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“Refugees Welcome” – British cyclists complete world’s largest GPS artwork

Georgie Cottle and David Charles have raised more than £50,000 through 2,200-mile trip

A pair of cyclists from the UK have finished what is the world’s largest GPS artwork, riding 2,200 kilometres to sketch out the words “Refugees Welcome” across southern England.

Georgie Cottle, 27, and David Charles, 39, undertook the challenge to raise funds for the charity, Choose Love with their total currently standing at more than £50,000.

The pair, who set out on their journey a month ago, have smashed the previous record of 761km.

“We chose to spell out ‘Refugees Welcome’ across this region because this is the biggest entry point for asylum seekers reaching the UK,” said Georgie.

“To finish the last letter in Dover felt very symbolic and sends a message of compassion to those arriving here.

“The challenge has been in response to what’s been happening in Afghanistan, and also Priti Patel and the UK government’s monstrous overhaul of the asylum system.

“The new policies will put the country in direct opposition to the 1951 Geneva Convention by shutting down more of the few remaining legal routes to the UK.”

“The south of England is hillier than you might think, so it’s certainly been a challenge” she continued.

“I spent my 27th birthday cycling out the ‘O’ of in Welcome, so that was really cool.

“But the challenges have definitely been overcome by the amount of amazing people we’ve met on the route and we’ve had a further 35 people sign up to help us finish the challenge.

“Everyone’s been so supportive and even in places we haven’t been sure they’d support our cause, they really have.

“Normal people, like us, really do just want to help to try to do something to help people in need,” she added.

On their fundraising page, the pair set out the reasons behind the challenge, saying: “The British government is trying to make it almost impossible for refugees to claim asylum in the UK.

“Home Secretary Priti Patel's Nationality and Borders Bill is putting the UK in direct opposition to the 1951 Geneva Convention by shutting down even more legal routes to asylum in this country. Incredibly, it will also criminalise the courageous, life-saving work of the RNLI.

“That's why we're getting back on our bikes, cycling really really far and fundraising for grassroots organisations that offer refugees the welcome that our government withholds.”

They also wrote of their own personal reasons for taking on the challenge.

“I have been a keen bean cyclist since I was 19 and found myself cycling the length of America, sort of by accident,” Georgie said.

“Since then I have explored much of Scotland, Wales and New Zealand with my trusty Raleigh Capri (called ‘Sunny’).

“I first got involved volunteering with refugee and asylum seeker communities while studying Arabic in Jordan in 2016, at the height of the crisis. I learned one heck of a lot about what it meant to be a 'refugee', what people had to give up and why people were forced to flee.

“I now work with refugee and asylum seeker communities in Glasgow and it seems that people's journeys are being made ever more difficult by governments here in the UK and in Europe.

“Spell It Out is an incredible challenge that I am so privileged to be a part of. We are both really looking forward to getting on the road, and rallying as much support as possible for Choose Love!”

David said: “I've been going on ridiculously long bike rides for ten years now, including two stints on the London to Athens relay with Thighs of Steel.

“For me, bikes are the ultimate freedom machine, carrying me across continents, powered by nothing more than a croissant (or seven). I have also seen the transformational potential of bikes when put into the hands of refugees and asylum seekers, both here in the UK and in places like Calais, Athens, Chios and Samos.

“Bikes give us both independence and community and I'm proud to use mine in solidarity with those fleeing persecution, conflict and torture.

“I've been so lucky that I've been able to travel freely around the world, thanks only to the freak chance of being born in a politically stable, wealthy country. The sheer injustice that some human beings aren't allowed to cross borders makes me furious and anger is an energy, right? I hope so, because I've got an awful lot of cycling to do!

“We are far from powerless,” he added. “Please donate generously, make a noise and show the world that refugees are always welcome here.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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