Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS) was founded in February 2003, originally under the name Positive Action for Refugees. Initially set-up as a response to the Labour government’s policy for dispersing new asylum applicants out of London, we were one of a wave of organisations established in Leeds and across the UK to provide welcome, support and assistance to refugees who found themselves living in areas without the support of established communities.
From 2005 the focus of our work shifted significantly as government policy began to mean that more and more asylum applicants found themselves homeless on the streets of Leeds. We also adopted a new name, Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, and began operating a twice-weekly drop-in service providing food parcels, toiletry packs and hot meals along with casework support aimed at helping service users out of destitution. While the emphasis of the service shifted toward supporting those forced into destitution, PAFRAS has always maintained an open door policy to others and inclusion remains one of our core principles.
In 2014 we received over six thousand visits to our drop-in at St Aidan’s Community Hall in Harehills. Many of these were repeat visits by destitute service users who depend on PAFRAS for their survival, but 487 were first-time visits by new service users.
Our volunteer kitchen staff prepare and serve around six thousand meals each year from the enormously generous donations that we receive from Costco and also from our many, many supporters around Yorkshire. (If you are interested in taking a more detailed look at the figures behind the services that we provide, please download the attached PDF file).
In recognition of the fact that this urgent humanitarian aid can only be of limited help in the long term we also provide experienced case and mental health workers to offer one-to-one support, information and assistance to those who attend.
Following a period of expansion between 2005 and 2011 the severe funding climate of the past few years has seen PAFRAS forced to reduce staff numbers and, in October 2013, close one of our drop-ins. From mid-October 2013 we offer a single weekly drop-in every Thursday.
We regularly receive around 127 visitors, from up 50 or more different countries at our drop-ins. There remains a huge demand for our services and in the long-term rebuilding the service and opening an additional drop-in remains a key aim.