Centre for Islington refugees could shut as funding withdrawn
PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 October 2014
A vital resource for the borough's refugees and migrants looks set to shut down after having almost all of its funding cut.
Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants in Cross Street provides English classes, help with housing and counselling, hot meals, and clothes for about 150 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants each year.
The independent charity, which has more than 50 volunteers and six full-time staff, runs on a budget of £200,000 a year from Waltham Forest College. This is set to be withdrawn due to government cuts.
The charity runs as an educational arm of the college but will be forced to close in December if funding can’t be found from elsewhere.
Andy Ruiz Palma, chief executive of the charity, said: “This is the only centre of its kind in London that offers daily language classes, support service, enrichment opportunities and lunches and hot meals to refugees.There are so many levels to the problems faced everyday by our clients.
“The most shocking and hard to deal with is homelessness. 85 per cent of those we see receive no benefits at all. That is no housing, no money, no vouchers, nothing.”
The charity is overseen by a board of trustees which is led by Victor de Waal, a Jew who escaped Nazi Germany and came to the UK with his family in 1939.
It must find the funding from elsewhere by the end of the year if it is to continue.
Caroline Royds, one of the volunteers at the centre, said: “It’s such a special place and it would be a terrible shame if it were to close.
“It’s an incredible resource for some of the most disadvantaged people in the borough and beyond.
“It celebrates cultural diversity with students from more than 30 countries and offers everyone who asks for help a warm, safe place where they can anchor themselves and be listened to.”
The college said it was forced to tell the charity the grant would end in July, but agreed to fund them until the end of the year to give them chance to find a benefactor.
Robin Jones, principal at the college, said: “Waltham Forest College was subject to a £1.15 million cut in its central government funding for adult learning in the academic year 2014/15.
“The college would like to place on record its appreciation of the work undertaken by the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants.
“Unfortunately the severe funding squeeze now facing the college has meant it is no longer possible to maintain this relationship.”