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It was an inspiring night the Refugee and Asylum Seekers shared their experiences of struggle and courage just to get to Britain and the fight to find a place in British society.

We heard from men and women who made great sacrifices to get to this country, as one woman painfully remembered by the time her family got to the port, there was only one place left on the boat “so my dad sent me”. Since that day she has not seen her family, with the support of the Red Cross she is looking for them.

There are thousands of stories like this, people risking all to find safety and security. This was one of the aims of the night to show that behind the figures there are real people, if you heard their stories you would welcome them with open arms.

The four brave people who stood up and told their stories. They described events from dangerous border crossings where they could be shot by their own soldiers. Or by the villagers who would inform the soldiers as they need the money from the government in order to survive. To being smuggled across desert for four days without food, so dangerous that people died on this trip. Pointedly they could not stop in order to give these people a dignified burial.

These struggles continued once they arrived to Britain, one man described his detention centre as a prison for people who have done nothing wrong. As Britain is the only country in European Union that has an indefinite time frame to hold Asylum Seekers in centres, we should question this.

Once they do get released allowing them to to live in one of the many cities across the UK. Their support in the city varies largely due to many different factors from communicate between all the different agencies national and local, awareness of local support and their own ability to communicate.

Luckily for Sunderland these Asylum Seekers they have had good experiences building up their lives again despite not knowing where Sunderland was.

In the days before this event after years of struggle some of the speakers have gain their refugee status and now see Britain as there home. As one man said “Sunderland is the city of light”.

We also celebrate the achievements of the local community in supporting the Refugees and Asylum Seekers to fit into our society. Friends of The Drop have supported the new arrivals to the city over the years to enable them to to rebuild their lives and support them through the minefield that is the asylum process.

Sunderland College in particular the hairdressers who are gaining experience they need to be successful the future, but have also supported the Refugees and Asylum Seekers by giving them free hair cuts but most of all giving both an education into different cultures.

South Tyneside Asylum and Refugees Church Help, this award is is for their recognition of their dedication of supporting newcomers to their town.

It cannot be a celebration without fantastic food, we had food from all corners of the globe, which was enjoyed by all and a fantastic way to bring people together.

I will end with this inspiring message from one of our speakers who said:

“Sunderland allowed me to be free and happy.”