A RETIRED charity volunteer is set to embark on a mammoth 238-mile cycle ride to highlight the plight of asylum seekers across Winchester and Southampton.

Claire Pigott, who has been teaching English to refugees with the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) since 2018, is going to ride unsupported to Liverpool - spending 5 days in the saddle.

Setting off from Southampton on Monday morning, Mrs Pigott, 60, says she wants to shine a spotlight on the 'absurd' obstacles refugees face while submitting evidence to immigration.

She said: "I decided to do a sponsored ride but I wanted to make it relevant. I am aware that refugees seeking asylum have to jump through many hoops. One of the more absurd barriers is that if a refugee wants to submit new evidence to support a fresh claim, they have to take that information in person to the Further Submissions Unit in Liverpool. They are not allowed to post it, even though for a time during Covid this did change, and of course the change presented the authorities with no difficulties at all.

"Without the support of SWVG many people seeking asylum would be unable to make this journey, a round trip of 476 miles costing well over £100 by train. So, I just thought I would highlight the difficulties of many people, who, perhaps would reapply and don't because they don't have the resources. That's my motivation, that's why I'm doing it."

Mrs Pigott will be completing the first leg of her journey to Swindon tomorrow, some 60 miles, before cycling to checkpoints in Bidford-on-Avon, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and Chester over the course of the week - eventually arriving in Liverpool at midday on Friday.

"It is just me - my husband will drop me off in Southampton tomorrow and I'll see him next Friday," she said.

"I am excited about the trip and quite scared too. I am sure there will be high and low points, maybe tears, but however tough it is and however lonely I might get I can remind myself that refugees have to face much tougher, more uncertain and dangerous journeys. At the end of the day I know I have a home to return to."

Mrs Pigott has already raised just under £1,800 through a JustGiving page. To donate, visit: justgiving.com/fundraising/claire-pigott