Asylum seeker support charity to close

The immigration and asylum support charity Consonant will close this month following financial difficulties exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis - but says it will be able to save some of its services.

In May the charity launched a crowdfunding campaign that aimed to raise £40,000 to keep its doors open, but has so far only raised £27,315. 

The charity, which was formed from the 2016 merger of Asylum Aid and the Migrants Resource Centre and continued to use both names until a rebrand in 2019, employs 20 people and had an income of £1.2m in the year to 31 March 2019.

In a statement released to donors last week, the charity’s board said the reaction to the emergency fundraising appeal had been “amazing, not just the money raised, but also the comments and wishes posted on our Crowdfunder appeal site which clearly demonstrated from the heart how the work that Consonant does has touched so many people’s lives for the better”.

But the statement said that despite the efforts of the staff and board to maintain the support and services to the beneficiaries of our charity: "we are unfortunately now at the stage where, despite the generosity of our supporters, we have determined that the organisation does not have the resources to continue to deliver all the important advice, support and services we provide.

"Consonant will therefore shortly be closing.”

Most of the charity’s work will be transferred to other organisations, the statement said, but the closure will mean the end of the charity’s English classes, employability and other integration projects, which it said would be a “huge blow” to its clients.

But, the statement said, trustees had secured a deal to transfer the Asylum Aid brand, which provides refugees and asylum seekers with legal aid advice and representation, to the Helen Bamber Foundation, which works with survivors of torture and trafficking.

The foundation will maintain Asylum Aid as a separate operating organisation but under the HBF umbrella, according to the Consonant statement.

“Any Consonant staff who currently primarily support the services to be transferred and who wish to transfer to will be able to do so and thus the Consonant legal team will therefore form the main body of a substantially expanded legal team and capability at HBF,” the statement said. 

No one from Consonant was available to confirm how many jobs would be saved by the move. 

The charity has approached donors who gave to the emergency crowdfunder, asking if they are happy for their donations to be transferred to Asylum Aid. 

“While it is immensely sad that Consonant is to close, and not all of our services can continue and not all of our staff kept on, we are immensely proud that Asylum Aid will live on, and are confident that in the Helen Bamber Foundation it has found a worthy home,” the trustee statement said.

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