While many of us watch with horror the plight of refugees fleeing war and braving horrendous experiences on their journey to safety, our Government seems content to do everything it can to to avoid providing its share of actual help. They prefer to spend money on more barbed wire and police to keep refugees out, rather than working with the EU and UN to to provide refuge for a fair share of people. David Cameron has refused to even participate in the EU’s plan to re-settle 40,000 of the most vulnerable and refered to the 3,000 living in attrocious conditions in Calais as a ‘swarm’.
In reality the UK has taken in just a tiny fraction of refugees compared to other countries like Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece and even tiny Lebanon. Our Government is also making life intolerable for those small numbers of asylum seekers waiting, sometimes years, for their cases to be decided. Since 10th August 2015 all asylum support recipients receive just £36.62 per week, previously families with children received more. This, combined with threatening employers and landlords with eye-watering fines for housing or employing asylum seekers, creates a climate of destitution and fear.
We need to change the rhetoric – we are dealing with other humans and we should welcome our responsibility as the eighth richest country on the planet to help, rather than add to their suffering.
We suggest Stroud should dare to be different by publicly saying we would welcome our share of the refugees. Taking the EU’s plan for 40,000 as a starting point would equate to just 10 refugees in Stroud District, perhaps three famillies. This would be a good start. As a community, let us plan what we can do to help, alongside our local councils and wonderful organisations like GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers), rather than pass by on the other side.
Molly Scott Cato – Green MEP for South West England
Sarah Lunnon – Green County Councillor for Stroud
Martin Whiteside – Leader of Green Stroud District Councillors
John Marjoram – Deputy Leader of Green Stroud District Councillors
Kevin Cranston – Mayor of Stroud Town