Skegness asylum seekers: '‘We’re grateful… and want to work and pay our way’

There were just two choices – ‘get in the boat or die’.

Asylum seekers doing voluntary work in the Storehouse in Skegness.
Asylum seekers doing voluntary work in the Storehouse in Skegness.

Travelling in darkness, the four asylum seekers had walked for days through jungle to reach Turkey before being bundled into a truck and driven to a beach in France where a boat was waiting for them.

"We did not know where we were going but we had no choice,” one of the asylum seekers told Lincolnshire World. “The smugglers had guns and knives and we were told we had two choices – to go or die.”

It is 10 months since the four asylum seekers our newspaper spoke to arrived at a hotel in Skegness – they, too, want to know why it is taking the British Government so long to process their papers.

MP Matt Warman with the Rev David Middleton OSL.

Seeking religious asylum after conversion to Christianity, they consider themselves lucky in that since they arrived they have been able to attend the Storehouse church and do voluntary work converting part of the building into a day centre for the homeless.

We spoke to a builder, an electrical engineer, an operator in a traffic control centre and a mini-market manager.

They showed me the work they had been doing, including laying floors, plastering walls, fitting the kitchen and installing a disabled toilet, washing facilities and shower.

"We are so grateful to be able to have been made welcome by the church and to be able do this as we are not allowed to work, which is what we want,” said one.

The Rev David Middleton in the extension to the Storehouse food bank in Skegness which is being built by the asylum seekers.

"We are good people – we want to work, find our own accommodation, pay rent and give back to the community.

"We are grateful to the British government for the way they have treated us but living in a hotel room for 10 months is not what we want.

"We understand why local people are upset but it is not our fault that we were brought here and have been here so long.”

The men, aged between 30 and 49, were arrested even before they landed in Dover.

Asylum seekers putting finishing touches to the kitchen at the Storehouse Restore Centre.

"There were 22 in our boat including women and children,” their spokesman said. “One of the women was pregnant. We don’t know what happened to them.

"We were treated very well when we arrived but we don’t know where we were taken.

"Before we were brought to Skegness we stayed in a hotel in Nottingham.

"For two months we had no way of contacting our family back home. We did not know whether they were alive or dead – only that they were safer with us gone.”

Three of the men are married with one of them having two children – his son has been shot twice, he said.

"We have to tell you about our life in Iran,” the spokesman continued..

"It is a dictatorship – there is a lot of work but we are hardly paid enough to live.

"We cannot choose our girlfriends, wives or religion.

"When we converted to Christianity we knew if we stayed we would be tortured and killed – they hang you out there.

"One of our friends is still in jail – we have no freedom.

"We left looking for a safe place.”