Bristol: 'living ghosts' tell their stories

 Over a hundred people came to Bristol's Council House for the launch of a major campaign on their behalf in the South West of England, where the 'Living Ghosts' had a chance to tell their stories. The launch was organised by 'Living Ghosts - South West', a coalition of churches, asylum projects and individuals throughout the region which is coordinated by the Clifton Diocese Justice and Peace Commission and David Maggs of the Churches Council for Industry and Social Responsibility. It aims not only to provide practical help but also to change government policies that make refused asylum seekers destitute. 'Living Ghosts' refers to a specific group of asylum seekers, who are refused asylum but for various reasons are unable to return home. No longer eligible for benefits and unable to work, they are left destitute without any food, shelter, money and often hope. Several participants admitted afterwards that they had been moved to tears by what they had heard. One of the 'Living Ghosts' described how she fled her country after her husband was killed but had to leave her children behind: "I was living a well-balanced life with my husband and three adorable children," she said, "I had a fulfilling profession. I had parents who were proud of me and who would have done anything to keep me at their side. Now I have the grief of knowing my husband has been shot dead and the grief of separation from my children." All the people's stories described the shock of being refused asylum and the shock of what it was like to be destitute. An elderly couple, whose friends take them in for a week or two at a time, spoke of the burden they feel they place on them, as these families, even though living in cramped conditions themselves, have still opened their doors to them. Without such generosity they do not know how they would have survived the past year. As someone else said: "Just imagine how painful it is to find yourself in this shameful position in which you are left powerless, frustrated, reduced to nothing - marginalised". Hoping that the launch might lead to positive action, participants heard of a similar initiative in Plymouth over the past year who were willing to share their experience and in Bristol of 'Holding Refugees and Human Rights in Mind', a new venture planned for later this year. The morning ended with a heartfelt plea by ITV West presenter Sherrie Eugene, who spoke of how she had come to be the friend of a number of 'Living Ghosts' and be touched by their stories. Contrasting this with the present situation which says to people "We can't deliver your baby because you're not recognised as a human being, we can't give you anywhere to live because you don't exist, we can't give you food, money or even food vouchers because you are invisible, you are a living ghost, we care but we can't help you", Ms Eugene urged everyone who can make a difference to the plight of 'Living Ghosts' to use their power to do so. Source: Clifton Diocese

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