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Dear brothers and sisters,

Assalaamu-alaikum wa rahmatullah

I am sure that the unfolding refugee crisis has deeply affected you, just as it has pained all of us at National Zakat Foundation. Our hearts have become heavy with sorrow at the sight of our brothers and sisters, young and old, attempting to cross land and sea out of sheer desperation, many of them losing their lives or loved ones in the process.

Have we done enough to support those who are already here?

As relief efforts continue abroad, it is important that we consider the domestic dimension of this issue. Equally deserving of our attention, but less well publicised, is the continuing plight of the tens of thousands of those already in the UK seeking asylum. Asylum seekers in this country often face destitution and despair, the overwhelming majority of them being Muslim but typically finding little support from our community. We recently highlighted one aspect of this issue on our website.

What have we done to prepare for those about to come?

As we now all know, the government has announced that 20,000 Syrians will be brought into the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme over the next five years. Approximately 5,000 Syrians have already been granted asylum since 2011. For those who arrive, it is only the beginning of a process of rebuilding their lives impacted by war and trauma.

In addition to food, clothing and shelter, many also need psychological, emotional and spiritual support. We also need to ensure they receive training, education and employment opportunities to make them self-sustaining as quickly as possible.

This is a significant opportunity for us to embody the spirit of the Ansar (the Helpers) as beautifully described in the Qur’an above.

So what does NZF have to do with this?

Since its inception in 2011, the National Zakat Foundation has pursued the establishment of a Zakat institution for the UK Muslim community.

Amongst our beneficiaries have been hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees eligible to receive Zakat. They have faced a whole range of difficulties, from hunger to homelessness, from fuel poverty to the inability to afford legal fees to pursue legitimate asylum claims. Many of these referrals have come to NZF from reputable charities with whom we have built excellent working relationships, such as Refugee Council, Refugee Action, British Red Cross and Freedom From Torture.
Our next steps

For some months, NZF had already been planning an awareness campaign this autumn to highlight some of the above issues. As a result of the recent crisis, we are taking a lead in coordinating a nationwide effort to support both existing and incoming asylum seekers and refugees. In particular:

(a) we are reaching out to our partners within the mainstream charity sector and local authorities to remind them that we are are ready to receive referrals from those in desperate need and to step forward where there are gaps in existing provision. Referrals can be made by visiting www.nzf.org.uk/apply and enquiries can be sent to apply@nzf.org.uk;

(b) a significant scoping and needs assessment exercise is underway so that we can accurately plan and inform our community where support is really needed for those who are here and about to arrive, as well as how you can get involved;

(c) on behalf of NZF, I have been selected by the National Council of the Muslim Council of Britain to chair a UK Refugee & Asylum Seekers Taskforce in order to help coordinate efforts. This is a responsibility we are taking very seriously;

(d) we will be attending an emergency meeting called by the Muslim Charities Forum to discuss the specific response of UK Muslim charities to those who will be brought into the country;

(e) all our efforts in the coming weeks will culminate in the formal launch of a nationwide awareness campaign on the specific challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers, highlighting the statistics and their stories, as well as practical steps you can take to empower the most vulnerable in our community. Our intention is to launch this one-month campaign on Friday 30th October insha’Allah.
How you can get involved

If you have been inspired by this message to support this effort and would like to volunteer, then please do get in touch and let us know.

We are looking for anyone who:

(a) has experience working with asylum seekers and refugees;

(b) has relevant contacts with charities and local authorities;

(c) is able to offer practical support on resettlement issues;

(d) is willing to support our marketing team in raising awareness in their local communities as part of the upcoming campaign. For anyone in a leadership or management position at a mosque, please get in touch and work with us to raise the profile of the domestic element of this crisis within your congregation. To register your interest, please email us at resettlement@nzf.org.uk.

May Allah give us the strength and steadfastness to do justice to what our faith requires of us in times of ease and in times of adversity. May He guide, bless and accept all our efforts. Ameen.

Iqbal Nasim
Chief Executive

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