source: Huffington Post
published: 17 November 2016
Amid a hostile climate for refugees in the U.K., ordinary citizens are plugging gaps in the asylum system. Judith Vonberg reports on Refugees at Home, a volunteer initiative connecting Britons offering spare rooms with asylum seekers desperately in need of a bed.
The Zig Zag cafe is nestled between an art shop and a beauty salon on the main street in Epsom, an affluent market town 30 minutes by train from central London. This small and unassuming cafe has become a social hub for the local community of hosts and their refugee or asylum-seeking guests.
As the hosts and guests arrive, Mike, who runs the cafe, starts pushing tables together and pulling up extra chairs. He’s well used to the routine. Each newcomer is treated to a beaming smile and a warm “hello.” Some guests stay just for a coffee; others linger over one of Mike’s famous falafel pancakes.
Mike is Syrian. He arrived several years ago on a work visa, but recently left his job to open the Zig Zag cafe. It was perfect timing. Nina and Timothy, a local retired couple whose children had recently left home, had decided to offer their spare rooms to asylum seekers.