Great Yarmouth refuge centre could close by Christmas unless it finds funding

An organisation that has helped hundreds of people who fled their war-torn homelands where their families were slaughtered to seek refuge in Great Yarmouth will close by Christmas unless it finds funding.

GYROS has provided a lifeline for more than 100 nationalities in the last 13 years – from Kosovans who walked for days to escape unspeakable atrocities in 1997 to Portuguese now making homes in Great Yarmouth to work in the Norfolk food industry.

Its full and part-time support workers 'oil the wheels' for newcomers to integrate into Great Yarmouth.

They guide them through utility bills, help them apply for school places for their children, fill in TV licence forms, register with doctors, set up bank accounts and work through housing and employment contracts.

But its Deneside drop-in centre which deals with 4000 enquiries a year will close at the end of the month (December) with the loss of six jobs unless it finds new funding.

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Its founder David Nettleship said: 'People come here because they are entitled to come here in the EU to work. They have a tangible and viable effect on the economy of Great Yarmouth but they need to be helped to live here.'

'These people make a tremendous contribution to Great Yarmouth society.'

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Labour leader Trevor Wainwright warned GYROS' closure would heap added pressure on already stretched statutory bodies.

He called on the big food manufacturers and farmers. where many Portuguese, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian workers who have made Great Yarmouth their home are employed, to step in to offer sponsorship to keep GYROS open.

He promised to raise the threatened closure in Great Yarmouth Borough Council chamber and do all he could to help maintain the service.

'This is extremely disappointing, GYROS carries out a really useful role. Its closure will only mean people will take their concerns elsewhere like the CAB which is already stretched. It's just another example of a small organisation that does a tremendous job having its funds cut.

'A large proportion of companies' workforces come from the immigrant community. It would be of great benefit to help them stay in the area. I can't see any reason why the companies shouldn't enter into some sort of sponsorship agreement to keep GYROS open.

'These problems are not going to go away for the people, they need the support and advice and the council and other authorities will be inundated.'

Many of migrant workers who use GYROS work in the Norfolk and North Suffolk food manufacturing industry like Bernard Matthews and Banham Poultry and with agricultural employers.

Set up at York Road Drill Hall by Mr Nettleship, GYROS moved to its Deneside offices with money from the lottery fund and other funding from Norfolk Children's Fund and other money streams like the Migrant Worker Impact Fund.

Now it is desperately trying to raise money to save its service for mainly its Portuguese, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian clients.

Four full-time support workers are busy daily with enquiries.

Mr Nettleship said; 'There is a desperate need for this service or we wouldn't be so busy. The companies need the migrant workers and they need help to live here. Without us there would be huge pressure on the statutory authorities to fill the gap.'

'There is a serious possibility that we will close at the end of December without funding.

'There are Portuguese, Polish and Halal shops in old empty shops in the King Street area, the bring money into the borough. They have tremendous family values. Their children behave well. '

'The James Paget Hospital has people of every nationality to help it function.

'We would not have the food processing industry around here without them. It would shift to Hungary and the Czech Republic. They keep these industries going.'

GYROS took pressure off statutory services by its two Portuguese speakers, one Polish speaker and one Russian speaker guiding people through red tape, he said.

'We help people understand forms they have to fill in for tax, national insurance, utility bills, school places – everything. Otherwise it would be a terrible burden on the community and resources like the Citizens Advice Bureau and the council.

'For employers it means we are stablising their workforces which means they work harder.'

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