Martin McAnaney SM, Don Flynn and Mark Scott speaking at the Central London reception held by the Friends of Notre Dame de France Refugee Centre

Martin McAnaney SM, Don Flynn and Mark Scott speaking at the Central London reception held by the Friends of Notre Dame de France Refugee Centre

On Friday 26th February, nearly a hundred people gathered in central London to learn more about the work of the Notre Dame Refugee Centre and listen to experts on refugee and asylum issues.  NDRC is an independent refugee and asylum organization offering welcome, support, training and advice. It is associated with Notre Dame de France Church, the French Catholic Church, just off Leicester Square.

The panel of speakers was introduced by Martin McAnaney SM, the Marist Provincial for Europe and Chair of the Centre’s trustees.  “There is so much fear around,” he said, “so many myths and scare stories, and such a lack of balanced, responsible, compassionate conversation. We have come to realise that we are a forum for such conversations, as well as doing our core job of supporting individuals and families.”

Don Flynn is the director of Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN), a network of civil society organisations working to support the rights of migrants. He helped found MRN after 30 years’ work on migration issues in law centres and as a policy officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and an immigration caseworker in London. Don says: “This is a crisis of policy, not a crisis of people. … Now we need to join in the bigger picture. The experience of organizations like this need to be projected into the public arena.”

Mark Scott is a solicitor with the law firm Bhatt Murphy, which specialises in immigration law.  Mark has successfully  represented unaccompanied children and vulnerable young adults living in the Jungle camp in Calais, and along with Citizens UK, has enabled them to join families living in the UK. Mark says, “We can’t go on going to court, just in order to make points about existing laws: governments need to take responsibility for enabling them to be implemented.”

John Walsh is a barrister specialising in immigration and asylum law at Doughty Street chambers, and appearing frequently before the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the Upper Tribunal and First-Tier Tribunal in all areas of immigration law, including refugee, human rights, family, EEA, student, points-based system, and deportation cases.  John is a trustee of Notre Dame Refugee Centre.  John says: “We don’t need new laws, we need a sense of history, of the historical context in which these things are taking place, and an accurate interpretation of existing laws.”

Sarah Hughes is Director of the Notre Dame Refugee Centre. ‘This evening has demonstrated how many people are deeply committed to achieving respect and dignity for refugees and asylum seekers in London’ she said. ‘Our Centre has vital evidence to bring to the table and we are exploring new ways of doing this’

Members of the Art Group and some of their work, with trainer Allegra ...

Members of the Art Group and some of their work, with trainer Allegra …