Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Refugee crisis -Kirklees at the blunt end!

The old Huddersfield Sports Centre- not a Refugee Reception Centre
We had a meeting of Party leaders in Kirklees last week to discuss our response to the refugee crisis. When we heard there was to be a shift in government policy to a more sympathetic approach to refugees rather than the 'beware the swarm' approach of our beloved Prime Minister I figured we may actually have to do some serious work in Kirklees to play our part. The change in public mood was very real following the desperately sad picture of a child on a beach. He could have been anybody's child. There was an outpouring of humanity and certain politicians decided to keep their mouths shut, as expressing their humanity wasn't their strong point and at least they knew that much.

 My better half came up with the great idea of getting Huddersfield Sports Centre out of mothballs to make it into a reception centre for arriving refugees. Large halls, showers, secure, it seemed a good idea. Next let's look at what accommodation we could bring into use to address medium term needs. I was thinking of conversions of empty buildings such as Crown Court Buildings, Huddersfield Technical College, St George's Warehouse to provide personal space as an interim measure before people became embedded in the community. These refurbished units could also fulfil a role to address longer term  local housing need and support. It became clear as the meeting unfolded that these ideas were far too radical and sadly unnecessary. The UK Government had not been in touch with  Councils like Kirklees to ask for our assistance. Our views and support were not sought. No Minister wrote to us calling for plans on how we could best help at this time of desperate need. It is almost as if hey didn't care.

The UK Govt plan is to help 20,000 refugees over the next 4 years. That is equivalent to 96/week for the whole UK. Hungary were seeing 2000/3000 pass through their borders daily just a few weeks ago so we clearly are playing a very small Part. Given our role in destabilising the Middle East  it could be argued we bear more responsibility than most European countries for the refugee crisis, but the UK Govt approach is paying money to support camps abroad so we don't have to have actual people coming to our country. I don't know whether you could call his conscience money but it sure does look like an excuse.

Ultimately I think the UK could be the losers here. The interviews with refugees showed people in crisis but also many resilient people who will make a success of their lives and bring real benefits to any community they become a part of. On that basis it looks like the new tranche of refugees could be Germany's gain and our loss. Of course people will raise the issue of population and the impact that this has on local services but if we duck our humanitarian responsibilities we abandon our humanity. Of course we have to work for a more just world and one free of conflict but if that can't be achieved then we have an obligation as fortunate people of the same species, on the same world, to help 'our own'.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more Andrew. We have numerous empty buildings in Kirklees AND by many accounts, Kirklees is willing to help. Its a travesty and completely undemocratic that central government is "speaking and acting for us all" on this. So many of us are ashamed of our country at the moment.