Today, as so often people do, a group of four women met for coffee. We sat in our regular, local cafe and over food and coffee, we chatted. But our conversation was far from the kind of conversation you’d expect to overhear in this situation. We talked about lawyers, about detention, about staying strong, and about our fears for the future.
Two of us were British, and two Albanian. Two of us own British passports – a sense of belonging and security which until now I had completely taken for granted – and two own lots of official letters from the British authorities telling them that they are unwelcome here, that they should go home. The truth is, they have no home, not yet. And the closest they have to that is a high street coffee shop with friends, pretending to be just like any other group of women meeting for coffee.
I hadn’t met the other Albanian lady before. She is a young mother of a young baby; a gorgeous healthy girl with big blue eyes and a cheeky giggle. She took to her mother’s breast when she was hungry, and enjoyed cuddles with me when she was full. It felt so normal. And in between burps and jigging we heard glimpses of her time in the UK; her time at Yarls Wood detention centre when the authorities were trying to establish who she was and where she had come from, the woman she lived with in shared accommodation who was so high on drugs that she pushed her, eight months pregnant, down the stairs. And the invaluable support she has received from the City of Sanctuary maternity group who provide peer groups, clothes and nappies for many women in our city in this situation. And in between it all, she is being a good friend to Anita, the fourth lady around the table. Anita who is at the centre of this crazy storm that is brewing again, when really the energy she exudes should be being harnessed for all the good that she brings and can give to those around her.
Today she was positive, bright, able to smile, grateful for the support. The petition is doing its job in keeping us all focussed on fighting for justice, and the more signatures, the more it strengthens us.
But to have it’s true impact that it needs to; to capture the attention of Teresa May, we need many many more. Please do all you can to encourage the people in your networks to sign. The link is here.
And in the meantime, back to our ladies who met for coffee today. The four of us from very different places, without much in common to start with, but for that hour, were able to participate in a cafe society that most of us reading this take for granted daily, but for many in our city, in our world, is a treat and a privilege they rarely get to enjoy.