There are two accounts of Asylum link from Ewan Roberts who is the Centre Manager of Asylum Link Merseyside, and from Fr. Michael Cunningham who has been working with the project.
Ewan Roberts, Centre Manager of ALM
Since the withdrawal of English teaching for newly arrived Asylum Seekers, the volunteer classes at Asylum Link have steadily filled to the point where 70-80 people per day are taught basic English. Brother Eamonn Doyle is both the main teacher and the coordinator and drafts in friends and former teaching colleagues to help out.
The participants come from as far afield as North Korea and Bhutan, but the majority of students are from African countries, Kurdish regions, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. Asylum Seekers have no permission to work, only £42 per week to pay for their food, clothes, transport and communication, so the English classes provide an opportunity, not only to learn the language, but also to fill up the day, socialise and exchange information and take part in the other activities at the centre. Recently we have had a lot of interest in our allotments which are a way for people to relax and step out for a breath of fresh air.
An asylum seekers journey through the system can be quite brutal, and the British Medical Association have twice in recent years, pointed out the detrimental effect of the asylum process on people’s health. We feel it is essential that organisations like ours continue to offer respite and a warm welcome for some of the most disadvantaged people living in our communities.
Fr. Michael Cunningham
In my work as a Salesian Priest I do a lot of what is called Retreat Ministry, both here in the UK and in other parts of the world. In the many places I visit I have often spoken about ALM, which provides such valuable support to asylum seekers who come to Liverpool. In a world where we see so much violence, suspicion and hatred, Asylum Link provides a haven of welcome and friendship.
Recently I was working in California and I spoke about the plight of asylum seekers coming to the UK. Afterwards a lady gave me a donation of £200 towards the work of the Centre. She wished to remain anonymous. On a previous visit to the USA I worked with the Salesian Sisters. After mentioning the work of ALM, one of the Sisters, who was teaching children in New Orleans, got them to raise some money for Asylum Link as part of their Lenten fund raising activities. Since this was just a few months after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina I was touched that they were able to reach out beyond their very own real concerns to try to give some assistance to asylum seekers in Liverpool.
Both these examples show how people in different parts of the world are willing to help others in need.
We do live in a rather violent and unforgiving world these days; but it is also a world in which ordinary people are prepared and willing to reach out the hand of friendship and provide some practical help, however small, to those in need. Asylum Link Merseyside is a great sign of hope, and good people recognise this. God Bless all of you and everything you do.