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Rejected & Forgotten ..... but not by Mothers' Union!

Mothers’ Union members Action and Outreach work at the Removal Centre

02 Sep 2019

They are the 'clients' of Tinsley House & Brook House, Gatwick Removal Centre.  They see themselves as prisoners; Imam Zeeshan said, 'You are detainees'.  The titles seem to be so similar, but the reality of life is vastly different.  Prisoners are convicted by a court of law and given a fixed-term sentence while detainees are held at the Removal Centre pending deportation to their country of origin, during which time they may appeal for the removal decision to be rescinded.  This is the Home Office's responsibility and could take months, in the worst cases even years.  Just imagine the mental state this leaves you in:  worry for your family if they live here - will they cope without you?  Will you ever see them again?  Might you, just might you, be granted permission to stay?  The chaplains' door, Christian & Moslem, remains 'open' for a listening ear, counselling and perhaps a prayer.  Some detainees find oblivion in hard drugs which, despite tight security, are brought by visitors, hidden in unmentionable places to avoid detection.

Mothers' Union was invited by the first chaplain to become involved, and we continue to work under the chaplaincy team.  That was 1996 in Tinsley House, when we brought great piles of toiletries for Christmas, wrapped them on the premises and were fed coffee & biscuits by the two security staff whose job was to remove harmful items: razor blades, of course, and roll-on deodorant which could be 'sniffed'.  When these became government-supplied, we moved to stationery until it, too, was deemed unnecessary, so now it's – socks!  Not a very exciting Christmas present, but since Mothers’ Union members tidy the clothing store for the Detainees Welfare Group, we know what is needed.  This includes jogging bottoms, trainers and cotton drawstring bags [14”x16”] for men and families (there are two family flatlets in Tinsley House these days) to keep their personal possessions tidy.

Brook House was opened about eight years ago and for the last four years Mothers’ Union members have attended Sunday worship bi-monthly, initially to preach only, but latterly to lead the whole service.   Detainee numbers have decreased hugely since the 'Windrush' decision and we now have a number of non-English speakers, which is very difficult.  Once, a translator was on hand to help Iranians; more recently an Iraqi listened to Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven, and was able to join in 'Praise him, praise him' by verse 4!  We, and other visitors, provide a link with the world outside; our presence means we are thinking of them.  All detainees & all staff there are just so friendly!  A few are 'not very nice people' but we don't meet them.

You may have ambivalent feelings about detainees, but they are also God's dear children.  Mothers' Union responds to the 2nd Great Commandment; Action & Outreach is what we call it.  Please answer the call for clothes or bags.  If you, or any 'friends of Mothers’ Union' would like to join in Sunday morning worship at Brook House, please get in touch with me. 

Written by Ann Swaine

Sourced from the Chichester link
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