Selfless Margaret recognised in Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for support for asylum seekers

Margaret Gregg from East Boldon said she “didn’t believe it at first” after being informed she was receiving a British Empire Medal as part of the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

Margaret, 80, has received the prestigious accolade for her services to asylum seekers and refugees.

She said: “I got a letter from the Cabinet a few weeks ago. I have a friend who was previously part of the Queen’s Honours List and so I knew what it was but I just didn’t believe it.”

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Dedicated Margaret has spent the last 20 years since her retirement, carrying out voluntary support work from the centre’s base at South Tyneside Asylum Seeker And Refugee Church Help in Laygate, South Shields.

The former nurse helped to establish the centre which provides practical and emotional support to asylum seekers and refugees. This includes providing language interpretation and English lessons as well as help integrating into local communities.

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The centre also provides families with financial support along with second-hand household goods, clothing and help with food bank access where needed.

Margaret said: “I am so passionate about what we do. Refugees get a lot of bad press but these people have been through so much, many of them fleeing war and persecution. The situation has only increased recently with what is happening in Afghanistan.

Margaret Gregg, 80, with her letter from the Cabinet Office informing her of the BME awarded to her in this year's New Year's Queens Honours List.

"Everyone in our community has generally been supportive of our refugees and asylum seekers and made them feel very welcome.”

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It’s a passion which has led to Margaret fighting the cause of asylum seekers with both local and national politicians. Margaret is upset by the recent scenes of people boarding overcrowded inflatable boats in a desperate bid to cross the English Channel to seek asylum.

She said: “It’s very sad to see and we need to do more. All these people want is a safe place of refuge.”

Even with the onset of the Covid pandemic, and despite having to shield, Margaret continued to support refugees by making home visits, delivering food parcels or donated clothes, organising the transport of furniture and helping new arrivals settle in by explaining how to register with doctors or finding local schools or colleges.

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She is now looking forward to receiving her medal in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

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