Why did I start the petition to Babergh District Council to house 10 refugee families?
Rosemary Loshak, October 2015
Starting a petition is new to me and quite uncharacteristic. What made me do it? Taking a particular course of action is often determined by many factors:
- I had read that when Germany invaded Belgium in the First World War we had taken in 100,000 refugees. If we could do it then, why not now?
- I remembered playing a small part in welcoming the Asian community expelled from Uganda in the seventies by Idi Amin.
- I had married into a Jewish family in which previous generations had experienced persecution in Russia and under the Nazis.
- I had nearly 20 years experience working with families who were recent or second-generation immigrants, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia many of whom had had direct experience of living in a war-torn country
In all these cases, families had experienced repeated trauma, loss of close relatives (including in the concentration camps), loss of homes, religious intolerance, enforced migration and had lived with bombing, killing, and the destruction wrought by war. The repercussions left their mark on later generations.
However I worked and lived in London where I appreciated the multiculturalism encouraged and facilitated by the last Labour government. I saw the strength and resilience with which many families survived their pasts and made new lives for themselves and their children. A dedicated public sector workforce of teachers, youth workers, therapists and medical staff got on with the job of helping families integrate, developing communities and making changes as needed in their own organisations.
So when I read that this country had brought a mere handful of refugees (around 200 earlier this year) into the UK and had no intention of taking a proper share of those now desperate to get to the safety of Europe where hope might be possible, I felt ashamed, angry and powerless. There was some encouragement in reading the letters in the press from others who shared my feelings. But what was wrong with this country that we could manage to turn a blind eye to children drowning as the boats carrying them across the Mediterranean capsized again and again.
The picture of a dead child on a Turkish beach, so widely broadcast on 8th September prompted the on-line campaign organisation 38 Degrees to initiate individual campaigns across the country. This was an opportunity to do something and I took the opportunity.
I started this alone, relying on family, friends and neighbours, but have received wonderful and unquestioning support from fellow members of the South Suffolk Labour Party. More than that I moved back to Suffolk just 18 months ago, and have through this found a new network of friends. There is much to do. We shall present the petition to Babergh council on 27th October, but the petition will stay live, and grow, and among the signatories I hope there will be many who will be able to help make any refugees who do come, truly welcome.
How do I get involved?
You can sign the petition online to make your views known: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/refugees-welcome-in-babergh