Children constitute more than half of the current refugee population and it is their plight that featured in the premiere event.
The film, The Forgotten Children, follows the heartrending journeys of refugee orphans. It goes behind closed doors to hear the stories of children such as Omar, aged 11, whose parents died in freezing conditions as they attempted to cross the Turkish-Bulgarian border into Europe. Omar is one of the estimated 90,000 refugee children in Europe who have lost their parents whilst fleeing persecution, leaving them vulnerable to police brutality, sexual exploitation and trafficking gangs.
Charity representatives, volunteers and artists in Thornton Heath involved in efforts to provide a safe haven for refugees participated in the evening.
The Bishop of Croydon Jonathon Clark, who is active in work to help asylum seekers in the UK, urged the packed audience at Scratchley Hall to not avert their gaze, saying: “It is a measure of our humanity whether we can engage with those in need.”
Organiser Andrew Cleyndert, explained the initial impetus for the event was seeing the Sky News piece ‘Immigration Street’ about Brigstock House which ‘shocked’ him as it was such a nasty piece of journalism.
“I just wanted to bring a more open discussion and highlight many facets of what lies behind Brigstock House and its residents,” said Andrew.
Croydon currently houses around 400 child asylum seekers, which is a tiny fraction of the orphan refugee population yet a higher than most local authorities.
A 17-year-old from Afghanistan, who wishes to remain anonymous and has lived in Thornton Heath for three years, said: “This is a place that I feel safe and I would love to build my life here. I do like many people here who make me feel welcome but it is hard being on your own and so far away from home but some people are not so friendly. I wish they understood more about why we are here and how hard it can be. I would love more chances to work and show that I want to give something”.