Last week was a powerful reminder that, in the words of Jo Cox, “we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”. Little Amal arrived in the North West to an overwhelming welcome. A 3.5 metre tall puppet of a nine year-old girl, she has walked 5,000 miles from Syria to bring attention to the journeys of children seeking safety from conflict and persecution. These journeys are very familiar to the 200 children we support at Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit who are in the North West of England on their own seeking asylum.

In the words of the organisers,  Little Amal “will walk for all the children – many unaccompanied and separated from their families – who are forced to undertake extraordinary journeys under life-threatening conditions. Little Amal will walk so that we don’t forget them.” 

Hundreds of people turned out in Halloween storms in Wigan to meet her, including Andy Burnham. He told her: “You will not find more warm, or more welcoming people, anywhere in the world” than in Greater Manchester.

In Rochdale the streets were packed as council and community leaders welcomed her:

Her arrival in Manchester represented her homecoming to a place of sanctuary.  And members of our All4One youth group joined thousands of people to welcome her home, chanting “Refugees are welcome here!”
This is the spirit of warmth and open heartedness that characterises our region.

We step up to help each other in times of need and we welcome our refugee neighbours. We’ve seen this again and again – most recently in the public response to the crisis in Afghanistan since the summer. Charities have been inundated with donations, and people have been signing up as volunteers to host people in their homes. 

This people-centred response in the North West is at complete odds with actions in Westminster. Priti Patel is currently trying to push an #AntiRefugeeBill through parliament. The Nationality and Borders Bill threatens to tear up the UK’s refugee system. It would mean children like Little Amal – and children like those we currently support – could face a very different future in the UK.

If you’ve got special memories of meeting Little Amal please share them with us on our social media, and email this briefing to your MP explaining why children like Little Amal need protecting from the Nationality and Borders Bill.

In the words of the amazing choir from Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST Manchester) – we are here, yes we are.