“I’ve discovered friendship, resilience, good humour and triumph over adversity”


“I’ve discovered friendship, resilience, good humour and triumph over adversity”

A new visitor to those in Detention, shares their questions and concerns with us

03 November 2023

“I’ve discovered friendship, resilience, good humour and triumph over adversity”

It is a privilege to be a JRS social visitor at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook centres: to be able to share in the frustrations, fears and hopes of some of the people there. I have learnt about the isolation, the feelings of hopelessness, of having no control over timescales for lifechanging decisions, the difficulty of getting legal representation, the absence of family and friends. I’ve also discovered friendship, resilience, good humour and triumph over adversity. In recent months I have enjoyed discussions about family and friends, the nature of good leadership, religious faith, the bible, life beyond detention centres and much more.  Many of the things I have heard in discussion, I have no answers to. Here are some of them.

The frustrations

‘It is hard to understand what is being said in meetings and court hearings when you can’t speak English well. Translators are not always clear.’

‘Why can’t you help me with my casework? What are you here for?’

‘I’m sorry can we please reschedule. I need to run around and get my report sent to my bail representative.  One of the major frustrations of this place is you think things are done only to be let down in the 11th hour.’

‘It is summer outside and it is cold in here – the air conditioner is on all the time indoors; it is set at too low a temperature and not even the staff can change it.’

‘I need to send some money home and the staff here can’t help me.’


The sadness

‘He can’t see you today.  He doesn’t want to leave his room.’

‘I’ve worked all my life and not being able to work makes me feel useless.  I need to provide for my people.’

‘It will be tough if the bail hearing doesn’t go well. I’m trying hard not to build my hopes up too much until I have a definite decision about bail.’

‘I’m worried I might be deported.’

‘I had settled immigration status. I’m now under threat of deportation after I spent some time in prison.  I’ve been taken hundreds of miles away from home and detained for an indeterminate period.  Prison was easier than this because you knew when the end date was coming. Not knowing how long I will be here, or if I am to be deported is the hardest thing.’

‘The sudden death of my mother last week has knocked me for six.  I’ve had good support from some of my friends and staff here.  They helped me prepare emotionally for her funeral which I was able to see by video link. It was good to hear from a distance all the fine things said of her but I’m mourning the loss of my future with her.’


The joy

‘I read some of the Psalms every day.  They help me to give thanks and praise to God. Reading the bible is an essential part of my life. Which verses are you going to read for our next meeting?’

‘Chaplains come from outside to provide services for us.  Wouldn’t it be good if people outside came in to hear us preach to them?’

‘I’ve been released my brother.  God is so good. I’m on the train heading home.’

‘It is great to be free, to just go out for a walk. I need to find a church.’

‘Stay blessed.’


I’ve discovered I don’t need to know all the answers to be able to listen to and accompany such good people.

In solidarity and in prayer,


Martin is a new Social Visitor, volunteering with our Detention Outreach team.

[Back to the blog]


Jesuit Refugee Service UK
The Hurtado Jesuit Centre
2 Chandler Street, London E1W 2QT

020 7488 7310

Subscribe to our newsletter


Follow Us