If we live only one carnation on Earth, those of us born here in Britain are truly blessed. The opportunities afforded to us by the fluke of where our life spark was lit are immense. We have relative peace, health, wealth, education, fairness and tolerance- our society, while not perfect, has a great many gifts. This liberty is afforded us through wealth acquired over a long and complex history of interaction with the rest of the globe; some of which we can be proud, much not so much so.
Since the landmass we currently identify as the United Kingdom was first broken from a peninsula into an island some 8,000 years ago, we have been gratefully enriched as a nation and population by the passing of others over that sudden distinct border. The yearn to travel passes over most of us at some time or other; why is that? As we want to know more, understand more and experience more? We strengthen ourselves and our culture by inviting this richness and dynamism into our land. The case for the bonus that immigration gives us as a society has been made well many times.
In an emergency, how we treat those who are in most desperate need of our help can give us the opportunity to show our true colours. We have only a small number of Asylum Seekers in Stockton-on-Tees- 632 individuals at the end of March 2013. All those few in greatest need, having fled their homes in terrible fear. Many of these have struggled with negotiating, whilst in a vulnerable state, a highly complex legal system; some have then failed to manage to present the evidence required.
In Durham on the Cathedral door is a huge knocker, those who had committed crimes and were fleeing for their lives could come to the monks, knock the Sanctuary Knocker and be taken to safety inside. Isn’t that incredible- that there was a space for that? There are replicas of the Sanctuary Knocker on doors around the world. People place them on the border to their most intimate personal space as they understand the greatness that it is to be able to offer succor to a fellow man in need.
That incredible system was for those who had committed crimes, we have people here with us in Stockton applying for asylum that have committed no crime- indeed they have had harrowing crimes perpetuated against them. We have the amazing opportunity to offer those fellow humans sanctuary here in our home town.
We can share the gifts we received at birth with those in greatest need; those who may have suffered mental or physical health problems or have suffered trauma, torture, sexual violence. We can help ease their pain, to protect them and allow them the space to make the most of their time on Earth. All the better- they can share their great skills and learning here in Stockton- making our local space stronger and wiser.
Justice First work tirelessly to ensure that those who come here to seek asylum and then struggle with the complexity of the legal system are supported. They provide agency, advice and guidance to those often entirely destitute; those without any recourse to housing or public funds yet also unable to support themselves through working. They have also compiled and presented game changing work on documenting the plight of women returned to the Congo- proving that this is not a safe place of return as claimed by the Home Office.
This Saturday, as part of Refugee Week, Justice First organised a football tournament at Goals. We went along to chat to some volunteers, tournament players and wonderful people who run the charity. It was inspiring and honest, an opportunity to show our commonality.
We hope to meet more of those who have been involved with Justice First so we can bring to you more human stories of the huge importance of offering asylum to those who are in need over the next few months. A place that offers you sanctuary is one you have great affection for- we are excited to hear impressions of what Real Stockton is to Asylum Seekers and share those with you.
Sharing goals with pride and love – that’s Real Stockton.