Last Tuesday evening 27th October a group of signatories to a 38 Degrees on-line petition met at Babergh Council offices. Rosemary Loshak presented the petition to Councillor Jan Osborne, who has responsibilities for Communities and Health and Well Being.
It had been signed by nearly 200 people across Babergh district, and asked the District Council to make Syrian refugees fleeing the war in Syria, welcome in our area and to provide accommodation for 10 such families.
Twelve of us were present, including 2 more Babergh councillors, Tony Bavington (Labour: Great Cornard) and Bryn Hurren (Lib Dem: Boxford). Thank you to them for coming and a big thank you to the Labour members and supporters who came along., particularly Jane Basham and her grandchildren who made all the posters, and David who kept members informed.
Suffolk, we now know, has offered to take 200 Syrian refugees, most of whom will be accommodated in the greater Ipswich area where most facilities and resources are located. Hopefully some of these could come to Babergh if we can find accommodation for them within easy reach of Ipswich.
The families coming to Suffolk will be among those admitted to the UK through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme which means they are coming direct from the camps in Lebanon, not as yet, from among those currently crossing Europe, or in Calais. They will have been selected for resettlement by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and may have complex medical or other needs.
The government will provide financial support at least for the first year, to councils for housing costs as families will be housed in the private rental sector not in council housing. This means that British families already on the waiting list will not be affected.
Individuals will be able to work or claim benefit according to their circumstances, and to access education and health services. After 5 years they will be able to apply for permanent settlement in the UK.
If families do settle in Babergh there will be much work to be done to welcome them, help them access services and integrate them into our communities.
Suffolk Refugee Service based in Ipswich has a range of services to support refugees and asylum seekers. However, a number of people in this area have indicated they would like to do something to help locally. Many people have already donated or collected items of clothing, tents etc. for the people in the camps at Calais, and others have been fundraising to assist work in Lebanon and Jordan.
We intend to form a volunteer group locally which will work with the council to make preparations for welcoming refugee families here in Babergh.
How do I get involved?
If anyone living in Babergh feels they have some time, and something to offer to support refugee families please contact Rosemary Loshak by email email@example.com. Alternatively you might consider becoming a member, or donating to Suffolk Refugee Support at www.suffolkrefugee.org.uk