Charles expresses concern for asylum seekers during community centre visit
The Prince of Wales expressed concern and a “need to do something” about the situation of asylum seekers he met at a community centre in west London.
The prince paid a visit to the West London Welcome (WLW) centre near Hammersmith on Thursday, where he was given a tour and spoke with several refugees and asylum seekers who benefit from the centre’s services.
Among those who spoke to the prince was Betul Piyade, a qualified psychotherapist from Turkey who is now seeking asylum in the UK.
Ms Piyade cannot work because she is waiting for her substantive interview for her asylum claim.
When speaking to Charles about her situation, she said that he told her “we need to do something”.
Ms Piyade fled to the UK 19 months ago from Turkey. She said she “didn’t say goodbye” to her mother before leaving her home country, but that they talk once or twice a day on the phone.
Charles also joined an English lesson taking place at the centre, where he spoke with Kudirat, who is seeking asylum after being trafficked to the UK from Nigeria.
She said that she “couldn’t have imagined” she would meet the prince and that she was “so happy” that he visited the centre.
She said that the prince “wanted to know how we feel” and that he asked members how they had come to the country and about their accommodation arrangements.
Kudirat – who only wished to be referred to by her first name – hopes that once she is able to work in the UK, she will get a job in a care home or the NHS, and is studying health and social care at a local college.
The visit to the community centre had been organised after the prince met one of the volunteers from the centre, Aiman Al-Ruwishan, at an event for refugees and asylum seekers at St Luke’s Church in Earls’ Court last year.
The prince’s private secretary said that Charles was “so touched by the story” of Aiman, a surgeon from Aleppo, and “wanted to keep in touch”.
As well as holding English classes several times a week, the centre operates a food bank, organises social activities like gardening and yoga, and serves hot lunches for the community.
The prince later stopped by the kitchen, where he saw the middle-eastern dishes which had been prepared for lunch.
Charles expressed “fascination” about the food but joked about the spiciness of the dishes on offer.
“It’s the chilli bit I worry about!” he said.
At the end of his visit, he was given lavender bags with “Charles” and “Camilla” hand-embroidered on them by one of the members of the centre.
Jo MacInnes, founding director of WLW, expressed hope the royal visit would “raise the profile” of the situation of those who come to the centre.
She said that she hoped that conversations he had during his visit would “pass on the realities” of what it means to be a refugee or asylum seeker in the UK.
She founded the centre four years ago to help Syrian refugees settle in west London, but it has since developed into a thriving social space which focuses on a sense of community and inclusion.