Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire Talks: Have we as a county done enough to help refugees?

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We’ve all seen the pictures of the suffering in Aleppo, the boats capsizing in the Mediterranean and the horrifying image of the little boy lying face down on a beach drowned. But as a county, have we done enough to help those refugees in the greatest need?

Lincolnshire County Council confirmed to Lincolnshire Reporter just this week that the county has taken in none of the 200 Syrian refugees which it agreed to do in principle in 2016.

The council also said that central government had not asked them to take part in the scheme to helping asylum-seeking lone children from Europe.

Prime Minister Theresa May and the government will close the programme after taking in just 350 unaccompanied refugee children from the continent – with accusations that they have gone back on their word to help 3,000.

Despite this, Lincolnshire County Council said that they regularly take in unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

County council leader Martin Hill said: “The county council and district councils in Lincolnshire have always been committed to playing a role in the resettling of refugees in our county.

“We have had numerous conversations with the Home Office and had made our position clear that we would be able to take up to 200 refugees under the proviso they were all fully funded.

“That said, we do regularly take in unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Currently, we are supporting 82 children and young people from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Eritrea and Afghanistan.”

‘Either do it properly or don’t do it at all’

Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman said that there was a “legitimate criticism” that the county could do more, but said that “either you do it properly or don’t do it at all.”

In a live interview with Lincolnshire Reporter, the Conservative MP said: “Lincolnshire is willing to take what there are the resources for.

“That cannot mean that we say to people that we want to help but can’t do anything for you once you get here.

“I’ve been very keen to work with government to see what we can do with the county council, with voluntary groups, and putting that network together.

“But it’s also about saying where’s the best place in the UK for refugees to live. Often it is where there are pre-existing communities from those countries. They tend to be in big urban centres.

“I don’t think anyone in the county council, in the management of Lincolnshire as a whole, would suggest that we shouldn’t be doing anything more, that we can’t do anything.

“But it’s right to do this in the right way rather than just to say ‘look come we’ll do what we can’.

“You either do it properly or you don’t do it at all.”

What have we done?

People in Lincoln donated 10 vans worth of donations.

Over recent years, residents in Lincoln and the rest of the county have displayed their support for refugees.

An event organised by #CompassionateLincoln in September 2015 allowed people to hear real-life experiences of those who have sought refuge, and share their own ideas and questions on the crisis.

Organiser Charlotte Kemp told The Lincolnite at the time that there had been “a build-up of an inward-looking and unsympathetic approach to social issues”, with a collective response needed to the refugee crisis.

Lincoln residents also turned up in October 2016 to support a food bank collecting supplies for refugees in Calais, with a similar collection point set up in September 2015.

Businesswoman Emily Kent, who organised the collection point, previously said: “The donations will be invaluable to the people caught in the crisis.

“Going forward we are not only now looking at helping those camping in Calais, but also those who are arriving in the UK.

“The aid when they arrive here doesn’t have to come from taxpayers.”