Carols to celebrate South London Citizens’ welcome to refugees

At noon today, Catholic composer Bernadette Farrell will lead carols to celebrate the opening of a new ‘Welcome Centre’ at the headquarters of the UK Border Agency in Croydon. Lunar House is at the front line of Britain’s immigration service and the new centre was set up after the Lunar House Enquiry, launched at South London Citizens 2004 Autumn Assembly, led to substantial reforms at the UK’s primary reporting centre. As well as a new purpose-built centre, South London Citizens volunteers now offer free refreshments and practical support to those seeking sanctuary who are waiting for their interviews.

As well as being one of the UK’s leading liturgical composers, Bernadette Farrell is the Lead Organiser for South London Citizens.  In 2005, a report by the South London Citizens enquiry into service provision by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate found: "It was perceived that minimum standards of comfort afforded to British citizens do not apply to migrants waiting for services at Lunar House. Areas of immediate concern include the quality of facilities for applicants, the quality and fairness of transactions, the quality of IT and record keeping and the working conditions of staff." The new covered ‘Welcome Centre’, recommended by South London Citizens, has been built with their full involvement in the architect’s plans. The new building has climate-controlled heating, seating, reception, and clear signs. Both those seeking sanctuary or applying for visas enter at the front of the building in contrast to the terrible conditions they used to face before, such as having to stand outside in the cold or rain.

Bishop Charles Henderson of Southwark was Co-Chair of the Lunar House Enquiry. Some of the original Commissioners will be there on Monday, including Canon Prof Nicholas Sagovsky from Westminster Abbey.  A plaque will be installed in memory of Mary Apragas, a Tamil mother from St Dominic’s parish in Croydon, whose story sparked the campaign. Mary’s young daughter will unveil it at the ceremony. It is sculpted by Tom Waugh, Evelyn Waugh’s great grandson, who worked on the restoration of St Martin in the Fields. It says simply: Mary Apragas, 2004, Voice of Courage.

Share this story