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Charity calls on the Home Office to give asylum seekers the right to volunteer

By May 31, 2013November 1st, 2016Press release

Refugee Action is today warning that people seeking protection in the UK are being prevented from giving their free time because of misleading Home Office guidance.

The national charity is calling on the Home Office to urgently draw up guidance which makes clear that people claiming asylum, as well as people whose asylum claim has been refused, are legally allowed to volunteer.

The lack of clarity has led to confusion among volunteer-involving organisations. As a result many people, who are keen to share their skills and give back to their local community, are being wrongly excluded from volunteer opportunities.

Emma Makarova, National Volunteering Manager for Refugee Action, explains:

“We believe that people claiming asylum should be able to give their free time to benefit the community they live in. Many of the people that we support have a diverse range of skills and expertise to offer but are often prevented from volunteering under existing immigration guidelines.

Giving their free time through volunteering is one of the few positive activities they can take part in. Volunteering enables them to make a real contribution to British society, so being told you can’t give something back to the community you live in is both degrading and humiliating. This urgently has to change.”

With support from other voluntary sector organisations, including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Refugee Action is also calling on the Home Office to broaden its definition of volunteering beyond just charities. This would mean people claiming asylum would also have the opportunity volunteer within public sector organisations.

Dr Justin Davis Smith, NCVO’s Executive Director of Volunteering and Development, adds:

“Rules that prevent asylum seekers from volunteering in the public sector need an urgent rethink. Many people seeking protection in this country want to contribute to the communities they live in and they should be allowed to do so.”

Ahead of this year’s national Volunteers’ Week to celebrate the valuable contribution of volunteers across the UK between 1-7 June, Refugee Action is launching its ‘Right to Volunteer’ campaign. The campaign aims to improve understanding within volunteer-involving organisations and the charity has produced a new factsheet which outlines the current legal situations.

Refugee Action is calling on supporters to sign its petitioncalling for the Home Office to take urgent action and give people seeking protection in the UK the right to volunteer.


For further information, images or to request an interview, please contact Refugee Action Press & PR Officer, Antony Watson, on +44 (0) 7771748159 or

Notes to Editors:

  • Refugee Action is a national charity working to enable refugees to build new lives in the UK. We provide practical advice and assistance to newly arrived asylum seekers and long-term commitment to their settlement through community and development work. As one of the country’s leading agencies in the field, Refugee Action has more than 30 years’ experience in pioneering innovative work in partnership with refugees. For more information, please visit
  • NCVO champions and strengthens the voluntary sector, with over 10,000 members, from the largest charities to the smallest community organisations. For more information, please visit: