Tom Hackett walks with asylum seekers
As I approached the quiet village of Merstham in Surrey, normally disturbed only by the sound of the M25, I expected to hear more of a crowd. I was there for the start of the Refugee Tales summer walk, bringing together refugees, asylum seekers and supporters for five days of hiking, to stand in solidarity with those facing indefinite immigration detention in the UK. The UK is the only country in western Europe that detains people indefinitely in connection with immigration with no maximum time limit. Refugee Tales campaigns for an end to this.
I was somewhat taken aback by the silence as the group tends to be full of energetic, welcoming voices representing nationalities and cultures from across the globe. I feared I had missed the start of the walk but when I turned the corner I began to hear the familiar sounds of a large group immersed in excited conversation, and my friends were glad to see me as I approached the railway station. Together we were setting off on a journey of 55 miles to Winchester.
On day one, we walked from Merstham to Dorking, travelling up and down the hilly pathways of the North Downs Way. Our stopover that night was in Dorking United Reformed Church. As we made our way across the hilltops we admired the panoramic views below us, looking southwards across expanses of green fields and trees. But in the distance we also glimpsed an unpleasant reminder of why we were walking. Gatwick Airport’s runway cut across the landscape like a harsh grey scar…
Tom Hackett is Children’s and Youth Development Officer for the URC’s Southern Synod
This is an extract from an article published in the September 2022 edition of Reform