Sara Nathan from EASE, an Acton and Ealing community group which supports refugees and asylum seekers to thrive in, contribute to and feel part of the local community, shares the latest updates on what is happening locally.
Only a month ago nearly two hundred people seeking asylum housed near an Acton drop-in for local refugees were ripped out of our community and sent willy-nilly to either elsewhere in London – where some can at least self-cater still – or to a hotel in Kent – where they definitely can’t.
It was so upsetting for them, for some left behind, whose friends had been taken away and for our community of volunteers. It was the arbitrary nature of the dispersal that was so disturbing: families with kids in local schools, where they were settled and doing well, women who had NHS appointments which would now need to be re-arranged and waited for again, those who had become members of local church communities and illogically, even those now permitted to find work and their own accommodation were relocated, at the decision of the management company, because their papers from the office had not come through. All bussed off with no argument allowed. A few were rehoused nearby, but it is not clear why they had been chosen over others.
At the time we were told that the building contract could not be extended because it is to be housing for “NHS workers” without which Ealing council would refuse further planning permission, although no councillors seemed able to confirm this. Last week 200 exchange students at a London college moved in. Maybe the NHS workers will be along later.
Also last week our MP Rupa Huq, who had been with us at the drop-in and hostel when some people were removed, asked about this in Home Office questions. The Home Secretary had no answer except to blame people crossing in little boats. She must have known the pressures come largely from her department’s complete failure to process asylum applications leaving over 122,000 people waiting for a decision.
The press including ITV news and The Guardian, covered the shameful moves too, with Private Eye, pointing out that the contractors, Clearsprings, who do the Home Office’s work for them, had exponential rises in profits but not so much in either efficiency or compassion.
So the drop-in is only nine months old and helps over 40 people a week, but is also joining with others to call for the fairer, more humane treatment of asylum-seekers. Our community has rallied enormously around those needing support.
Local businesses pitch in with groceries, fruit & veg, falafel and hairdressers. Local churches, mosques and synagogues have stepped in with emergency food, sanitary supplies and vouchers and we are supported weekly by a number of local charities.
Our volunteers are all local neighbours and we collaborate with local public services from community police to midwives and children’s centres. It’s extraordinary to see people with a range of skills and experience pulling together to cook and teach and collect donations from nearby streets to distribute, then chat, laugh and give comfort, or play with the children at our weekly sessions.
If you would like to join us on a regular basis, please get in touch here.