Refugees on walk in celebration of freedom

Telling tales: Supporters and refugees during the downland trek
Telling tales: Supporters and refugees during the downland trek

Refugees who have fled war, torture or persecution in their own countries enjoyed a walk in the freedom of the South Downs on Saturday.

They were part of a large party enjoying the sunshine and tranquility between Lewes and Glynde.

A campaign group said it was an opportunity many have been denied in the past. It said that despite committing no crime they have found themselves imprisoned for weeks, months or even years at an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC).

Refugees Tales aims to raise awareness of the UK’s policy towards those held in indefinite detention. Distinguished poets and novelists collaborate with refugees to retell their experiences. The stories are shared and told along the walks and read aloud at events around the country.

They have been published in two anthologies, Refugee Tales 1 and 2. Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group, a charity with 20 years’ experience of visiting those held at the Immigration Removal Centres at Gatwick Airport, founded Refugee Tales.

The Lewes Organisation in Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (LOSRAS) hosted Saturday’s walk and provided a welcome tea afterwards at the Friends’ Meeting House.

Jean Gould of LOSRAS said, “The walk gave us a welcome opportunity to show our support for people whose lives are cruelly blighted by an unfair system.

“The UK is the only country in Western Europe to hold refugees, who have committed no crime, without oversight by a judge and with no release date. More than 30,000 people are being detained each year.”

Religious leaders, the Bar Council and The British Medical Association are amongst those calling on the Government to end indefinite detention and for the introduction of a strict 28-day limit when the new Immigration Bill is put before Parliament.

Canon Mark Oakley, the Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, said: “There’s no fairness, compassion or common sense in locking vulnerable people up and giving them no idea of when they might see their friends and family again.”

For more information visit www.gdwg.org.uk