Comfort and Joy: Donations bring joy to Portsmouth asylum seekers who ‘may receive nothing at Christmas’

Michael Woolley at the 2016 St Mary's Church carol service, which marked the end of the Christmas voucher campaign for the year. Picture: Sarah Standing
Michael Woolley at the 2016 St Mary's Church carol service, which marked the end of the Christmas voucher campaign for the year. Picture: Sarah Standing
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FOR asylum seekers arriving in the UK life can be nothing short of terrifying.

Some touch down on British soil having fled oppressive governments, while others’ homes have been tragically destroyed by conflict.

One of the fantastic causes set to benefit from our 2018 Comfort and Joy campaign – Friends Without Borders – comes to their aid in times of crisis.

Chairman Michael Woolley has fronted the Portsmouth-based initiative since 2015, but it began in 1994 when the Haslar Immigration and Removal Centre existed in Gosport. 

‘Any asylum seeker who has their application to stay in the UK rejected by an immigration officer has the right to appeal and they all do – that can be when they turn to us,’ he said. 

‘They face waiting between six and 12 months before their cases are heard. 

‘Some if they win their cases get homes and jobs in Portsmouth. We are delighted when that happens.

‘But those who don’t are not allowed to work, they are not allowed to drive a car and they are expelled from the UK.’

Many of the people who turn to Friends Without Borders have journeyed from the Middle East and Africa, are often in ‘very desperate circumstances’ and ‘extremely depressed’. 

The group has seen a rise in recent years of ‘destitute’ asylum seekers who simply cannot return to those places for fear of their lives. 

But the body’s 25-strong team of volunteers do all they can to bring balance to visitors in the midst of uncertainty – offering free hair cuts, English tuition and child supervision, among other things. 

As Christmas fast approaches, it is not just those people who give up their time who can make a difference – but the people of Portsmouth too. 

On the impact donating a £5 supermarket gift card to our Comfort and Joy can have, Mr Woolley said: ‘This scheme is terrific because it gives parents a chance to give a present to their children – it gives something to people who may otherwise receive nothing. It is a really wonderful way to show how grateful you are for your own good fortune – and I would say thank you so much to anyone who donates.’ 

Friends Without Borders meet every Monday and Thursday from 10am-1pm at All Saints Church, Commercial Road, Portsmouth.

How you can support our appeal

*Buy a Christmas card and write a message (please do not put your name and address)

*Purchase a supermarket voucher of £5

*Put the gift card into the Christmas card, but do not seal the envelope

*Place in a large envelope (seal this one) and place in a Tesco store post box or send to Deanery office, St Faith’s Church, Crasswell Street, Portsmouth, PO1 1HT