Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group mark 30 years of visiting Brook and Tinsley House at Gatwick Airport

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Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG) enter their 30th birthday year today, and marked the occasion with around 50 GDWG supporters at Crawley United Reformed Church. The local charity reflected on their work in Brook House and Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centres (IRC) at Gatwick Airport.

With the passing of the Rwanda Act last week, GDWG’s birthday indicates an important moment in continuously countering dehumanisation with compassion and welcome. GDWG has emphasised the human costs of indefinite detention for many years. Last night, people who had been detained, volunteers, and caseworkers came together to reflect on what 30 years of GDWG’s work means to them. The birthday was rounded off with a 30 Cake from JubyLee Bakes.

Nobel Literature Prize winner and Refugee Tales Patron, Abdulrazak Gurnah, said: ‘This is the start of the 30th anniversary year of GDWG. It is lamentable that GDWG’s contributions to comfort others are still needed, but once again I congratulate and celebrate GDWG’s essential and humane efforts.’

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By the end of 2023, GDWG had supported over 20,000 people with experience of detention since 1995 and in 2023, GDWG was a Core Participant in the first Public Inquiry into detention.

GDWG celebrate their 30th BirthdayGDWG celebrate their 30th Birthday
GDWG celebrate their 30th Birthday

Pious Keku, GDWG Trustee and a volunteer since 2015 who has lived experience of detention, shared that: ‘Without GDWG, myself and others with lived experience voices wouldn't have been heard, empowered and supported, and the work of GDWG has gone beyond my imagination. Hope was the words of my visitor from GDWG who has made it possible for me to be here today and to be able to use my experience to bring about change in our continued campaigning for those seeking Sanctuary here.’

In an increasingly hostile environment against people seeking asylum, the need for GDWG’s work continues to grow. In 1996, GDWG supported 99 people, and in 2023 GDWG supported 2,306 as need has increased with greater levels of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and hunger strikes. When GDWG was formed, support was limited to time in detention. Now, the Crawley-based charity also offer support after detention due to increased homelessness and destitution.

In July this year, GDWG will also be holding their annual Refugee Tales walk, where GDWG supporters go on a long walk and the tales of people who have experienced immigration detention are shared during evening events. Alongside the walks, there are four Refugee Tales anthologies published by Comma Press and the project calls for an end to indefinite detention, whilst working towards a future without immigration detention. To date, over 20,000 copies of Refugee Tales have been sold.

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