Coalition Launches Innovative Fundraising Campaign to Support Frontline Refugee-led Organizations Responding to COVID-19

Asylum Access Press Release
Two women talking in a refugee women's empowerment group

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New York, August 19, 2020 – Around the world, refugee-led organizations are taking critical action to prevent the catastrophic impacts of COVID-19 for refugees and host communities.

Despite doing this vital work, refugee-led organizations are desperately underfunded and face bureaucratic hurdles and other impediments to gain recognition and access sustainable resources.

To address this resource gap, ​Asylum Access​ has convened a global coalition of refugee-led organizations and supporters from non-government organizations, universities, social enterprise, and private foundations to launch a campaign called “Refugees Lead,” drawing attention to the role of refugees as essential responders. The “Refugees Lead” campaign is hosted by NeedsList, an ​online platform​ where individuals and institutions can directly support grassroots refugee-led organizations and is supported by campaign partners Amnesty International, Basmeh & Zeitooneh, Independent Diplomat, Local Engagement Refugee Research Network, Open Society Foundations, Oxfam International, St Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS), Young Africans for Integral Development (YARID) and Xavier Project.

“As refugee leaders from around the world, we are at the forefront of responding to our community’s needs. During COVID-19, groups have worked tirelessly to ensure that our communities receive information, humanitarian aid and other types of much needed support. With direct funding and support we could do so much more”

Robert Hakiza, Executive Director, Young African Refugees for
Integration Development (YARID).

The “Refugees Lead” campaign launches on World Humanitarian Day, which, this year, honors real-life heroes.

“This year World Humanitarian Day honors ‘real-life heroes’. It couldn’t be more fitting with refugee leaders at the forefront of supporting their communities”

Sana Mustafa, Associate Director of Partnerships and Engagement, Asylum Access

“Refugee leaders have stepped in to fill the gaps left by states and traditional humanitarian actors during the pandemic, providing essential services and helping to mitigate the worst impacts of the crisis. They have done this vital work with almost no support from humanitarian funders – imagine the impact they could have if they were properly funded”

Victor Nyamori, Researcher and Advisor on Amnesty International’s Refugees and Migrants Rights Team

With direct, flexible support, refugee leaders can respond to urgent needs and build thriving communities. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of their role. The refugee-led organizations on this list seek funding for work that ranges from improving education access for children in Lebanon, to providing hygiene kits, personal protective equipment, and food aid to elderly community members along the Thai-Burma border.

“Refugee-led organizations are successful because they have awareness outsiders don’t have and connections to refugees outsiders can’t reach. InLebanon, during this critical time, refugee-led groups are working in solidarity with refugees and Lebanese alike”

Yasmin Kayali, co-founder and CCO of Basmeh & Zeitooneh

“Local, refugee-led groups have proven time and time again that they are able to respond to the urgent needs of their communities. Now more than ever this has become evident. The humanitarian response system needs to adapt and directly support grassroots organizations doing frontline work”

Fionna Smyth, Head of Humanitarian Campaigns and Advocacy, Oxfam International

In many environments, especially those deemed too dangerous, remote or complex for international NGOs to access, refugee-led organizations offer the only COVID-19 response services available for refugees. They are also almost always the most trusted. Yet, local organizations — including RLOs — are receiving less than 1% of available humanitarian funding. Campaign partners are coming together to demonstrate that it is possible and essential to increase direct support to the local efforts of refugee-led organizations.

“​Refugee-led organizations create an essential space of recognition, trust, and sensitivity within communities.​ Because of this, communities trust us to facilitate connections between them and host community and state institutions, leading to healthier and more integrated communities”

Lublanc Prieto, Director, FUNDACOLVEN

To speak with refugee leaders and/or campaign partners about this initiative please contact:

Amnesty International:

Asylum Access:

For more information on refugee-led organizations featured on the funding platform, see