Baroness Wilcox, Heather-Jones, Alison Eddy from Irwin Mitchell
For 9 years Heather has served as the Professional Co-ordinator for the Yarls Wood Befrienders.
This is an organisation of 35 volunteers who visit and befriend Detainees of the Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Centre. These are nearly all Asylum Seekers whose claim has been rejected by the Home Office and are all awaiting removal to their respective countries with varying, but immense amounts of distress around this situation. Sometimes it is possible to help one to obtain appropriate help resulting in release. Heather has spent many years being responsible for recruiting and training the volunteers and supporting them in their 1:1 visiting relationship with the detainees.
Heather has amassed an immense amount of relevant technical knowledge and expertise, which she shares with colleagues and by means of which detainees’ lives are regularly saved by the prevention of removal to deadly circumstances.
Without personal vanity, or a high profile, she has for many years educated the local population and the wider world about the way in which our Asylum system impinges on Detainees.
She is the ‘go to’ expert I her field.
‘Hers is an exceptionally warm and caring personality, which is of incalculable benefit to the detainees’.
‘Some of the ways in which some Asylum Seekers are sometimes treated make many of us literally and most painfully ashamed to be British. Heather and her kindness go some way towards redressing that balance on behalf of all decent people’.
Heather recognises that educating the general public is key to improving the lot of Asylum Seekers. She gives many talks to church groups, local schools and once to the sixth form of Westminster School, because she recognises this is one route to shaping the mind-sets of the senior politicians of the next generation.