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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Bristol: launch of Living Ghost campaign
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¬†Living Ghosts' - South West will be launched on Friday 17 March at the Council House in Bristol. 'Living Ghosts' - South West is a major initiative highlighting the plight of destitute asylum seekers throughout the region. This is the South West's response to a national campaign organised by Church Action on Poverty, who are focusing their work this year on the lives of destitute asylum seekers forced to survive in our society as virtual 'living ghosts'. The poverty experienced by this group is extreme. Once their claim to asylum has been refused all benefits are withdrawn. They have no right to work. However, for various reasons, it is also impossible for many of them to leave the UK. Homeless and destitute, they are forced into the shadows, like ghosts, and have to rely on friends and charity. Although officially they no longer exist, latest Red Cross figures estimate their numbers to be 33,600 across the country, including a growing number in the South West. Sue Ingham from the Clifton Diocese Justice and Peace Commission said: "The threat of destitution is used to pressurise them to leave the country and yet we know full well that in many cases this is impossible. This puts an intolerable burden on an already fragile and vulnerable group of people." Horror stories abound. "You feel less than human." said an African man in Bristol, who also speaks of his difficulty to get the people responsible for making the decisions about him to actually listen to his story. "He is not alone in this" said David Maggs from the Churches' Council for Industry & Social Responsibility, "That's why giving people a 'hearing', a chance to tell their stories and be listened to is one of the main aims of next Friday's launch." The launch will encourage participants to think about what can be done. "It is a case of using one's head and one's heart", insist David Maggs and Sue Ingham. "The campaign is quite right to insist on political action as even small changes in the law, such as allowing asylum seekers to work, would have a huge impact on people's lives, whilst at the same time something practical has to be done here in the region to alleviate the distress people are suffering. It really is a case of "Changing Policy ≠ Transforming Lives". 'Living Ghosts' - South West launch is supported by Church leaders throughout the region as well as several MPs. The Bishop of Clifton, Right Reverend Declan Lang said: "As a society we have a moral responsibility to respect the human dignity of all those who seek refuge in this country. I look forward to next Friday's launch to provide some real initiatives on their behalf." As well as hearing from several so-called 'Living Ghosts' participants will also hear from people currently working with them. The launch will be held in the Conference Hall, Council House, College Green, Bristol BS1 5TR on Friday 17 March from 10am to 12pm.
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