St Peter’s Church Hall was full on Wednesday October 28th when more than 60 people attended the second meeting of the BRWR group to show their support. We were a diverse group of residents from local churches, schools, Muslim and Arabic communities, from all over Bromsgrove district, Northfield and Rubery. Several members came from the Equality and Diversity Forum.
A brief history of Syria was given by Janet King. Later 2 people with Syrian parents who had fled from the war there in the 1980s, explained a little more, and Hassam offered Arabic tuition and books. A young Christian Eritrean refugee who had travelled through Calais, described how he was now studying A levels and thanked us for his welcome here.
A website is in process of being designed by Peter Rendell and Dr.John Cochrane asked for help with publicity. The group has a constitution and a bank account for financial transparency.
Several people made themselves known with offers of help, whether it was teaching English, or befriending, donating furniture, bedding, etc. Storage of goods will be needed until BDHT could identify properties where refugees could live. It was suggested that the empty library building or council offices could be used for furniture storage. New Starts have offered the use of their van and driver to transport furniture, but are unable to store any for us.
The big question on everyone’s lips was, when is this going to happen – how soon can we welcome some of these very vulnerable people from the refugee camps and how many will the council agree to take? We understand that it is up to 12 or 15 families. Will they all arrive at once, or gradually? Many other authorities are making offers now also.
It was agreed that we would write to Bromsgrove District Council officers urging them to accept some refugees before the winter. The 1 year’s funding already agreed by the government is actually from the UNHCR and the Overseas Aid Budget which is only 0.7% of GMP. It was agreed that people would also write to their MP, Sajid Javid, who so far had been very positive in his support for the scheme, asking for him to put pressure on the government to agree to 5 years’ funding for the refugees. We understand that when the District Council is more certain of a government pledge, then they will progress the scheme. The refugees will not be barred from working to support themselves, unlike asylum seekers, so may become productive members of society within the five years. Coventry, has been brave enough to go ahead with accepting 78 refugees without this pledge of government money.
The meeting ended on an optimistic positive note. Any offers of help are to be given to firstname.lastname@example.org