Today Bishop Nick visited a drop-in run by Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS) at St Aidan’s Church in Harehills, where destitute refugees and asylum seekers are offered food, clothing, hardship payments and administrative support.
Bishop Nick said, “The rhetoric surrounding asylum has to do with numbers; here you meet people and hear their stories”.
PAFRAS Trustee, John Taylor, says, “Every Thursday around 140 people (from over 50 different countries) arrive for food and clothing. We also offer casework and mental health support and give out small amounts of money for essential expenses such as travel to important legal and medical appointments. It was a real boost to many of our clients to know that the bishop has an interest in their well being.”
Christine Majid, who set up PAFRAS 11 years ago, said, “We used to have two drop-ins a week, but can only afford to run one now, and yet the need is huge – they’re really packed in to the church hall each week. The cut backs in legal aid mean that many people are left in limbo for years and they become deskilled, depressed and dehumanised. So we are in desperate need of donations, volunteers and interpreters (particularly Arabic speakers).”
Bishop Nick adds, “The commitment of the volunteers is remarkable – including the Muslim young men who provide hot food each month.”