A RETIRED charity volunteer pedalled for change as she completed a mammoth 250-mile cycle ride to highlight the plight of asylum seekers across Southampton and Winchester.

Claire Pigott, who has been teaching English to refugees with the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) since 2018, rode unsupported to Liverpool - spending four and a half days in the saddle.

She set off from Southampton on Monday, June 6, arriving in Merseyside on the Friday after battling cobbled streets, several punctures, a cancelled ferry and torrential downpours along the way.

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"It was great actually, but I'm not denying it wasn't tough," she said. "There were some interesting challenges along the way, but I got there in once piece."

Mrs Pigott, 60, said her goal was to highlight some of the "ridiculous" barriers facing people seeking asylum in the UK, including the requirement for those who are wishing to make a fresh claim to travel to the immigration centre in Liverpool for a 5-minute interview to hand in their documents.

Liverpool City of Sanctuary was on hand to welcome Mrs Pigott outside the immigration centre, together with members of Merseyside Refugee Support Network and Asylum Link Merseyside - and of course, their bikes.

However, while taking pictures outside the centre, Mrs Pigott admitted something happened which took her completely by surprise.

"It was an interesting experience, something happened which I didn't quite expect to happen," she said.

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"There were queues of people waiting to get into the immigration centre who were faced with a wall of guys that looked like nightclub bouncers - they were really intimidating."

Mrs Pigott said one of the men approached the group and asked them to stop filming. Initially she thought it was because security staff didn't want to be on camera, but the reasoning behind his request turned out to be much more poignant.

"He said, 'there's a family here that have nowhere to go, I'm a dad too and I really want to help them but I need this job and I'm not allowed to'," she added.

"It was an incredibly emotional moment and not something I was expecting to happen. It brings it home that for people working within the immigration system, it's not easy for them either. They're faced with the reality of these people who are in a pretty awful situation."

Mrs Pigott has already raised £2,080 from the ride, but she's still accepting donations. If you want to donate, visit: justgiving.com/fundraising/claire-pigott

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