World Jewish Relief was established to rescue refugees from Nazi Europe in 1933, and today our charity is committed to helping refugees rebuild their lives, particularly through employment programmes.
The refugee story is close to home for many within the Jewish community and these experiences underpin our response to the current global refugee crisis, both here in the UK and overseas.
In 2015 and 2016 when millions were fleeing Syria, we provided emergency relief including shelter, food and medical care to refugee camps in Greece. We ran programmes giving Syrian refugee children access to education in Greece and Turkey, founded a Woman's Centre providing a safe space for psycho-social care and established a legal resource centre for unaccompanied minors in Athens. We also set up programmes in Lesbos, providing legal aid to refugees.
The STEP programme for Syrian refugees in the UK
In 2016 we began the Specialist Training and Employment Programme (STEP) in the UK, providing personalised support for resettled refugees, enabling them to enter regular and sustainable employment.
The bespoke programme is adapted to each individual's needs and helps refugees gain language skills, qualifications and training, as well as providing one-to-one assistance in CV writing, interview skills, finding work or setting up their own business.
Graduates of the programme have found work in a range of sectors including retail, hair and beauty, engineering, education, pharmacy and construction.
STEP has continued to grow, and as of 2021 works in 8 locations across the UK, delivering vital employment and integration support for refugees
We work closely with a number of employers to find suitable positions. We have helped refugees secure jobs at Amazon, Greggs, IKEA, Bella Italia, Café Rouge, Chiquitos, Costco, Coventry City Council, Leeds City Council, Lloyds Pharmacy, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Timpson, TK Maxx and Waitrose.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit our refugee programmes hard. English classes and job training sessions had to move online, which was difficult for many refugees who did not have access to laptops. Many people who we had helped into work in the retail and hospitality industries were furloughed or lost their jobs. However, we pivoted the programme to focus on getting people into jobs in supermarkets, and even Covid-19 testing centres. We made sure our participants had full support, and provided laptops and food deliveries to those in need.
Ali arrived in the UK from Aleppo, Syria, and lives in Bristol with his wife and children in 2016.
Before fleeing his home country, he ran a successful painting and decorating business for over 20 years. He began working with STEP partner The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network to try and set up his business again in his new home city. Ali said:
“In the last few months, I have begun to feel like I am part of a community here. I hope that my company will be successful and grow; perhaps one day I will employ others. But for now, I am very happy, and excited for the next phase in my business, in which I will be connecting with local opportunities and reaching clients. I have a focus and I feel I am going somewhere.”
Ways to Support Afghan Refugees in the UK
The Jewish community has been incredibly vocal in their support of Afghan refugees in the UK. If you want to help, or are in contact with refugees who need support, follow the links below for advice and ways to donate.
- Donate to our Afghan Refugee Crisis Appeal.
- If you are a business, or know someone who would like to offer employment to Afghan Refugees, head to the Refugee Employment Network.
- UK Government guidance on immigration support for Afghan Refugees.
- A roundup of practical support available to refugees in London is available here.
- 10 ways to support refugees in lockdown.
- Donate your old laptops to young refugees.
Thanks to World Jewish Relief’s STEP Programme, I have been able to gain confidence, improve my language skills, achieve qualifications and gain employment within a pharmacyNadia, Pharmacist from Syria
Watch Baraa's Story
Jewish Refugees in Ukraine
Since the conflict in Eastern Ukraine began in 2014, more than 10,000 people have been killed and 25,000 injured. Continued violent skirmishes and shelling have led to over 1.8m people fleeing their homes, including thousands of Jews from Donetsk and Lugansk. Most are now living in mainland Ukraine as Internally Displaced People (IDPs) with limited rights.
IDPs in Ukraine face substantial discrimination, and often struggle to find work because of where they are from. Coupled with the fact that they have had to leave behind careers and everyone they know, getting a job in a new city can prove difficult.
Our 'Back to Work' and Livelihood courses provide practical training and support for Jewish IDPs, and others in the Jewish community, enabling them to gain suitable skills to help them re-enter the job market.
Other refugee responses
When crisis strikes, World Jewish Relief launches emergency appeals to raise funds and provide relevant assistance to those most in need. Some of our refugee crisis response includes:
2021 Afghan Refugees After the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, we launched an emergency appeal to help provide emergency support to those who have fled the country.
2021 Uyghur Refugees Over 11,000 Uyghur refugees have fled China for fear of being interned in camps. The majority are now stranded in Turkey, with no support. We are providing healthcare support, food, hygiene kits and legal assistance to those who need it most, as well as supporting individuals to develop a source of income.
2018 Rohingya Refugees We provided emergency food parcels to refugees in Bangladesh. We continue to work in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, providing both hygiene kits and information leaflets in the wake of the pandemic, as well as skills classes for women to enable them to set up their own businesses.
2018 Ethiopian Refugees We supplied 400,000 litres of clean water to Ethiopian refugees displaced by conflict in Northern Kenya.
2017 South Sudanese Refugees We assisted 600 South Sudanese refugee women and adolescent girls in Northern Uganda with psychological and small business support.