideration. Your proposal should outline how the research will benefit asylum seekers and how you will ensure the well-being of participants. You should also ensure that your research will not create BRR a lot of extra work. Please be aware that we receive a large number of research requests but have limited capacity to accommodate them.

Can I or my organisation get a translator from Bristol  Refugee Right?

No, we train our members in basic interpretation so that they can support our staff, volunteers and other members. However, Bristol City Council has a database of professional interpreters who may able to help you.

The asylum process

What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?

The 1951 Geneva Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who:

Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

In the UK a refugee is someone who, after going through the asylum process, the Home Office  accepts meets the Geneva Convention’s definition, while an asylum seeker is someone who is still is in the asylum process, waiting for the Home Office to accept their claim.

How long does the asylum process take?

The Home Office can process asylum seekers’ cases in a few weeks, most asylum seekers find that their cases drag on for many months, and sometimes even years.

The Home Office refuses about 70% of asylum cases. An asylum seeker has the right to appeal to a tribunal if their case has been refused. Tribunals overturn around a quarter of refusals.

What support do people get?

Asylum seekers receive £36.95 per week from the government, this is put onto a card that they can use use to buy goods in certain shops, or use to withdraw cash. They are also given a room in a shared house. Asylum seekers are not usually allowed to work while waiting for a decision.

The government provides no support to asylum seekers who’s cases have been refused, leaving them in a state of destitution. This usually happens when the UK government has not returned the asylum seeker to their country of origin; either because the country of origin is unsafe or because that country’s government refuses to issue travel documents.

What is it like to be an asylum seeker or refugee?

People have described UK’s asylum process as a form of mental torture.

Asylum seekers suffer from many anxieties while they are in the asylum process. Not only are they in a state of limbo, not knowing whether their case will be refuse, they also lack any independence while they wait because they can not work. Being in a strange country where they can not speak the language, separated from family, facing discrimination and misconceptions from the public causes great stress. During the long wait for a decision asylum seekers have to report to a police station every week or month and face the threat of being placed in detention at any time. Asylum seekers also fear being returned to the country from which they fled.

When the UK government grants Refugee Status or Humanitarian Protection, the refugee has Leave to Remain for 5 years. Even after a successful claim the stresses continue and a whole new set of challenges emerge for asylum seekers who have been granted refugee status.

Where can I get help with an asylum claim?

As well as contacting our Advice Service you can also refer to the Right to Remain Toolkit, which is a guide to the UK immigration and asylum system.

The Toolkit gives an overview of the legal system and procedures, with detailed information on rights and options at key stages, and actions you can take in support of your claim, or to help someone else.

As well as a comprehensive written guide, the Toolkit also contains several helpful videos which are available in 5 languages: English, Arabic, Farsi, Spanish and French.

The Toolkit is available on the Right to Remain website.