Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors

LGA Lib Dem Group Comment: Refugee Crisis

All comment articles
Monday, 7th September, 2015

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LGA Lib Dem Group Comment

LGA LIB DEMS URGE LOCAL SUPPORT FOR REFUGEES AND SAY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE ASHAMED

Liberal Democrats in the Local Government Association have urged local authorities across the country to show central government that they are ready and willing to offer to take in refugees fleeing persecution from the Middle East. But they have warned that the Government should have acted faster.

Cllr Chris White, Deputy Leader of the LGA Lib Dem Group, said: “The recent photos of drowned Syrian refugees are shocking. As a parent, it tears my heart out to see these images. Britain has a strong track record in working to support human rights across the world and fighting for values of tolerance and compassion. Local Government stands ready to help, but Central Government should be ashamed of itself for failing to work with other countries in addressing this issue earlier.

All local authorities should say how many refugees they will accept – and central government must say what it will do to make sure refugees get the funding needed”.

Cllr Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council and Chair of the LGA Lib Dem Group added:

“The United Kingdom cannot sit by and watch the suffering and death of refugees fleeing violence. Local authorities across the country should respond by taking in refugees. We have a moral and humanitarian duty to do so and I am sure other councils share my views.

“Sutton Council is already doing preparatory work in the hope that the government changes its stance on the situation in Europe and increases the number of refugees accepted by the UK.

“Sutton stands ready to help.”

 

Comments from other Lib Dem Council Leaders (or Deputies where relevant)

 Colchester

Colchester has a long and proud history of supporting dis-placed groups following political and religious persecutions. Between 1550 and 1600, a large number of Protestant weavers from Flanders, emigrated to Colchester which led to the creation of the Dutch Quarter.

Colchester Borough Council has worked with a number of partners to support community and social projects which have welcomed refugees to the Borough. Work with a local charity, Fresh Beginnings has seen help given to former Afghan interpreters seeking refuge following persecution by the Taliban for their support of British forces during the Afghan war. Our close military ties more recently saw the opening of a retired Gurkha veteran housing scheme in the Borough.

Cllr Paul Smith, Leader of Colchester Council, commented, “The current refugee crisis has moved my Cabinet colleagues and I to write to other councils in the County urging them to join Colchester in looking at what we can do together. It is morally wrong for us not to explore ways in which we can help, whether that is here in the Borough, fund raising or relief for the Refugees, we have to do something.”

“Colchester’s rich cultural heritage has been enhanced by our diverse population throughout our history which is why Cabinet has asked me to take a lead on this work and I am seeking action now.”

 

Pendle

Pendle Council in Lancashire is keen to play a part in welcoming a number of refugees to our area, council leaders have pledged.

Pendle Council’s Leader and Deputy Leader, Councillors Mohammed Iqbal (Lab) and Tony Greaves (Lib Dem) met last night to agree to welcome a number of refugee families from war torn Syria.

Councillor Mohammed Iqbal said:

We are deeply  concerned about the harrowing effects of war on children and families in Syria.

We are urging the Government to do more.

We will work with Government agencies and local organisations to co-ordinate efforts in Pendle to help any families who come here, escaping from a desperate crisis.

We are willing to welcome up to 20 families, he said.

The conflict in Syria has created a severe and worsening emergency, with

4 million refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries.  They are in desperate need, he explained.

I urge every council in the UK to offer support and take action.

Together we can make a difference, he said.

Councillor Tony Greaves agreed and explained:

I am sure that this is what most people in Pendle would want us to do.

In the past Pendle Council, Building Bridges, local churches, organisations and local residents have offered support in this way and  confident will do again.

We helped Vietnamese boat people who came to live in Pendle.

And 15 years ago we supported asylum seekers from Iraq, Iran and other war-torn countries and local people set up a strong support group.

We have active local organisations and people who can help Syrian families.

Together with many councils from around the country we are calling on the Government to give us the opportunity to offer humanitarian aid here in Pendle, he  stressed.

 

Stockport

Stockport Council’s Lib Dem Leader Sue Derbyshire has said the town will play its part in helping refugees fleeing from civil war.

“We have all been moved by the plight of men, women and children simply trying to survive. The people of Stockport are generous and warm-hearted – we will not stand by and watch fellow human beings suffer and die when there is action we can take.” Sue said.

Greater Manchester already takes a high number of refugees, and the Liberal Democrats believe it’s absolutely right that we take our fair share. The Liberal Democrats know the people of Greater Manchester will step up and support those in desperate need, whether they take refuge locally or elsewhere.

“More than half the population of Syria has been displaced in a brutal civil war,” Sue said. “Of the 12 million displaced people, a few hundred thousand have come to seek refuge in Europe and just a few thousand have so far come to the UK. It is a matter of simple human compassion that we do what we can to help until they are able to return to their own country.”

 

York

Cllr Keith Aspden, Lib Dem Deputy Leader of City of York Council says:

“Refugees and Asylum Seekers are some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world; they are fleeing war, famine and prosecution. It is right that we do our part to support them.

“It is important to note that there is a large amount of fantastic work currently taking place to help and support refugees in York. However York as with the rest of the country needs to do more. We will of course work with partners to look at how we can work to make York a more welcoming and supportive city.

“The government needs to do more to help tackle this issue. David Cameron needs to look for a European solution to the problem instead of avoiding his responsibility. We are the sixth richest country in the world and have a moral duty to help.”

 

From Lib Dem Cllr Flick Rea in Camden (joint letter to the council leader):

Housing Syrian families

We are writing to you now as we think it’s time to call again for the Council to offer homes to some of the many vulnerable Syrian refugee families.

We have jointly put a motion to the council, asking the Council to explore how Camden could take part in a concerted way in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme to resettle the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. We were sure at the time that Camden residents and many of our fellow Councillors would feel the absolute moral imperative of the Council participating in the scheme in the way that campaigners including Amnesty and Citizens UK are urging.

The motion wasn’t heard, but a response to its points was received in June. In this you say that you are willing to consider this question again and to ‘continue to look at what more we can do to provide assistance’.

With the situation in Syria worsening, and with the vulnerable families we could take also among the most vulnerable to the people traffickers who are leading so many to awful deaths in the Mediterranean and in hazardous overland transit, we believe the situation is now so urgent that Camden must step in.

We realise the help we could give as a borough would, in practical terms, not make a dent in the problems of displaced people overall, but it would make the world of difference to those families we housed, and would at least be one more helping hand reaching out from our citizens to people suffering unimaginable hardship and fear.

Please consider this request again and help make Camden a beacon of hope in these tragic times, not another closed door.

Yours sincerely

 

ALDC