We’d prefer to start this post, which marks International Migrants Day, in a more festive light, but there’s no two ways about it: it’s been a long and difficult year for a lot of us working and volunteering in the refugee and migrant sector, and above all for the refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in need of support, like those who belong to our community here at West London Welcome.
This month’s general election saw some of our most powerful politicians use the most demonising of narratives about migrants as political football for votes, leaving us under no illusions about the uphill battle we all face to defend the human rights of people crossing borders. Anyone seeking asylum or moving for a better life faces relentless challenges, both here in London and around the world. Our visitors arrive at our centre with countless new examples of how they’ve been affected by this hostile environment on any particular week, from being charged extortionate fees for medical care on the NHS, to being denied access to education or living in squalid housing conditions that harm the health of themselves and their small children. Winter presents special challenges for those with precarious immigration statuses, such is the battle in avoiding being made street homeless in the cold by an unstable and unforgiving housing system for those seeking asylum and anyone struggling to afford rent.
As a way of actively resisting such hostility and protecting our visitors in such difficult times, we’re proud to have spent our second year in operation busily building our community, so that those who visit us each week get the vital support they need in the way of friendship, casework, legal, medical and employment advice, English classes, creative and educational opportunities, delicious hot food, trips, and the safety of a positive, familiar, welcoming space that they can always rely upon for good cheer on dark days. Small drop-in centres like ours provide lifelines to people who arrive in the UK to be faced with a deeply ingrained culture of disbelief around asylum claims, and a state that offers vulnerable people astonishingly little support.
Now more than ever, we need the continued support of our friends and wider networks to enable us to, in turn, show our solidarity to our visitors and give them the support they need. If you can, please donate to our Localgiving fund here this Christmas so that we can continue to give our visitors hardship relief, and the social, educational, and legal support they need.