Churches Together speak up for asylum seekers
Asylum Seekers came to Portcullis House in Westminster today to tell MPs, journalists and the Churches why they flee to Britain.
Their clear message was they come in search of safety and not benefits. But instead they meet a depressing welcome.
Some women even said that what they faced in the UK was a further form of torture, on top of what they had already survived.
The asylum seekers spoke at the launch of a book, Asylum Voices, published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and prepared by its Commission for Racial Justice (CCRJ).
Sometimes harrowing stories were shared, tears were shed and thanks given to those who do stand up for refugees and asylum seekers. One man, a journalist from the Cameroon said he came for safety after 7,000 people were killed in his village in one week.
Another woman from Nigeria described being separated from her young children while she spent four months on arrival in detention.
She said: 'The day they released me, I was dancing, I was so happy. I'm not bad, I'm good. I say that God can come and judge me.'
Asylum Voices - experiences of people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom
contains interviews from 146 people from 37 countries. Many of the stories show asylum seekers have fled their country in fear of their lives.
Bishop Roger Sainsbury, retired Anglican bishop of Barking and former Moderator of CCRJ hoped Asylum Voices would change public opinion, particularly young people. "The churches must listen to asylum seekers," he said.
The 73 page anthology of asylum seekers' experiences is aimed at policymakers.
"And especially we want the media to read it because the media are responsible for so much misinformation about asylum seekers labelling them as faceless, bogus cheats," said the Revd Arlington Trotman, Secretary of Churches' Commission on Racial Justice.
The Revd Nezlin Sterling (one of the presidents of churches Together in Britain and Ireland) set out the reasons why Churches must speak up for asylum seekers:
"If Jesus the "stranger" were physically among us today he would have some harsh words to say...we would hear his voice above the noises of the politicians and the media, saying justice, mercy, compassion, love, endurance and perseverance. CTBI calls on the public, the media and politicians to allow the spirit of compassion to inform both discussion and policy."
Neil Gerrard MP for Walthamstow commended Asylum Voices for enabling asylum seekers to speak for themselves. He welcomed the Churches' attempt to confront the myths surrounding asylum seekers, and to let the truth be heard.
Asylum seekers were invited by churches to share their experiences at launches today in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh and tomorrow (Friday) in Belfast.