11 December 2019, The Tablet

Advent Meditation: Waiting without end

Advent Meditation: Waiting without end

This week’s readings are for those exhausted by waiting. With the eyes of faith we can see that the God of consolation is here already

The men wander into the welfare room, wearing tracksuit bottoms, socks and pool sliders. They congregate in small groups near the photocopier, or wait, documents in hand, for the welfare officer. Some ask us which organisation we are from. They want legal advice: we are not the ones they have been waiting for.

A few come and talk to us anyway, glad to see someone new. One man asks us which countries we have visited, and keeps up a cheery banter about where he will go when he gets a passport. Now and again, he passes his hand over his face, and his expression changes to a deep weariness.

His existence in immigration detention is an exile within an exile. The men here are already hundreds of miles from home – Iraq, Eritrea, Iran – and have arrived in the United Kingdom to start a new life. A few of the ones we speak to have lived here for years already, and have settled with partners and young children. And from that settled exile, they have been uprooted again, and sent into another exile on the fringes of Heathrow Airport.

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