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Refugee Response Wakefield

Fr Simon Bradbury and the Parishioners of St Peter and St Paul, Wakefield, gave a very warm welcome to the Diocesan Refugee Support Group at their Refugee Response meeting on Tuesday 22 October. Well over 50 people attended and there were some very interesting and moving presentations.
Carol Hill began with a presentation on Community Sponsorship and told the gathering about the family recently welcomed in Settle. We watched a very moving slide show which contrasted the desperate scenes of war in Syria and the tragedy of refugee journeys across Europe with the warm welcome given to families when they are resettled here in the UK. Carol also mentioned the work of Gianna and its work with refugees and asylum seekers, particularly in supporting mothers and their babies and introduced Janet Kent who had set out a stall. There were a number of presentations given by local people involved with the Wakefield District City of Sanctuary, including the Clothing Store and Asylum Seeker Support Fund. Much of their effort is to support the 300 or so asylum seekers housed in Urban House which is one of the 5 Initial Accommodation centres in the country. There are also a number of destitute asylum seekers in the city as well as about 100 more who have been provided with accommodation while their claims are being processed. Another member of Wakefield District City of Sanctuary explained how they are hoping to establish a hostel to help with the increasing numbers of destitute asylum seekers on the streets. Various drop-ins and other sessions are offered around the city, all of which are looking for volunteers and funding.
We heard the latest news from St Monica’s Housing about their second house, now looking after a further four asylum seeker women in Leeds. The Refugee Council spoke about their Access to Health project for those in Urban House as well as their support for refugee families who have been resettled in Wakefield. Finally, a Syrian refugee spoke of his own experiences and this highlighted for us all how difficult life can be when you don’t speak English and you are expected to use a computer for benefits, housing and job searches when you do not have those skills. As Omar said, ‘you have to learn fast’. It was good to hear how so many are offering their support but there is always more to do as Mike Woulfe, from the Parish SVP group, said in his presentation.
We were offered food and refreshments by the Parish and then had time to meet with the various organisations, make new links with each other and spend time in conversation.