How to reply to emails

Welcome and thank you for doing this today!

You reply as you prefer and in the way you feel most comfortable. Everyone can communicate in the way they feel most effective. Adapt all guidelines below to what you feel works with the people you communicate with.

What to answer first

What to prioritize is personal so follow what you feel. If you prefer not to answer an email, just label it, mark unread and leave in the inbox. Asylum, visas, healthcare, jobs, study, housing, bank account, travel can all affect the quality of life of a person. We are not an emergency service, if someone is in danger, tell them to contact the local emergency services. You may respond to what you prefer first, but we advise following the general guidelines below.

  1. Asylum, housing, urgent visas and urgent healthcare emails are a first priority.
  2. Short term visas, family visas, bank account, and healthcare are a second priority. They are important because they are mostly about migration and asylum.
  3. Jobs, study and work or student visa email are the most frequent and they are a third priority. They are important for a person but searching for a job, or a university, takes long term support.
  4. Travel and tourism queries are rare and a fourth priority. Feel free to label them and archive without replying to them. But make sure they are not queries about asylum or protection that look like questions about traveling abroad.

How to answer to emails – checklist

Login into one of the mailbox. Details are on where is what on our Slack.

  1. Find an old and unanswered email.
  2. Check if someone already replied to that email. Search in the mailbox for the person, their name or their email, to see if another volunteer replied.
  3. If you prefer not to answer the email, mark it as unread and label what is about, jobs, asylum etc. and just leave the email in the inbox.
    If you want to reply, first label what is it about, and if you feel that the person needs attention for long time label the case as long case
    • Give at least some information in your reply. See below for ways to answer and resources. Most people don’t come back to us, so be sure to give some good information on the topic they are asking about.
    • Ask few questions. One or two relevant questions show that you acknowledge the subject of the email. People rarely reply to more than three questions.
    • Ask what they have tried already. And what they think their options are. Which organizations they contacted or what they want to try next.
  4. Translate with Google Translate or else, and leave the English test in the email.
  5. Sign each email with your name or something that identifies you among volunteers.

    These two last steps should be automatic when you click reply, just double check (please mention on channel if not working)
  6. Copy the reply to the alinks email without the “g.” as well. If you are answering from g.email@alinks.org send, copy, or bcc to email@alinks.org
  7. Send and archive all the time, we aim to have an empty inbox on Gmail

Repeat for one, two or three times and then go and do something else. Self care!

All emails in the Gmail inbox need to be left unread or replied (and archived). If you see a read email in the inbox, label it if not labelled, archive it if it has been replied to, or mark unread if it has not been replied to.

Logout out of the mailbox or close the window your working on

If you want to do something else than casework, you can write short articles answering common questions about asylum or other topics. You can reply to comments. You can ask information on different social media. Ask in the channel if you want something different to do.

Give information not advice!

More details how to answer to emails

Please read the following keenly.

Find an unanswered email

This is an unperfect process, so be patient, and write suggestions here

On Gmail mailboxes, the inbox would look like this

Atif, alinks, Atif 3 Re: something asylum. Mar 17
Bkim                        something work             Mar 17
Cimmy, alinks 2    some help                        Mar 17

It looks like Atif and Bkim need a reply because their name appear last in the first column. Deleted: On Alinks webmail mailboxes, the inbox would look like this for the same emails

On Alinks mailboxes, the inbox would look like this

the same

> ↰ Atif Mar 17
. Re: something asylum.
———————————-
Bkim Mar 17
. something work
———————————-
⌄↰ Cimmy Mar 16
. some help
alinks Mar 17
. Re: some help

It looks like Bkim need a reply because their name has not a ↰ beside. Atif you don’t yet you need to open a see the thread.

Check if someone else already replied to that email

Search in the mailbox for the person, their name or their email, to see if another volunteer replied.

Each email address appears as a contact on the website on different days, so it’s difficult for people to email two different email account, but it’s still possible. So ask on the channel if you feel we already replied to a person.

It’s ok if sometimes we reply twice to the same person.

Copy when you reply

If you are using Gmail, when you reply, copy cc or bcc, the alinks email, without the g., that you are using if you are on Gmail. It should be automatic but kindly confirm.

Reply and archive on Gmail

It should be automatic when you click reply but please check.

Long case?

You can label the email, or flag it, as long case. You can do the first time you answer if you feel we need to check if they are not replying. Definitely label it as long after two or three replies.

Translate and leave English version

Reply to the email in English and the original language of the email. Leave the English version in the email so it’s easier for other activists to search for it.

Notes and referrals

We don’t have a dedicated case management system. Our emails are the case management system. If you have notes about a case for other activists, write it on the email, so the person can see it as well. Every time you talk about a person do it as they can read it what you are saying.

We tell the person where they can find further support and we invite them to seek for it. It’s very rare that we do referrals, but sometimes it’s stressful for a person to not receive any answers from multiple organizations. So if you need to, try not to use any personal details of the person that might identify them and try to put the person in direct contact with the other organization as soon as possible.

