Before I begin, for all members, supporters and those wishing to help refugees in crisis, please join us this Thursday evening (10th September 2015) at 7:30pm at the Radcliffe Arms on Walsworth Road in Hitchin to set up our refugee action.
It’s taken a lot of pressure from many sides, but this week the Prime Minister has agreed that the UK will take in thousands of refugees.
Personally I’d found it very hard, from the comfort of my home in one of the safest, most affluent counties in this safe, affluent country of ours, to hear mealy-mouthed ministers list the things we are already doing. While they steadfastly ignore what is obvious to most people: that we have a human duty to help these other humans who are so desperate for a normal, peaceful, life that they will risk everything to get somewhere safe, or at least to send their children to safety, education and the opportunity to make something of their lives. Some want to come the UK (‘Because English is the only foreign language I was taught at school,’ one Afghan man at Calais told the BBC). Many will be happy to settle anywhere where there is peace, work and a life beyond the squalor of a refugee camp.
Many people across the country are Collecting for Calais; the Hertfordshire Help for Refugees Facebook group is a good source of information for what’s being done locally in Hitchin and in Harpenden. The next firm collection date we have is 4th October at Farley’s Hair Salon, Hermitege Road, Hitchin. (please get in touch if you have more dates and places).
More still are lobbying government.
So on Monday parliament will debate just how many thousands will come to the UK. To show how widespread support is for refugees to settle in our areas, 38 Degrees have a nice campaign going. You can find more details here.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has made a good case for 10,000 refugees, which would work out at some 10 families per council area. She says that 40 councils are ready to take refugees now. It is a great shame that North Herts is not among them.
But with that in mind, the Labour group of North Herts District Council plans to put forward the following motion:
"This council recognises the right of people from war-torn countries to find refuge in safe countries such as the UK. We welcome the government's commitment to accept thousands of such people and will start immediately to make whatever preparations are necessary, in partnership with our housing providers and with voluntary organisations, to welcome some 10 refugee families, in recognition of our district's relative affluence and the refugees' great need. "
I really, truly, hope that the Tory administration will not block this one (I can’t see how anyone with a sense of human decency could)….
Meanwhile, the Hitchin Labour Party branch will be meeting on Thursday 10th September (7:30 pm at the Radcliffe Arms on Walsworth Road), where we hope to discuss what we can do in practice to make the arrival of our allotted refugee families as smooth and comfortable as we can. Please come along and share your ideas and energy!
Cllr. Deborah Segalini
Hitchin, Bearton Ward