Sunday, November 08, 2009

Seeking Asylum


On Saturday evening we had a wonderful dinner at a fund-raising event in aid of Justice First. The efforts put in by this organisation are Herculean and much appreciated of course by those who seek their help. I don't argue in favour of having no policies on immigration - we need a proper system of encouraging those who have skills and talents to offer at all kinds of levels to come here and share them with us in the same way that some of our citizens go off to other countries to use their skills. But that's a completely different policy area to that of refugees and asylum seekers. Someone whose political or religious beliefs or ethnicity or tribal loyalty or sexual orientation or anything else means that they are persecuted in their home country needs a safe haven. I've written and spoken regularly of the people I've met who've left everything to get to safety. The man who fled Afghanistan because he believed that his very intelligent wife and daughter should be using their skills just as much as he and his son; the last surviving son of a family wiped out in the bombing of Kabul; the business man from Baghdad who'd upset Saddam's cronies once too often; the young Turkish Kurd who'd watched helplessly as his wife was raped and murdered while he lay wounded in the hill above the village; and countless more. These are people who need help and support and who might hope one day to go back to their homeland and help to rebuild it in peace. These are the people who sometimes don't have papers or evidence of how they've been treated when they arrive here. These are the people who are so traumatised by their treatment and their losses that they can't tell their story straight away. These are the people who need our help and who sometimes have to turn to Justice First when all else fails.
The dinner was in the Chinese Community Centre in Middlesbrough, Harmony House, a splendid building in the heart of the town. Supporters of Justice First had worked all day and for weeks before planning and preparing. It was wonderful to see the young people from St Andrews youth club acting as waiters. Some looked as though they'd been doing it all their lives. As well as local supporters who'd bought tickets there were a number of people there who are currently waiting for decisions on their asylum claims and it was lovely to be able to share the meal with them, relax and enjoy an evening and hear some of their stories of what they're doing in Teesside while waiting for a decision. Some of them had offered their skills to the Auction of Promises which closed the evening, reminding us that even in the most adverse circumstances we all have something we can offer to others. No doubt I'll be writing later about the things we bought when we've arranged the details and can enjoy them!

1 comment:

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