History and Background

The Harbour Project was born in May 2000, when Kosovar Albanian refugees fled the fighting in former Yugoslavia. It was founded with funds from the Baptist Church and help from other churches and groups.  The Harbour’s focus was on providing friendship, free refreshments and emergency help with food and clothing. It also gave basic advice and signposted people to appropriate agencies.

In 2003, The Harbour Project for Swindon Refugees and Asylum Seekers was registered as a Charitable Trust: Reg. Charity No. 1097227. Our annual income in 2004/5 was around £30,000. In 2006, the Home Office designated Swindon a ‘dispersal town’ for Asylum seekers; and a 3-year grant (instead of annual awards) from Swindon Borough Council from 2006/7 offered stability, and recognition of this status.

A step-change in development came with an award of £197,000 from the Big Lottery Fund for the period 2012/2017. The award not only enabled rapid expansion and a wider range of activities but also provided us with medium-term resilience around which other initiatives could coalesce.

By 2013/14 annual income topped £100,000 for the first time. The visit by HRH The Princess Royal in 2013 symbolised growing recognition of The Project in the town.

In 2015/16, we saw an unprecedented rise in the number of asylum seekers dispersed to Swindon. Around the same time, and affecting refugees, there were significant changes to the Benefits System. Fortunately, the Project had robust procedures and sufficient flexibility to meet the challenges without losing its important ‘family’ atmosphere of support and practical help.

In 2016/17 The Project changed its legal status to that of a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Reg. Charity No. 1171368.

By 2016/17 our annual income had risen to over £155,000. In 2017, and the Big Lottery Award was renewed with funding up to 2022.  Part of the BLF funding, the Trustees commissioned report from an independent consultant to determine how we could build our organisational capability. A key recommendation of this report was to appoint a part-time fund-raising focussed CEO. Our cost base for 2017/18 grew to £169,000.

The Harbour Project is authorised by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner to give Asylum and Protection Advice at OISC Level 1. OISC Registration Number N201800020. 

Read more on this attached document:  Our History