Tuesday, 1 December 2009


An alliance of faith, refugee and citizen groups is celebrating today after an outdoor coffee morning near Charles Cross Police Station in Plymouth resulted in a commitment by the UK Border Agency’s Chief of Operations in the South West, Mr Phillip Smith, to come to Plymouth and discuss the human impact of the increased use of weekly reporting for people seeking sanctuary at Charles Cross.

A group of over 100 people from Plymouth CITIZENS for Sanctuary gathered outside the police station and served coffee and mince pies before launching the ‘Friends of Charles Cross Reporting Centre’ – a group committed to the well-being of the staff and users. The ‘Friends’ welcomed staff and service users alike, and sang carols, including a humorous adaptation of ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’. In a rousing chorus they sang:

‘Give a welcome each day, oh UKBA,
And a smile for all the people,
Who seek sanctuary.”
Ali, who fled persecution in Sudan and now has to report at Charles Cross every week, shared his testimony and explained how the combination of the reporting requirements and cashlessness made Plymouth feel like a prison to him.

Mr Adam Duffin, the local UK Border Agency Inspector, drew the raffle.

The meeting with Phillip Smith has been fixed for 7th December. Leaders from Plymouth CITIZENS for Sanctuary are preparing a dossier of evidence detailing the stories of those who have to report regularly, and how this has interfered with their jobs and ability to learn English.

Rev’d Tim Smith, Vicar of St Jude’s Church and a leader from Plymouth CITIZENS for Sanctuary, said:
“Our coffee morning has been a great success. We are pleased that Phillip Smith from the UK Border Agency has now agreed to meet with us, here in Plymouth. We want to make sure that people’s reporting requirements at Charles Cross are reasonable. Our research shows that reporting to the police station once a week is causing problems for people who seek sanctuary in Plymouth. We look forward to working with Mr Smith to find a just solution.”
Listen to the interview on BBC Radio Devon here.

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