Welcome to Manchester
I had written something on the current refugee crisis but lost it when I lost my connection to the server. In the meantime, Councillor Paul Andrews, who leads in the Council on refugees, had circulated the letter below to councillors and as it contains much useful information I thought I would circulate it more widely.
I am absolutely clear that Manchester will willingly take its share of refugees, as we currently do and always have done, but, if we are to give refugees the support they need this needs to be properly and fully-funded by the government as part of a national response.
The NW region as a whole is currently receiving the highest number of Syrian nationals in the country via the asylum programme, although only a minority of local authorities, including Manchester are participating in this.
When Manchester was originally approached by the Home Office in February 2014 (long before the current crisis) to participate in the Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) Scheme for Syrian refugees, we indicated our willingness to do so but were unable to secure an adequate scheme or funding from central government and as such in the landscape of unprecedented budget cuts and reduced services, it was felt that we could not effectively resource and provide the appropriate services which would certainly be required. However, a commitment was made that if the Home Office were prepared to negotiate in terms of appropriate funding, that we would be open to further discussions. We have maintained dialogue with government in the hope of making progress but unfortunately the Home Office were unable to progress this further and discussions proved fruitless.
Enabling a resettlement scheme can take some time and would undoubtedly require working in collaboration with our partners in order to secure the appropriate accommodation and support required
If we were to take steps to mobilise a resettlement scheme at a City level with immediate effect, accommodation would in the first instance have to be provided via our homelessness service.
I know that members of the group wish to help as best they can. Having consulted with Refugee Action they are advising that the best help we can give is to contribute money to help improve conditions in refugee camps, and to help those who are already here and due to arrive. Therefore, Sue Murphy and I have asked the Lord Mayor’s office if we can launch an appeal to raise funds that can be provided to the relevant organisations that have projects specifically working with the Syrian Refugees and this will be launched at the beginning of next week.
There are other ways of providing support and these are appended below.
We need to continue to put pressure on the government to act quickly and decisively to make sure that the resources are available to enable Manchester to support people in crisis.
If you need any further information, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Refugee Action have advised that if people want to help personally that they can donate to either themselves or one of their partners agencies. The contact details in terms of website and numbers are below. The giving page states that people can donate money and they ask for people to be signposted to their website (www.refugee-action.org.uk/give) or via phone: 0845 894 2536., Or if they wish to donate clothes that these can be dropped off at their Manchester Office:
3 Chepstow Street
0161 831 5420
Save the Children: distributing essential items such as nappies, hygiene kits and food
Red Cross: providing emergency health services at central train stations
Migrant Offshore Aid Station: Runs independent rescue boats to rescue migrants at risk of drowning
International Rescue Committee: improving living conditions by setting up camps
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR): providing water, mosquito nets, tents, healthcare
World Vision: providing food, water, shelter, education and psychosocial care
Medecins Sans Frontieres: Has three rescue ships in the Mediterranean
Unicef : United Nations childrens charity providing food, health care, clean water and psychological support to children