Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Celebrating Thousands of Miles from Home

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Celebrating Thousands of Miles from Home

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan O'Donoghue Reporter

THOUSANDS of miles from home and in fear of persecution or death, asylum seekers and refugees from all corners of the globe find comfort in the North East each Christmas.

Those displaced by war, political oppression or threats of violence often spend the festive period alone and without their loved ones, but on Tyneside hundreds find hope with Newcastle-based charity The Action Foundation.

The foundation, based at The CastleGate, runs centres in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland for refugees and asylum seekers, offering support with English classes and living expenses as well as helping to overcome any trauma they may have experienced.

The charity's end of year party held at the Turbine Hall is a chance for volunteers and refugees to come together, unwind and get into the festive spirit.

At this year's bash charity chief executive Julian Prior, who has been with the foundation since it was established in 2006, thanked volunteers for their hard work over the past year. Earlier this month the foundation became one of only five charities nationally to win an award worth PS3,000 from The Guardian for its work in the community.

To highlight the impact that the charity has on people's lives, Julian picked out the case of a Syrian Kurd who fled his homeland and ended up on the streets of Newcastle. The man, renamed Espar to protect his identity, fled Syria two years ago after being threatened because of his Gypsy heritage.

Espar journeyed to the UK in the back of a lorry from Turkey and handed himself in to the authorities in a bid to claim asylum.

His claim failed and Espar's support was rescinded, forcing him to sofa hop and, on occasions, sleep rough on the streets of Newcastle.

It was then that the Action Housing branch of the foundation was contacted and when they first met Espar he had been homeless for almost a year and half.

Action Housing was able to house Espar and provide a point of reference, security and warmth whilst he struggled to make a fresh claim for asylum with the help of a solicitor. Espar was housed with one of his closest friends which ensured there was valuable mutual support and counsel for the pair. …

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