A family from Walton-le-Dale are opening their home to an asylum seeker
It was the year that the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying face down on a sandy beach in Turkey woke the world up to the Syrian refugee crisis.
One million refugees had reached Europe in 2015 alone.
In Greece thousands of refugees were arriving on a daily basis.
And in Lancashire one couple, whose younger son Nathan was also three at the time, knew they had to do something to help.
Sharon and her husband Edward Xuereb, both 40, who, with their two sons Nathan, now five, and Jake, eight, live in Walton-le-Dale, were horrified by what they were seeing on the news.
The couple, who are of Maltese origin, had heard about an organisation which works with destitute asylum seekers, the Boaz Trust, through their church in Preston, All Saints.
Sharon said: “We were in touch with them to host a refugee but nothing ever came of it.
“But then, a few weeks ago the Boaz Trust got in touch again and told us about Refugees at Home, a charity which connects hosts with asylum seekers and refugees who need a place to stay.”
The Xuerebs have now signed up to Refugees at Home which means that a refugee or asylum seeker can be placed with them at any given time.
“These people have nothing and we have quite a bit and we are convinced that we want to help,” said Sharon, who works in the family business Progrex IT Solutions, run by her husband Edward. “We have so much compared to them that we want to help in this way.
“We have room and Edward and I both work from home so it’s a pretty straightforward way for us to help.
“I think a rich country like ours can do much more. In 2015 the Government said they would only take in 20,000 refugees over five years.
“For a rich country like ours to be so tight in what we are ready to give to people who are absolutely desperate in that way I think is hard to stomach – that has spurred us on.
“As Christians, we also feel that all that we have got, God has given to us, so we feel that it’s not ours to hoard, it’s ours to share and we wanted to share it in this way.”
The Xuerebs almost took on a refugee from Pakistan in July but before he moved in with them he opted to go back home because of family issues. He now lives in a different part of Pakistan.
Sharon and Edward could take on an asylum seeker at any point in the claim process.
“It could be anytime from when they first land in the country until the authorities decide whether they can stay or not,” said Sharon.
“They might stay with us for any part of the process from when they land in the country. It depends on need.
“There are hosts and guests. No money exchanges hands. It’s all voluntary.
“You support them as much as you can, so maybe with their medical needs or get them signed up with a GP for example and you advocate for them, especially if they have language needs.
“I imagine it would be really important to help settle them within a community. We will probably pay their bus fares.
“There’s also weekly drop in sessions at St Cuthberts Church in Fulwood every Thursday so that refugees can meet and have English classes.
“I think when they are confirmed as refugees they can work.”
As well as hosting an asylum seeker Sharon and Edward have bought a property they plan on letting to Refugees at Home at a rate which will allow them to cover the costs.
With background in a psychology Sharon has also volunteered her services doing home visits for people who are also considering hosting a refugee at home.
She said: “I’m offering to do that myself as I have experience in home visits. It’s to check that people are doing it for the right reasons.”
The Syrian civil war is now in its eighth year and despite international agreements for de-escalation fighting continues.
The difference between asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants, according to Amnesty:
An asylum seeker is an individual who is seeking international protection.
In countries with individualised procedures, an asylum seeker is someone whose claim has not yet been finally decided on by the country in which he or she has submitted it.
Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.
A refugee is a person who has fled their country of origin and is unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
An economic migrant is someone who leaves his or her country of origin purely for financial or economic reasons.
Economic migrants choose to move in order to find a better life and they do not flee because of persecution.
Therefore they do not fall within the criteria for refugee status and are not entitled to receive international protection.