A migrant congregation — St Mary’s, Bedfont

By Karen Rollins

Medge Doffay and Angela Mann are members of St Mary’s church, Bedfont in England. Bedfont is part of the borough of Hounslow which has a diverse and vibrant migrant population.

When you picture the Seychelles you probably think of white sandy beaches, clear blue sky, turquoise seas and smiley, friendly people and for the most part you’d be right, but in the 1970s and ‘80s this was far from the sunshine paradise we imagine it to be, some people were actually being forced to flee the islands for fear of their lives.

Medge Doffay, her husband Patrick, and their six young children were among those people.

Close up of Medge Doffay at home.

Medge was born in the Seychelles and was married at 19 years old. She says she had a good life until everything changed when there was continued political unrest in the country. President Albert Rene had seized power from President James Mancham with a coup establishing a one-party state. During the 1980s, several attempts were made by mercenary groups and governments to depose Rene but they all failed. This made the situation in the Seychelles extremely volatile, unstable and unsafe for anybody seen as remotely political.

Medge says her brother-in-law was the first to leave and seek political asylum in the UK because of his political connections and then, following continued threats, her husband also left and then Medge along with her six children who were all aged under 13.

When Medge flew to the UK she did not know what she was going to face because she had never left the Seychelles before and did not want to leave her country of birth. She was scared and tearful and took a long time to adapt to life in Britain.

The biggest obstacle was speaking and writing English because although the Seychelles was a British colony and Medge was taught English in school, her native language was Creole. She also experienced racism for the first time.

Medge joined the congregation at St Mary’s church in Bedfont in the 1990s after going to various other churches in the local area. She explained how the church community has helped her to feel more settled in the UK mainly because she was used to the service and enjoyed singing hymns.

She has now been in England for 30 years and is retired and thinking about going back to the Seychelles to live, even though, her children and grandchildren are all settled in the UK. However, she gets angry when people suggest that all migrants only come to the UK because they want to abuse the system.

Medge says it was a hard decision to uproot her family and leave everything she knew and loved to come to a foreign country, but because she had no choice, she has no regrets.

Medium Close Up of Angela Mann outside St Mary’s Church.

Angela Mann was born in Sierra Leone. She moved to the UK in the early 1990s to study but encountered racism at her workplace which has impacted her hopes and dreams. She talks about her decision to move to the UK and the problems she has faced as a migrant from Africa.

Visit the Hounslow High Street exposure web site for more migrant stories and a unique insight into the local migrant population and their contribution to their local community.

Originally published at migrantsstory.wordpress.com on April 24, 2015.

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