Since January 2016 we have been going along once a month to an inspirational drop-in centre for asylum seekers. Every month over 100 families turn up at the centre, coming from places countries as diverse as Albania, Algeria, Angola, DRC, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Mongolia, Morocco, Pakistan, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.
Asylum seekers are those who have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin, who have applied for refugee status and are waiting on a decision. Many endured horrors to get here. Some will be granted refugee status, others will be deported. Meanwhile they are not entitled to work. Some have been waiting for 10 years for a decision.
Each month, new families arrive at the centre and are offered a hot meal, practical and legal advice, nappies, vouchers, English lessons.
There is a large children’s room at the centre, staffed entirely by volunteers, with toys etc provided entirely by donations, where the children, often from one-parent families, who have often seen horrors themselves, can let off a bit of steam. What is Give a Book doing there? We have set up a reading corner and we do what we do best..read. Here is lovely GAB volunteer Eleanor with some of her new friends.
This month we were helped by a great team of teenagers from Peace by Piece. This is a course for Jewish and Muslim teenagers that includes a trip to Morocco. During the course the participants get to know another better, work together on a shared social action initiative and explore conflict resolution. They were brilliant and energetic helpers with the children.
It’s just one of many Interfaith projects run jointly by the Regent’s Park Mosque, St Paul’s Church Marylebone and the West London Synagogue.
They also promote a scheme to house refugees at home.