'Muswell Hill communities are working together to welcome asylum seekers'

A Refugees Welcome protester

A Refugees Welcome protester - Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

I was recently at a local policing ward panel, and was in conversation with one of the police constables there. He explained to me after the meeting that he had been an asylum seeker in the UK over 20 years ago and the welcome he then received here allowed him to integrate and build a life here.

This individual is a human being, with aspirations to build a life, have a family and contribute.

This should, I feel, describe our approach today to those seeking asylum. They are not threats to anything. They are people who were not able to or not allowed to thrive where they lived, and are looking to build a better future. My religion, Judaism, is built among other values, on compassion. We believe it to be, along with mercy and kindness, bedrock values of who we are. Of course compassion cannot always be unlimited, but we too often think of these limits before we enact our compassion.

Rabbi David Mason

Rabbi David Mason worked with others to welcome asylum seekers to Muswell Hill - Credit: Muswell Hill Synagogue

And so when I heard that the Home Office was placing of asylum seekers locally, I felt a need to act. But more than acting, I felt the need to act with others locally and I was in touch with friends of mine at the local Methodist Church to see if we could work together on welcoming those seeking asylum into our neighbourhood and offer them necessary support while they are here.

This need has flowered into Muswell Hill Welcomes, a project of our two places of worship and now with Wightman Road Mosque to offer meals, English lessons, friendship and more to those who need this. We have been working closely with Haringey Council who have done great work themselves in working with our friends who are seeking asylum. One important area of support has been to offer them immigration legal support to navigate the difficult asylum application system.

Muswell Hill Welcomes has been a wonderful project and a real lesson that in our global world, local solidarity and partnership can do so much and be so important.

Rabbi David Mason is based at Muswell Hill Synagogue.