Bishop of Southampton welcomes refugees and asylum seekers to Southampton
The Bishop of Southampton met refugees and people seeking asylum at a church in Southampton on Friday to welcome them to the city.
Bishop Debbie joined a weekly gathering of refugees hosted by St Andrews United Reformed Church. She spoke to refugees and people seeking asylum about their lives, and discussed with volunteers and community organisers how churches and community groups have been offering their support.
Speaking about her visit, the Right Reverend Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton, said:
“It was moving to talk with refugees and hear their stories and hopes for the future. These drop-in sessions provide the most vulnerable in society an opportunity to come together, feel part of the community and make friends. It was a joy seeing how churches and other parts of the community were supporting those in need.
“We must remember that Jesus himself was a refugee and sought to pour his heart out to those in need. We as Christians seek to take Jesus’ love to others, and initiatives such as this shows this community spirit in action.”
At the Avenue Multicultural Centre, which is supported by the by the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group, refugees and people seeking asylum can seek advice from a range of charities such as the Red Cross, CLEAR and their legal advisors, and Action Asylum from Portsmouth.
The centre also hosts activity sessions, such as English teaching, music, knitting, IT, and board games, and provides visitors with a hot drink and snack, and take-home food bags. Central to the weekly drop-in session is providing refugees with opportunities to make friends with fellow refugees and members of the wider community. The centre welcomes upwards of 50 asylum seekers and refugees through its doors every week.
Catherine Hartley, Vice Chair of the Southampton & Winchester Visitors Group, said:
“At SWVG we want to welcome refugees with emotional and practical support. We want these drop-in sessions to provide a warm, friendly environment where people can feel at home, relax, and try to find the help they need.
“We are very grateful for the time Bishop Debbie spent with us, talking to people seeking asylum and listening with understanding and empathy. We thank her for her support for our cause.”
The Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group is a group of volunteers who befriend and support refugees and people seeking asylum in the Southampton area. SWVG is one of many organisations supporting Together with Refugees’ Orange Heart Campaign. A key part of this campaign includes taking photographs of local leaders in front of a large orange heart, which was designed in collaboration with refugees and asylum seekers, and stands as a symbol of commitment to welcoming and supporting refugees.