Croydon residents cheered refugees as they arrived at the Lunar House immigration centre today.
The borough has been thrust into the spotlight following the high profile arrival of unaccompanied minors from Calais’ notorious ‘jungle’ refugee camp.
And controversy erupted this week when press and politicians suggested some looked too old to be children, but churches and public organisation Citizens UK waited outside to ensure the refugees received a generous welcome.
Fr Michael Scanlon of Croydon’s St Mary’s Church said: “The camp is a stain on humanity’s history.
“We had concentration camps in years gone by, and people are losing their lives in Calais as well.
“There was a 14-year-old boy that committed suicide a few weeks ago, just because he couldn’t get over here.”
Volunteers from St Mary’s church and Citizens UK are stationed inside Lunar House to act as responsible adults for the refugees, helping them through the process, and finding foster care if needed.
Croydon resident, Violet Simpson, wanted to show her support having migrated to the UK herself.
She said: “I came here as a child of 15, I felt like a fish out of water, the first day I went to school I was the only black child, and I cried my eyes out, so I can imagine what these children are going through. We need to support them.”
It was Citizens UK that drew up the list of 387 young people eligible to come to the UK, as they had family members here.
One member, Patsy Cummings said: “The work won’t finish until we’ve done our part in terms of what’s happening with this wave of displaced people from Syria.
“We don’t know how long it will take because we don’t know how bad the situation is.”