Supporters step out to highlight plight of refugees

Sanctuary seekers and the Rev Chris Howson set off from Sunderland Minster before scattering petals from the Shields Ferry into the Tyne on the way to the Home Office reporting centre in North Shields.
Sanctuary seekers and the Rev Chris Howson set off from Sunderland Minster before scattering petals from the Shields Ferry into the Tyne on the way to the Home Office reporting centre in North Shields.

Thousands of petals were released in the Tyne to symbolise the hundreds of refugees who have drowned while trying to seek sanctuary.

The colourful petals were cast into the wind by the Rev Chris Howson and a group of sanctuary seekers, plus supporters, on the Shields Ferry yesterday.

We dropped petals to remember those who have perished.

Reverend Chris Howson

The group – including 20 asylum seekers from places such as Eritrea, Libya and Syria – had walked 14 miles from Sunderland Minister to the Home Office reporting centre in North Shields to launch Refugee Week.

Rev Howson said: “The coastal walk symbolises the long journey people have to make to get to a place of safety, many fleeing from war and fear of death.

“The last leg of the journey involved the crossing of the Tyne, and this year recalls the plight of tens of thousands of people who risk death crossing the Mediterranean to escape persecution in Syria, Eritrea and Libya.”

During the first five months of 2015, it’s believed that 1,800 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean between Italy and Libya. Deaths have declined in recent weeks due to the involvement of several European navies sending ships to bolster rescue efforts.

Rev Howson said: “We dropped the petals in the Tyne to remember the people who have perished looking for safety in Europe.

“Refugee Week is a chance to give thanks for the gifts that people bring to our region, but also a chance to reflect on the horrors of what they are fleeing from.”

As part of Refugee Week stories of sanctuary can be heard on Wednesday, from 5pm to 7pm at St Mary’s Parish Hall in Sunderland.