Refugees in Coventry are
finally to get somewhere to meet up during the daytime after months of
searching for a base.
Coventry Refugee Centre will
open to offer advice and help to asylum seekers from Monday at St
Peter’s Social Centre, Charles Street, Hillfields.
Visitors will be able to meet
other asylum seekers and there will also be connection with support
networks, a befriending scheme, distribution of useful items, and
information to the general public.
Other potential sites for the
centre have fallen through, but it now to open after months of trying
to find a home.
Penny Walker, one of the team
who is setting up the service, said:
the ceiling fell in – literally – on our expected base in the
Lower Precinct, we have been looking for somewhere else and working
from our homes.
“We are very relieved to
have a proper base so that we can offer much better support to the
increasing number of asylum seekers, and also to the many people
throughout the city who are either helping asylum seekers or wanting
to help but are unsure of how best to do it.
“We also have a role in
getting information to the general public about refugee issues in
general, because there is a lot of misunderstanding about their
Volunteers working with asylum
seekers have warned that the number of people on the streets looking
for cash could increase when strict new rules are introduced next
Police were forced to launch
Operation Shopcote to crack down on beggars following a spate of
complaints about women and children from Eastern Europe pestering
people for money.
Changes introduced by the Home
Office mean that instead of being allowed to claim a reduced version
of income support, new arrivals will be given vouchers to spend at a
It is now estimated that more
than 1,000 asylum seekers are living in the city while they wait to
find out if they can claim refugee status.
Many of them have been moved
to Coventry from London boroughs that are over-flowing with
Rev Christine Perry, a
Methodist minister who tries to help any asylum seekers, said the
voucher system leads to extra problems for asylum seekers trying to
rebuild their lives after a traumatic departure from their home.
“They often have to
pay premium prices so they can get the sort of food they are used to
eating, when they would be able to live far more cheaply if they
could use shops in Foleshill Road.
“The vouchers don’t go
very far and you don’t get any change from them. It is also
impossible to buy clothes or anything else that the supermarket
Mrs Perry, who with other
volunteers has been trying to find a base in the city centre for
asylum seekers to visit to get advice and to meet up, said the begging
problem could get worse when everyone is moved on to vouchers.
But she stressed that the
majority of the asylum seekers living in Coventry were not responsible
for causing difficulties.
“I haven’t recognised
any of them and I have heard that the women are being forced into
begging by groups of men and they get to keep very little, if any of
is teaching the right words to say and transporting them around. But
begging is not seen in a lot of cultures as a shameful thing to do,
and they might not think they are doing any wrong.”
The centre will be open Monday
to Friday 9am until 5pm. Telephone 024 7622 1899.