SANTA found his way blocked by perimeter fences, locked doors and security guards when he and three helpers attempted to deliver presents to children in the immigration detention facility at Pease Pottage last week.
Staff and customers at the high street cosmetics store Lush, in Eastbourne, gathered donations of luxury soaps, chocolate and toys to be taken as presents to families being held at the Cedars pre-departure accommodation centre in Brighton Road.
But a spokesperson for G4S UK and Ireland said it could have been Lush did not allow adequate time for background checks to be made prior to an appointment being booked.
There were health and safety and security reasons why staff could not accept unsolicited packages and that was why appointments had to be arranged in advance.
Alice from SOAS detainee support, who was one of the three trying to deliver the gifts, said: “We can’t get these children out of there this winter, so we at least want to be able to send their neighbours’ love in.”
Despite assurances on the UK Border Agency website appointments can be made to visit those detained between 9am and 9pm, the deliverers claimed for three days staff refused to allow the arrangement of any appointments to visit any detainees in the foreseeable future, or give any reason for doing so.
Then when they tried to deliver the gifts, they said staff refused to come to the gate and receive the gifts to take them in.
Lush local campaigns co-ordinator Liz Snook said: “All we’re trying to do here is give some children some presents.
“We’re prepared to go through whatever is demanded of us, but instead we’ve been met with rudeness and flat refusal.”
“We want the families held under this frightening system to know that we’ve not forgotten them.”