Draft minutes of a CTaH forum held at Hampton Methodist Church at 20:00 on Wednesday 13 July 2016

Vicci Davidson was in the chair with Paul Danon minuting and some 40 people also attending. The meeting began with worship and a reading from Luke 10: 25 to 37 (the good Samaritan). Apologies had been received from Revv Gareth Wardell and Duncan Macpherson. The minutes from April were approved. Southwark Habitat for Humanity was the affordable homes charity to which Vicci had referred and it can be found at www.habitatforhumanitygbhomes.org.uk.

Marie-Christine Nibagwire, our speaker in February had written the following to CTaH: "[T]his coming Friday, the 15th of July, I will be visiting the refugees , survivors of the genocide of Rwanda who still live in Kenya. Most of those refugees are women, single parents and they are in desperate needs. They live in slums, don't have jobs therefore they cannot afford food shopping, medical treatment or school fees for their children unless you and I react and bless them.

"For the last 5 years, some friends have helped saferefugerwanda.org and we have been helping those women with sewing machines and they can make lovely bags, aprons and other clothes that many of you have even purchased. That does not only give those women a source of income but it has also restored their dignity. A sewing machine, including accessories (table, etc...costs around £150. Maybe you, your family, your group/club wish to bless some women with that. Or you feel you can feed some children for one or two days, or just buy them one loaf of bread or pay a school fees for a term, a year or the whole school education. Please let me know what you wish to do to bless those loved ones who are in desperate needs.

"If you have clothes to donate, please contact me on 07904 211018 to arrange collection/delivery. And should you want to give money towards food, medical treatment or school fees or to bless a woman with a sewing machine, please use Saferefugerwanda account: 13754060 sort code 30-96-19."

Ms Angela Afzal, our speaker, has been working since January for the Anglican diocese of London in helping churches to respond to refugees. Her charity is Capital Mass. She has worked inter alia as an immigration lawyer. She told the meeting that we were seeing the biggest move of refugees across Europe since the second world war. A useful programme to see about this was BBC2’s Exodus. Syrian migrants had initially gone to Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. By the end of last year, one million refugees had reached Europe, with hundreds drowning each day.

More than 50,000 refugees are stranded in Greece because the borders have been closed by neighbouring countries. Greece is struggling to house and otherwise support those refugees, who include unaccompanied minors, the most-targeted group by smugglers. There is an agreement for returning refugees to Turkey, but this is not working while creating much uncertainty. Refugees who make it to the UK are among the strongest and wealthiest. In the UK, there are fewer asylum-claimants than 10 years ago. 0.24% of the UK population are stateless people or asylum seekers.

A refugee is a legal term for someone abroad who can prove they are at risk because of, for example, their race, gender or political views. Refugees can stay in the UK for five years, after which most get leave to stay. There is no legal way to come to the UK to get asylum. An asylum seeker has applied for refugee-status; such a person is given minimal material support. A failed asylum seeker is given no support nor are they allowed to work.

In September, the UK government agreed to take 20,000 Syrians who had been registered by the UNHCR as refugees and vulnerable. When they get here, they can work and claim benefit. A further 3,000 children-at-risk will be taken from the region. The government has also agreed to allow refugees in other European countries to be transferred here for their asylum claim to be processed. The government has also agreed to take vulnerable refugee children who are already in Europe.

Angela described a refugee’s tortuous journey to London. He was supported by a day-centre. Though granted refugee status, he was homeless since he wasn’t a priority case. Most who claim asylum are dispersed from London. London attracts a lot of failed asylum seekers, many of them single men. Councils are seeking private landlords to help (instead of using public housing) but not many had come forward. Angela distributed a sheet with ideas for helping refugees.

The meeting formed groups which committed to the following actions:
Under other business:
  • a new secretary is needed; it takes just a few hours a month.
  • the safety pin initiative involves wearing a safety pin; it says to vulnerable people "I represent a safe space"; it shows solidarity.
The AGM will be at 18:30 on 25 September at Hampton Methodist Church. The meeting closed with prayer.