accessibility & help

How we support refugees

The British Red Cross has a long tradition of providing practical and emotional support to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

We often need to respond quickly and effectively to crises such as supporting large-scale arrivals or giving emergency provisions to those facing severe hardship.

How do we help people?

The Red Cross supports refugees in a wide variety of ways. These include offering emergency food, clothes or small amounts of cash  to those facing severe hardship. We also help refugees access services and we offer friendly advice to the most vulnerable.


We provide short-term support to help vulnerable and newly arrived refugees adapt to life in a new country. Many of our trained volunteers are refugees themselves, so they speak a wide range of languages and can offer valuable support and advice. Wherever possible, all our information materials are translated into the main refugee languages.


From new arrivals to failed asylum seekers, thousands each year find themselves cut off from Home Office support or welfare benefits. In such cases, we can provide short-term emergency support and expert advice on accessing whatever limited resources are available to them.

Support for young people and refugee women

We work with young asylum seekers and refugees, aged from 15 to 25 years.

Women refugees overwhelmingly come from countries where their rights have been severely restricted. They often lack the language skills and self-confidence to cope independently in an unfamiliar new environment. The British Red Cross’ women in crisis projects provide one-to-one social and emotional support, helping women to access their basic rights and rebuild their lives.

Family reunion and resettlement

Sometimes refugees flee persecution in their own country only to find that the country in which they seek asylum cannot offer protection or basic human rights. In such cases, resettlement to a third country is often the only safe option. 

The Red Cross plays a specific role in the reunion of families who have been separated around the world, and who have been allowed by the Home Office to join their families in the UK. 

Travel assistance

In some cases, we can help pay travel costs for refugees whose families live overseas and have been granted a visa to come to the UK.

Between January and September 2016 we provided financial assistance to cover the travel costs of 1,551 people, mostly women and children, who were accepted by the Home Office under refugee family reunion.

To find out if you are eligible for our family reunion travel assistance scheme, please contact your local refugee support co-ordinator.

Refugee family reunion visa application support

Refugees have a legal right, under UK and international law, to bring their families over to the UK to join them. 

Since April 2013, however, they are no longer eligible to receive legal aid to navigate the complex application process. 

We have qualified caseworkers in several parts of the UK who can help. Please contact your local refugee support co-ordinator to find out where this service is available in your area. 

For further information on the refugee family reunion process, please download the British Red Cross guide to family reunion. Kindly note that this guide should not be used by unqualified individuals to provide immigration advice on family reunion. Providing immigration advice if you are not qualified and not regulated is an offence under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. 

Emergency large-scale arrivals

When large numbers of people arrive in the UK following a political or humanitarian crisis, the Red Cross is there to offer practical care and support. In the past, we have helped to manage the arrival of refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo, and evacuees from Lebanon.

What skills and training do our volunteers have?

Our trained volunteers support thousands of people every year, helping them to access local services and adjust to life in a new country. For people who may feel alone and afraid in a strange new environment, our support can transform their lives. Many of our volunteers have multi-lingual skills, and a significant number are themselves refugees who were previously helped through the asylum process by the Red Cross.

Could I volunteer for this service?

Volunteers for this service need good people skills. They must be sympathetic to people of different backgrounds and ages, and those with physical and psychological needs, who are faced with a difficult and stressful situation. Language skills are desirable but not necessary. 


How do I get in touch?

The British Red Cross provides support for refugees and vulnerable migrants only in specific areas across the UK. However, we also provide useful links to many other organisations that can help refugees in the UK.


We can also provide casework support where trained staff and volunteers can advise on a range of issues and work with people to address more complex needs.

We are pleased to be granted approval as exempted advisers under the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner Codes and Rules in respect of the following areas:

Luton: N201300056
Birmingham: N201000005
Bristol: N201200040
East Anglia: N200900010
Glasgow: N201100028
Leeds: N201200053
Leicester: N201300059
London: N201100033
Manchester & Liverpool: N201200044
Newcastle: N201200042
Nottingham & Derby: N201400067
Plymouth: N201200048
Portsmouth: N201100019
UK Office: N200900005
Thames Valley: N201500473
Swansea: N201400072

Other ways we can help refugees

Transport support

The British Red Cross offers support to people affected by crisis by providing transport for medical appointments and essential daily needs.

Mobility aids

We provide short-term loans of wheelchairs and toilet aids.

Support at home

Need help after a stay in hospital? Our volunteers can provide extra support and care at home, preventing unnecessary stays or readmissions.


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  • Red Cross office