On Saturday 28th February, in collaboration with Open Doors, Hull, and supported by Tearfund, we held a Day Conference in Jubilee Church Hull, on the subject of “Asylum Seekers, Refugees and the Church – How do we welcome strangers into our church and community?”.
Over 50 people attended, representing a wide variety of churches, and after two short talks by Stephen Rippon and Peter Campion, the conference broke into four workshops, on the work of Hull’s Open Doors, led by Bashir Siraj, the manager of the project; “Moving on”, what happens after a positive decision, led by Jayne Mercer of the British Red Cross; “Health matters”, led by Dr Rena Downing, a retired GP, and “Helping Christian converts with their asylum claims” led by Dave Smith, the founder of the Boaz Trust in Manchester. These workshops were repeated in the afternoon, with Dave Smith’s changing to a discussion of housing for destitute asylum seekers, which is well managed in Manchester by Boaz.
It was clear from these workshops that the situation in Hull for asylum seekers, and those whose claim for asylum is refused, is far from satisfactory. The lack of legal advice, the scarcity of voluntary housing for those who are destitute, the need for proper health and social care, and the apparent lack of interest among the people of this city were all challenging issues.
The Conference was ably hosted by the Jubilee Church, in the centre of Hull, whose Pastor, Steve Whittington spoke after lunch about “the Welcoming Church”, highlighting many ways in which Christians can make asylum seekers and other “strangers” truly welcome. We finished with a Panel dicussion, with searching questions from the audience!