The Home Office is the department of the UK government responsible for immigration, security and law and order.
The Home Office in Solihull town centre, is used as a reporting centre for asylum seekers who are still awaiting a decision on their residency status.
Some have to wait for up to 20 years before their case is determined, others just one year or less. Everything depends on the strength of their case, the efforts made on their behalf by their solicitors and the speed at which Home Office staff can expedite their case.
Most have access to Legal Aid solicitors, some of whom make little effort on their behalf because, after all, it is the government and not their clients who pay for their services.
Meanwhile asylum seekers languish without the right to work, bored out of their minds and wasting valuable years of their youth when they could otherwise have been able to contribute tax to the national economy and give something of value back to society.
Around the corner from the Home Office building is a church hall which for eleven years has been hosting asylum seekers, offering them a safe place to relax, refreshments and clothes. Friendly volunteers, from more than ten different local Christian denominations offer their time and talents to be with asylum seekers in their time of need, offering them a listening ear as well as signposting them to other relevant services. Among these volunteers are two Muslims; former asylum seekers who are now refugees.
Our guests come from up to ten different countries – Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Congo, Zimbabwe and Albania. Some of them tell harrowing stories of the reasons that led them to flee their country, – war, violence, terrorism, persecution, discrimination and torture. They are never asked why they fled their homeland. Volunteers try to be present to them in a supportive way as they enjoy the hospitality of Solihull Welcome. It takes a while for them to trust the volunteers sufficiently to be able to share their story.
In the Letter to the Hebrews 13:2 it is written ‘ show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it’.
Angels come in all shapes and forms and – surprise surprise – they are not always Catholic or even Christian! The volunteers are indeed privileged to be able to encounter such wonderful people, to be challenged by the simplicity of their lifestyle and to learn so much from them about their faith, their country of origin, their language and even their cuisine!