Refugee Tales in Sussex - Calling for a future without immigration detention
For the past eight years, Refugee Tales walkers have been embarking on walks in solidarity with refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and people who have been held in immigration detention. It has been met with kindness and hospitality every step of the way.
Working in collaboration with migrants and those who have experienced the UK asylum system - and taking Chaucer’s great poem of journeying as a model - established writers and people with lived experience of detention share their tales with local communities at evening events, also enjoying live performances from renowned musicians.
Many people across the diocese took part in the Refugee Tales walk in 2019, including the former Bishop of Lewes, Richard Jackson, now the Diocesan Bishop of Hereford.
This year, the Priest-in-Charge of St John the Evangelist in Brighton, Emma Ham-Riche, invited the group to stay overnight in the church and halls as they journeyed from Three Bridges to Worthing over a five-day period.
The walkers arrived at St John’s on day 3, having walked from Burgess Hill. They enjoyed an evening meal prepared by volunteers before connecting with the local community for a Refugee Tales evening event of readings and stories as well as performances from musicians.
The walkers and volunteers and many other guests were joined by their host, Enver Solomon, the CEO of the Refugee Council and a passionate advocate for social justice.
“The event was well attended. “Everyone enjoyed a great line-up of speakers and musicians, including a moving tale from Guy Gunaratne, as told to him by someone who has lived experience of detention. There was even dancing in the aisles to end the evening," said Emma.
"It is really humbling to stand in solidarity with those who have been detained by hosting this event, as well as offering the walkers overnight accommodation. The size and location of the church, together with its two church halls, is such a gift to me and one that I'm keen to share with others. When we welcome the stranger, we welcome Jesus, and what better way to do this than by opening the doors and hosting such an event."
Emma joined the group on their walk to Fishersgate on day 4 of their journey.She said,: "Over 100 people from many countries across the world, of all faiths and none, walked from Devil's Dyke to Fishersgate, talking and raising awareness about those detained in immigration centres and those who work with them. A love of walking and a desire for justice inspired many who walked that day."
The tales that are told at the evening events are published in four volumes by Comma Press. Some have been written collaboratively with authors such as Ali Smith, Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, Kamila Shamsie, Patrick Gale, and Bernardine Evaristo. Others are first-hand accounts told directly by the people who experienced them.
In sharing these stories, Refugee Tales gathers and communicates experiences of migration, seeking to show the reality of immigration detention.
Every step counts - How to become a friend of Refugee Tales