Meet and Travel Together aims to reduce stress and anxiety for asylum seekers needing to make their way to Waterside Court in Kirkstall, Leeds, for a Home Office Interview, an asylum case hearing at Phoenix House in Thornbury, Bradford, or a biometric scan at one of the post offices in Leeds. For our service users, these are unknown destinations in an unknown city, using unfamiliar systems of transport. All too often, language creates yet another barrier, and they find themselves lost and unable to ask for help or directions. The day they are about to face already has the potential to be overwhelming, frightening, emotionally charged, and mentally and physically draining. Meeting them at Leeds Rail or Coach Stations, or Bradford Interchange, our volunteers act as guides and travel companions for their journey, providing some relief and moral support. It is also our goal to help familiarize our service users with the public transport system, so we use buses instead of personal cars or taxis.
A small amount of time with a huge amount of meaning
“Thanks so much for being there for me when I felt stuck at the railway station not knowing what to do and time was running out very fast. It made my day so much better”
Mariam arrived in the UK with her husband and three children seeking asylum from a violent and war-torn life. Very soon after arriving, her husband, the only English speaker in the family, then left her and the children to return home. Moved from her arrival point in the South to West Yorkshire then told to move again a few weeks later to the North-East, she was alone in a strange world with three children to tend to. Then she received a letter to come to Leeds for her Home Office Interview. She had never been there before. Where should she go when she got there? How would she reach her destination? And what should she do when she arrived?
A fellow asylum seeker who speaks Mariam’s language and is a volunteer with Meet and Travel Together agreed to meet Mariam at Leeds Rail Station and accompany her to Waterside Court, and was even kind enough to meet her again after the appointment to take her and her children back to the train station. Though they only spent a short time together, our volunteer’s effort greatly allayed Mariam’s fear and anxiety, and helped to keep an eye on her children during the travel.
Coordinator for Meet and Travel Together