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Members of a Sheffield church had an unexpected reaction when someone tried to break in to their caretaker’s flat. When they discovered the intruder was a homeless man seeking sanctuary they asked the police not to press charges, and donated £500 to a charity that helps destitute asylum seekers.

“The night the incident happened, some of us had been listening to a refugee talk; organised by City of Sanctuary Sheffield,” said Minister David Shaw. “So we were very aware of the desperate situation people find themselves in if their application for sanctuary is turned down. This could be due to the difficulty of getting hold of the evidence to prove their case of persecution.”

When the police were called to investigate, the intruder tried a second time to enter the building and it emerged he was just looking for somewhere to shelter for during the cold nights. “I think the congregation surprised themselves by their lack of anger,” said Rev Shaw. “One of them even expressed concern that the house would have been cold for the man, without any heating during the renovation work.”

The donation has been passed on to the local charity ASSIST – Asylum Seeker Support Initiative, Short Term – which will use it to support asylum seekers who are unable to return home even though their applications have been turned down and state support is withdrawn.