The language barrier is one of the biggest problems that asylum seekers and refugees face when they attempt to integrate into British society, and as they come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, English is rarely their first language.
Accessing information and advice on a range of vital issues, such as immigration, education, training, employment and housing/social welfare benefits is also a significant barrier. This leads to people living in isolation and suffering from deprivation.
Asylum seekers and refugees also find it virtually impossible to access resources. This means that they are liable to encounter further problems such as poor health, unemployment, low income, low uptake of service provision, and a general lack of opportunity.
Although government legislation requires that the welfare rights of asylum seekers & refugees must be protected, these people usually found themselves without any form of support from a key worker or even a trained volunteer. Back in 2002 the statutory and voluntary service providers in Peterborough had no experience of dealing with the target group, nor did they have staff members who were fluent in French, Swahili, Lingala, Kikongo, Kirundi, Bambara or Tshiluba.
There was no doubt that a large proportion of the targeted people were in dispersal areas such as Cambridgeshire. Desperate initiatives were undertaken at the time to try to achieve an overall action plan for the possible future activities of the organisation. Sadly, most of these initiatives failed because they were led on a voluntary basis, and thus lacked experienced leadership professionals. They also lacked dedicated members who were willing to sit down and objectively address the complex range of issues that the refugee community faces today.
In November 2002, some members of the African refugee community in Peterborough came together to set up an organisation to fill this gap and to address these people's complex needs. The organisation became known as the Peterborough African Refugee Community Association (PARCA). However, in 2011 the organisation changed its name to Promoting African Refugee Community Association (PARCA) in order to incorporate not only the Greater Peterborough area but to also include all areas of the United Kingdom and Africa.
The Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services (PCVS) continues to provide vital support for PARCA as it endeavours to serve the refugee community.