The Refugee Crisis, Cornwall Council, and the role of the Local Authority.
The media has shown us the tragic plight of so many people who are fleeing several war-torn countries; not for economic reasons, but because they fear for their lives. There has been an outcry from so many people that we as a nation should do more to help those in need.
However, there is so much misinformation circulating about refugees and asylum seekers in the media that it is sometimes hard to work out what is reality and what is myth. Hopefully, this blog and the links contained will help see what is fact or fiction.
The Governments official position is the Prime Minister announced on the 7th September that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of the Parliament. These refugees will be taken from the camps in the countries neighbouring Syria using the established UNHCR process for identifying and resettling refugees. The Prime Minister also announced that the criteria for the existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme will be expanded. The latter was expanded from the 1st August 2015.
At present, there are no further details or plans on how the Government is going to implement their aims to resettle the small number of Syrian refugees it has committed to. However, there is a scheme already in place. The current scheme called the Gateway Protection Programme and offers a legal route for up to 750 refugees to settle in the UK each year, and is completely separate from the standard procedure for claiming asylum in the UK.
Refugees will be granted a five-year humanitarian protection visa. This will entitle them to access to public funds, access to the labour market and the possibility of a family reunion. The Government has also said the cost of supporting a refugee will be met from the Governments foreign aid budget for the first year. No other details have been made public on funding for future years.
The role of a Local Authority will be key in any resettlement. Members of Cornwall Council, and the public want Cornwall to do its bit. I agree, we should do our bit, but I agree with the Leader of Cornwall Council when we should only offer help that we can actually deliver.
So what is Cornwall Council doing? The Council is keeping in close contact with the Local Government Association (LGA). Furthermore, the Council is pressing Government officials for the details of any refugees who will seek respite here in the far South West.
The Council is also coordinating its departments like Adult and Children’s Services, support services and housing in case they are called upon by the Government.
A dedicated webpage has been created who people can find more information on this crisis, which will also signpost the work being undertaken by national and local organisations. This will avoid duplication. This can be found HERE
The Council has been approached by residents offering accommodation like spare rooms. This is a kind gesture, but, why can’t this same offer be made to the homeless?? I am sorry I have to say this, but it does need to be highlighted. Saying that, if someone wants to offer accommodation to refugees, they can register their offer on the new webpage or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In summary, the Council, like so many other local authorities, are waiting on the Government to act. And the Government needs to act before it is too late.