Migrant voices and compassion

17 June 2024

To mark Refugee Week, we hear from migrants, staff and volunteers at Trinity Safe Space, a community of asylum seekers based at two Methodist churches, one in Widnes and the other in nearby Runcorn.

My life was in danger in West Africa, I was involved in a union and campaigned for better conditions for workers. I received death threats from powerful people and the only way to keep my family safe was for me to leave my home and my disabled son. It broke my heart. I still can’t sleep at night, I can’t work here and I can’t help my family. The people here are welcoming but the authorities treat us like animals and liars. I do not drink, I am not a criminal, I am here out of fear. I just want to be given a chance and to be reunited with my family.

At Trinity Methodist Widnes, Safe Space welcomes around 50 asylum seekers each Monday offering advice on their asylum claims, housing and education along with practical help such as clothes and food. Across the Mersey, Halton Trinity Methodist Church offers basic English lessons and cultural orientation for those new to the UK.


Like many of those who work and volunteer at Safe Space, Deacon Tim Coleman has been with the project since the beginning in 2019 when the local authority reached out to faith groups for help supporting new people arriving in the town. “The housing here is relatively cheap when compared with the south, making it a financially practical place to house newcomers. We only see a fraction of those migrants who live in the area. There are probably around a thousand more living locally, many of them who may be vulnerable and in need of support.”

Saeed came from Iran where he is an accredited architect. "Two years ago I had to run from Iran when I changed my religion from Islam to Christianity and I was threatened with execution. This centre is my only hope. Here the staff do everything they can, helping us with our food and mental health."

Trinity Safe Space offers its guests more than food and professional support with their asylum claims. They work to make the lives of all migrants better and campaign for their welfare. Pauline Ruth is chair of trustees for Trinity Safe Space, “We want to help everyone but obviously we can’t, so instead we take up issues to try and make things better. We sign petitions and work alongside other refugee charities to feed back our experiences of how people are being treated. Sadly, this is often not very well.


“Many have been traumatised by what has happened in their own country and during their journey here so their mental health can be at rock bottom. I have been handing out advice cards to people who are worried about being sent to Rwanda.”

“Migration is a global issue but in the UK these people are looked upon as a problem,” continues Pauline. “People want to come here as they see it as better than where they have come from, regardless of the hostile welcome. There needs to be an international response. People smuggling is an issue but we need to consider how we provide a safe passage.”

Abdul is from the Sudan. "There is conflict in my home city, Darfur in the Sudan. From when I was 7 I lived in a refugee camp so I never experienced a normal childhood. There was nowhere to play and sometimes there was gunfire. When I was 15 the militia made the camp unsafe so I left. I crossed the Mediterranean and the English Channel. It is not safe, I knew that there was a risk I might not make it but I accepted that."

Yvonne Hedgecock is one of the volunteers as well as being a trustee of Trinity Safe Space. She does the shopping on behalf of the centre, buying food and clothes. “A lot of people arrive here with only the clothes they have travelled in. We are called by God to help one another and I have been left frustrated at how difficult it is for people to get help leaving them floundering”.

Safe Space offers its clients more than support, it also helps bridge the space between the migrants and the local community. Shaun works with Digital Arts Box who come to Safe Space to deliver therapeutic arts, “We invite newcomer families and the local established community to come together. This is important as there is poverty here and the migrants are easy to blame.”

Another way Trinity Safe Space helps people is with English lessons, with an average of 20 people attending each week. “These lessons are so important in helping people settle here”, says Deacon Tim. “From finding work, to seeing a doctor, language is a barrier they need to overcome. The main hotel where the migrants live is about two miles away but even when it is pouring with rain, they walk to us.”

Ali is a medical graduate from Iraq. "The war with ISIS was very bad. My family had death threats for saying what we thought was wrong. People were being killed on the street for smoking or listening to music. I came here because I know the language and we know that the UK has a great tradition of taking care of refugees and I would be welcomed here. I want to be part of UK society and hope to be able to continue my medical training to become a GP."

“God is definitely here,” says the chair of trustees, Pauline. “We have been able to find accommodation for some and jobs for others but it is the love that is just as important.”

Deacon Tim says that it is the building of friendships and trust that makes a difference to the lives of the new comers. “I gave a lady a pan and she was over the moon. You’d think I’d given her the crown jewels but this second-hand pan meant making her own food using her own ingredients and that had the most amazing impact on her.

“I am conscious that every smile, handshake and greeting here reflects God’s love for humanity.”

In 2023, the Methodist Church recommitted to being a Justice-Seeking Church. One of its five priorities is seeking justice for refugees. Nationally, it campaigns for fairer and more compassionate asylum policies as part of the Joint Public Issues Team: Asylum and Migration – Joint Public Issues Team (jpit.uk)