21 of us managed to make the long trek from Bradford to Leeds, a 'walk for justice' as part of Refugee Week. The walk was undertaken by sanctuary seekers and their supporters, and took in the regional 'Asylum' courts in Thornbury, on the outskirts of Bradford, and the 'Waterside Reporting Centre' in Leeds.
On the way, the conversations were optimistic but sometimes heartbreaking. I spoke to a woman from Africa who had not seen her children for 9 years, and I met someone from Iran who had been forced to report to the centre for nearly 10 years, not being able to work for a decade until he finally won his case to stay.
This walk, and any acts of solidarity with those who have gone through the hell of seeking sanctuary, is vital to demonstrate solidarity with those who arrive at our shores. On arrival at the courts in Leeds, we were refused the dignity of being able to use the toilets and the security guards even chased after a retired Methodist minister who had accidentally parked in the wrong place.
The immigration service is a tough one to work in, but if they worked on the basis of hospitality and care rather than mistrust and hostility, I would begin to feel that I lived in a more civilised society!
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