A CHARITY has received a half a million pound windfall to support thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Southampton .

The British Red Cross has been handed the money as part of a five-year project to support vulnerable people who come to the city to live but are often homeless.

The most recent figures reveal there are at least 4,000 people in Southampton seeking a safe place to live.

Many have come from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia but there are also large pockets of people who have fled Zimbabwe and Eritrea.

The charity, which runs a support service every Friday from St Andrew’s Church in The Avenue, says it is unable to give exact figures on the number of people who have come to the city seeking asylum – or how many are still here.

Southampton is one of a number of places in the UK where refugees are sent by the Government upon arrival – because there are already people from their own communities living in the city.

The £493,758 has been awarded by the Big Lottery Fund and will go towards providing emergency support and other vital services in the city as well as in Fareham and Portsmouth, where there are at least 1,000 known refugees and asylum seekers.

The British Red Cross say that public spending cuts have triggered substantial gaps in services to cater for vulnerable people.

A spokesman said: “The majority of secondary school age children and young people seeking asylum in Hampshire arrive without their parents or relatives, often having been killed through conflict in countries such as Afghanistan or Iraq.

“Many of the young asylum seekers have chilling stories to tell of their lives before England, with family bereavements, torture and the dangerous long journey to be smuggled to the UK.”

Homeless refugees will be provided with vouchers for emergency provisions and food parcels and items including clothing, bedding, toiletries and sometimes accommodation. Money will also be used to deliver talks to schools and community groups to raise awareness about the plight of many refugees and cultural difference, while a new outreach service, run by staff and volunteers will also be launched.