Refugees Welcome – speech to Council

Motion to support and accommodate refugees in Wandsworth:

We can and we should do so much more.

Speech to full Council on 14 October 2015

Cllr Fleur Anderson, Bedford Ward

Wandsworth Labour Councillors showing support for welcoming refugees in Wandsworth before the debate

Wandsworth Labour Councillors showing support for welcoming refugees in Wandsworth before the debate

Almost 100 years almost to the day there was a wonderful garden party thrown by Wandsworth residents in Southfields to welcome Belgian refugees during the First World War, with lemonade refreshments and entertainment from the girls of Putney County Secondary School. Fast forward to today and as soon as there was news of great need for clothes in the refugee camp so near us in Calais, the people of Wandsworth again showed huge spontaneous generosity and wanting to support refugees.

Like many Wandsworth residents when I saw the refugees fleeing, I knew that given different circumstances that could be me and could me my family and I wanted to do something to make a difference. We have the opportunity as Councillors to do lots of things that are very practical and help many individuals – it will be something about being a Councillor that we will look back on with pride.

Today I convened a meeting of refugee groups in the Borough to consider how we can work together better, and the Council can play more of a role in doing this, and I am glad to see that the amended motion includes this – but we could do more.

This motion really doesn’t ask for much and offered every opportunity for cross-party agreement of some small steps of support for refugees in Wandsworth and leadership in London, but the amendment is hugely disappointing and says we will do the absolute bare minimum.

To take just the pledge to give a home to 10 refugee families, if funded by central government, and supported unanimously by the Churches Together in Balham and Upper Tooting as well as so many other Wandsworth residents. Its just 10 families, and was a request to all Local Authorities by Yvette Cooper when she was Home Secretary. It could be a really meaningful figure and show that we will play our part. As Yvette Copper said:

“If every city took 10 refugee families, if every London borough took 10 families, if every county council took 10 families, if Scotland, Wales and every English region played their part, then in a month we’d have nearly 10,000 more places for vulnerable refugees fleeing danger, seeking safety.”

Wandsworth residents have been really generous themselves but they there is only so much they can do. People expect a similar big-hearted Wandsworth reaction from their Council but have been disappointed. Becoming a Borough of Sanctuary could have been a really inspirational demonstration of Wandsworth long tradition of welcome and the role which the Council can play best of coordinating services – council and voluntary – to give the best support to families who have had to flee their country. The Council and should do more.

We could do so much more than just offer a home to ten families, but it’s a start.

We could do so much more to support refugee associations than be facilitators an coordinators – but it’s a start.

We could do more to inspire London and other London Boroughs to be more ambitious in welcoming refugees than just becoming a Borough of Sanctuary – but it’s a start.

Lets step up, lets make this start and lets be leaders in London in staying true to our tradition as a Borough in welcoming refugees.

To amend this motion and take out even these small steps is shameful. Please support the motion and reject the amendment.

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