Monday, 13 July 2009

Victory for Walk of Justice as UKBA Regional Director agrees to meet Tees Valley CITIZENS for Sanctuary

An alliance of faith, refugee and citizen groups is celebrating tonight after a ‘walk of justice’ from North Ormesby to Stockton resulted in a commitment by the UK Border Agency’s Director in the North East, Mr Jeremy Oppenheim, to come to the Tees Valley and discuss the issue of people seeking sanctuary having to walk from Middlesbrough to Stockton police station to report.

In an unexpected personal phonecall to the marchers, Mr Oppenheim promised to come to the local area and meet with leaders from Tees Valley Citizens for Sanctuary who were concerned that vulnerable people seeking sanctuary in the local area were being asked to make a round trip of up to 12 miles in order to comply with UK Border Agency reporting restrictions.

A group of 50 citizens made the symbolic walk from North Ormesby to Stockton. The walk took a dramatic twist when Mr Oppenheim made the call, responding to press coverage and public support for the cause. As the local citizens chanted “Local reporting centres for local people” Mr Oppenheim offered to shift existing diary commitments to deal with the issue and offered a firm date. His offer to come to the Tees Valley for the meeting was greeted by a chorus of cheers from the marchers, who had by this time reached Stockon police station.

The meeting has been fixed for 28th July at 14:00. Leaders from Tees Valley Citizens for Sanctuary are preparing a dossier of evidence detailing the stories of those who live in Middlesbrough and have to walk to Stockton police station on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis.

Barbara Hungin, a leader from Tees Valley Citizens for Sanctuary, said:
“We are pleased that Jeremy Oppenheim has now agreed to meet with us, here in the Tees Valley. No-one should be asked to walk so far when there are so many other police stations nearby in Middlesbrough. Working with Mr Oppenheim, Tees Valley Citizens for Sanctuary now have an opportunity to consign this injustice to the dustbin of history.”

Jeremy Oppenheim, Regional Director of the UK Border Agency, said:
“I take this issue seriously and I would be delighted to meet with Tees Valley Citizens for Sanctuary. I look forward to finding out more at our meeting on 28th July and hope we can find a way forward.”

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