Emails about jobs

Ask people to send you a job vacancy they are interested in so we help them apply for it.

Maybe remind people that we are a not recruitment agency nor job fixers.

We have a short guide on how to look for a job. You can send it in the relevant language.

We do have many articles about jobs in almost every country. Go to our search page to find them. Don’t feel like you need to send our articles, use them only if they are useful.

Search in English and in local language of the country you are looking in. Use google Translate, if need be.

Start a conversation with a person on why they want to go to a certain country. So you can start exploring with them all options they could have in alternative countries where they might have better access.

We have many articles about visa sponsorship. People want to look for job vacancies that offer visa sponsorship. Or they want to look for a job in a country where they can travel easily to seek for a job.

I’m looking for work?

Tell them to look at these resources, send them in the appropriate language. If you don’t know the language, send them in English.

how to look for a job

List of articles on how to find a job in all countries

Ask people to send you a job vacancy they are interested in so we help them apply for it.

I’m looking for work in this country?

Search if we have an article about working in that country, but there is a good chance that they have already seen it.

Start a conversation with a person on why they want to go to a certain country.

What job role are they interested in?

You can send them a link to a (Google or else) search to ‘jobs in country’. In English or a more appropriate language for the country. Use Google Translate if you need to.

Ask people to send you a job vacancy they are interested in so we help them apply for it.

I’m looking for this job role in this country?

Search if we have an article about working in that job role in that country, for example ‘nurse jobs in the UAE, but there is a good chance that they have already see it.

Start a conversation with a person on why they want to go to a certain country.

What job role are they interested in?

You can send them a link to a (Google or else) search to ‘role jobs in country’, for example ‘farm jobs in Australia’. In English or a more appropriate language for the country. Use Google Translate if you need.

Ask people to send you a job vacancy they are interested in so we help them apply for it.

Forward people to our job email

After one or two replies, when you feel that you don’t have any more support to give and if the person comes back asking for more suggestions about finding a job, please forward the email to our email dedicated to jobs, find it on where is what.

Emails about visas

Do I need a visa to go to this country?

Wikipedia is a good and updated resource for short term visa information. Understand which nationality the person holds and search for ‘visa requirements for nationality citizens’.

Another good external source is:

Travel Doc

Normally, it makes a big difference for people if they have a residence permit or a past visa from a high-income country. That can be EU country, or the US, Japan or a Gulf country.

Start a conversation with a person on why they want to go to a certain country. So you can start exploring with them all options they could have in alternative countries where they might have better access.

Search in English and in local language of the country you are looking in. Use google Translate, or else, if you need.

We do have many articles about visas. You can find them on our search page . Don’t feel like you need to send our articles, use them only if they are useful.

How can I get a work visa to this country?

Most of the time, you need a job first, so you need to search for a job. In some countries you can get a job seekers visa or access through a job employment scheme.
You can look up for a job seekers visa for the country that they are interest in.
We do have some articles about it. Go to our search page to find them. Don’t feel like you need to send our articles, use them only if they are useful.

We have many articles about visa sponsorship. People want to look for job vacancies that offer visa sponsorship. Or they want to look for a job in a country where they can travel easily to seek for a job.

Emails about asylum

We have many articles about asylum for almost every country.

See this list of articles on how to apply for asylum.

The best external resource we use it’s

help.unhcr.org

Search in English and in local language of the country you are looking in. Use google Translate, or else, if you need.

Start a conversation with a person on why they want to go to a certain country. So you can start exploring alternative options they could have in other countries where they might have better access.

For example, if someone asks about asylum in Iran, or any other country.

Can I apply for asylum in Iran?

Yes if you are in Iran. Contact the closest police or asylum office of Iran or the closest UNHCR office.

No if you are not in Iran. Contact the closest UNHCR office to determine your options.

The right to apply for asylum in practice depends on where you are, not on your situation. However, once you manage to apply somewhere if you will be granted asylum, or any form of international protection, depends on your situation. And your situation can only be assessed by the local asylum officials or UNCHR or whichever organization has been contracted locally with the RSD (Refugee Status Determination) process.

Can I apply for asylum in the UAE?

No because the UAE does not have an asylum system. If you want to travel or live in the UAE you need to apply for a visa. Contact the closest UNHCR office to determine your options.

Emails about anything else

If people needs an urgent shelter, just find where they are and point them to the closest shelter.

Sometimes you will help people in need of an apartment. Again it’s up to you to assess how much dedicated support they need.

Search in English and in local language of the country you are looking in. Use google Translate, or else, if you need.

We have many articles about housing, bank accounts, hospitals and more. Go to our search page to find them. Don’t feel like you need to send our articles, use them only if they are useful.

Templates for emails

You have templates that you can use in each email. You are welcome to create a template.

To access the templates, on Gmail, when you reply to an email, click on the 3 dots the bottom right of your email. If you cannot find a template, say it in the channel, we probably didn’t put it up yet.