BY Ryan McDougall | December 13 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Holy Family’s plight linked to Scottish asylum seeker bus-pass scheme

Church donates £5,000 to assist pregnant mothers seeking sanctuary

The Catholic Church has donated a four-figure sum this Christmas to a scheme, which will assist asylum-seeker women who are heavily pregnant with free travel for 10 weeks, allowing them have better access to vital facilities and appointments.

Bishop William Nolan of Galloway Diocese, the Bishop President for Justice and Peace Scotland, has said that the donation to the ‘Bump and Baby Bus Pass’ provides connections to the Holy Family and allows us to consider ‘the plight of another young mother fleeing persecution,’ and hopes that the gift will ‘make the lives of mothers in difficulty just a little easier.’

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has donated £5,000 to the Refugee Survival Trust’s (RST) Bump and Baby Bus Pass initiative.

The Bump and Baby Bus Pass has been running since February this year, and the RST has so far been able to provide 10-week bus passes to 65 female refugees who were either pregnant or had young babies.

Mothers in difficulty

With the support of the Church, the organisation will be able to fund a further 42 passes at £119 each, giving the women a platform to attend health appointments, foodbanks, alleviate the strain of walking long distances while pregnant, and to help them access support networks.

Justice and Peace Scotland were instrumental in facilitating the grant.

Bishop Nolan explained that, during Advent, the struggles faced by the women have similarities to that of baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

He said: “The Scottish bishops are delighted to support the ‘Bump and Baby Bus Passes’ scheme which assists asylum-seeker women who are pregnant or have recently had a baby.

“As the season of Advent continues, we might consider the plight of another young mother fleeing persecution, looking for sanctuary and safety for herself, her husband and her child.

“We celebrate the fact that, that family found shelter and that child brought hope to the world, as we hope that this scheme will make the lives   of mothers in difficulty just a little easier.”

The passes can be given out up to seven weeks before or after birth. So far, the RST has given them to women from 22 countries, of which 44 were single mums and five were homeless.

A real lifeline

A Glasgow priest who regularly assists asylum-seeker families, who face deportation threats and uncertainty, has welcomed the donation to the scheme.

Fr John McGrath, parish priest of St Aloysius’ Church, Springburn, said: “It’s not such a leap of the imagination to picture what the Holy family went through. When we see families coming to us, hopeless and passed from pillar to post, we realise that maybe we’re the only friendly faces they meet when they come here.

“One of the difficult things refugees have got to deal with is quite often they have to meet lawyers at opposite ends of the city, which is very difficult because they’ve got to take their children with them, so this is a real lifeline for them that could greatly help them. It also shows them that people here care about them.”

A St Andrews & Edinburgh priest confirmed his archdiocese also plans to support the RST.

Archdiocesan support

Fr Basil Clark, archdiocesan vicar episcopal for Caritas, Justice and Peace, spoke of a recent pastoral council meeting, where an RST trustee told of the issues faced by refugee mothers, which led to the archdiocese’s plan to donate a further £5,000 to the RST in future — meaning the Church in Scotland will have donated a total of £10,000, funding 84 bus passes.

Fr Clark said: “Consequently, our World Day of the Poor appeal also aims to support the RST. Our Archdiocese will therefore seek to match the support being offered by the Bishops’ Conference. We are really delighted to follow our bishops’ lead in this matter. Life is always stronger than death and it’s wonderful to see the confidence of families, even when surrounded by all the uncertainties they face, making a choice for love, life and the next generation.”

The RST have worked in Scotland for 23 years, supporting refugees and asylum seekers living in destitution. Cath McGee, RST’s DASS (Destitute Asylum Seeker Service) manager, thanked the Church for its donation.

Bishops’ backing

She added: “For many years, both the Bishops’ Conference and Justice and Peace Scotland have supported the RST’s work to ensure that all refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland receive just and respectful treatment and support appropriate to their needs.

“We are very grateful that the Bishops’ Conference has recognised the importance of the Bumps and Babies Bus Pass scheme and has enabled RST to work with more women over the next year.”

Speaking of the hardships faced by the refugee women, she continued: “Women seeking asylum in the UK do not have their family around them to provide support at this crucial time in their lives. It’s important for them to keep in touch with any support networks they do have — often friends, professionals or volunteers — so they don’t become isolated.

“Like all asylum seekers in the UK, pregnant women and new mothers are living on an extremely low income, making regular bus travel impossible.

“The bus pass provides additional support so that mothers don’t have to spend the small income they have on bus travel.”

To donate to the RST, visit: https://localgiving.org/appeal/Bumps2Babies/

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