Refugees in Hammersmith and Fulham are facing a 'tsunami' of change following sweeping funding cuts, according to the umbrella organisation for local groups.
Severe reductions in central and local government funding are causing mounting difficulties for the voluntary sector, the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Forum told members at their annual general meeting.
Addressing representatives of 33 groups from around the world, all of whom have settled in the borough, forum chairman Kaveh Kalantari said he feared the impact of cutbacks will be more pronounced over the coming months.
He said: "Many refugee community organisations have been losing funding and we are very worried as to what will happen in six months or a year’s time. We had hoped the voluntary sector would have a role in the Big Society but so far no practical steps have happened. All the changes we are facing are coming at us like a tsunami."
The meeting on November 25 was held at Palingswick House, one of several buildings used by community groups around the borough which are being put up for sale by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
Guest speaker Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith, said central government cuts would be permanent and would affect not just refugees but all communities, citing a 40 per cent cut to legal aid for those on low incomes. He said the cuts will 'fall disproportionately' on housing, employment, education and immigration matters.
And Sarah Crowther, from the West London organisation Refugees in Effective and Active Partnership, raised concerns about the changes to the right of asylum that are now being proposed.
The meeting also heard how a Refugee Week event staged by the forum earlier this year had brought together dozens of different ethnic groups from Asia, eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, allowing them to work with one another and build stronger community links.
A council spokesman said the authority is facing enormous financial pressure over the next four years, losing £65 million in government funding or £1 of every £4 it spends, but had moved to protect funding for voluntary groups worth £4.2m this year, partly by proposing to merge many services with Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster Councils.
He said: "Despite the drastic cuts that we're gong to have to make, our merger proposals are all about protecting the front line. The council has always had a commitment to protect voluntary sector funding as much as possible, and our existing £4.2m pot is still one of the biggest in London."
Half of this year's grants have already been announced, with the rest due to be revealed in the spring.