REFUGEE SUPPORT GROUPS CALL ON COUNCILS TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST “DEEPLY CONCERNING” RHETORIC.
A coalition of refugee support groups is calling on Worcestershire councils to speak out against “dangerous and inflammatory” language used against people seeking asylum.
Eight voluntary organisations which support refugees and asylum seekers have joined forces to send open letters to local authorities across the county, outlining their opposition to inaccurate language that “increases violent prejudice and danger” towards people seeking sanctuary.
The coalition is demanding that the current immigration debate, which is dominated by “deeply concerning” rhetoric, should be countered with arguments that are balanced and factual.
However, the alliance is also full of praise for the continuing efforts made by councils across the county to welcome and support refugees and asylum seekers, and it is encouraging Worcestershire County Council to apply for a “Council of Sanctuary UK” award in recognition of its “widespread practical compassion”.
The open letter will be delivered to all seven county, city, borough and district councils on Monday May 22nd.
It highlights the widespread and inaccurate use of the phrase “illegal asylum seeker” particularly by some politicians and national newspapers.
The letter points out that under both UK and international law, anyone has the right to seek asylum in the UK. Only when asylum has been turned down and that person has subsequently refused to leave, can they then be described as “illegal”.
Ruth Forecast is chair of Worcestershire Welcomes Refugees, an umbrella organisation coordinating district Welcome groups representing hundreds of volunteers across the county.
“Using the term ‘illegal asylum seeker’ to describe someone who has just arrived in the UK looking for safety, having fled from unimaginable violence and horror, is not only factually inaccurate but is also designed to create prejudice and animosity,” she said.
“And the use of words like ‘invasion’ and ‘swarm’ also paints an entirely false image, when we’re talking about a relatively small number of people who have invariably fled war, torture or persecution.
“These are desperate human beings who deserve compassion and support – they’re not individuals who should be vilified. Almost always, refugees and asylum seekers would want to stay in their home countries if they were able to live there freely and safely – that’s the reality of the situation. But instead most of them have had to endure immense personal trauma to get here.
“That is why hundreds of volunteers across the county – together with the support of local councils – are committed to helping refugees and asylum seekers gain the sanctuary they need, and to support them as they try to settle into the British way of life.
“This volunteer army shows that despite the media rhetoric, our county communities are actually compassionate and caring, and willing to offer the hand of kindness and friendship to those who, at the end of the day, are just ordinary humans no different from us.”
Notes to editors:
Worcestershire Welcomes Refugees is an umbrella coalition made up of the following voluntary organisations:
Bromsgrove and District Asylum Seeker Support
Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees
Droitwich Welcomes Refugees
Evesham Vale Welcomes Refugees
Worcester City Welcomes Refugees
Wyre Forest Refugee Support Group
Wyre Forest Asylum Seekers Support Group
City of Sanctuary UK is a registered charity that fosters voluntary groups that support people seeking sanctuary in our communities. Any organisation that embeds compassion and solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers can apply for awards, which have been granted to groups as diverse as councils and cities, colleges and churches, as well as organisations working in health, retail and the arts.
Further information: firstname.lastname@example.org 07786 2461078