Cornwall Council’s Leader Extends Cautious Welcome to Refugees
Cornwall Council’s Leader extends cautious welcome to refugees in his statement to Full Council on 15 September. A press released followed:
The Leader of Cornwall Council John Pollard has pledged Cornwall’s support for the refugees fleeing the Sryian civil war and says that the authority has been drawing up plans to ensure it is ready to offer help when the Government provides details on how and where refuges will be resettled.
Speaking at today’s meeting of the full Council Mr Pollard said it was vital that Cornwall provided the succour and support that those who are fleeing oppression and seeking freedom need.
“Cornwall has a proud record of being welcoming and inclusive and we will play our part in doing whatever we can to help these vulnerable people” he said.
“However, whilst harnessing public charity, we must understand that in the long term the biggest challenge that Cornwall will face is providing refugees that have been granted asylum status with access to quality housing and public services, which are already under considerable pressure. Also, we must not promise more than we can provide because that would not be fair on those who have been displaced.”
Adding that he was disappointed that the United Nations and the European Union had not been able to put clear and supportive procedures in place quickly, Mr Pollard said the UK Government now needed to set up a national programme which provided clear levels of responsibility and back up systems to support local councils.
“We are currently waiting for details from the Government as to how and where refugees will be resettled around the country and what support will be available to councils.” he said. “We know that there are dispersal centres such as Plymouth which will be used to manage the process, but we do not know how many refugees will wish to come to Cornwall where employment opportunities are limited and housing expensive and, of course, there is no existing Syrian or Lybian community with whom they can link.”
Over the past two weeks the Council has been liaising with other local authorities and is ready to respond to specific requests from other areas of the country. It is also pressing officials for the details of any refugees seeking respite in Cornwall. Officers from a range of Council departments, including housing, children’s and adult services, and benefits, are working with partners to ensure that support can be made available quickly when required.
“We have created an area on our website where people can find information on the crisis and be signposted to the excellent work already being done by national and local organisations” said John Pollard. “This will be updated on a daily basis as we receive more details of how local people can help.”
The authority has set up a system to record offers of accommodation from local residents. This is not an official registration process but will be used to compile a list which agencies can use later if required. Anyone interested in offering accommodation is asked to email the Council on email@example.com.
At the same time officers are checking the numbers of empty homes and available properties in Cornwall and are contacting partners such as the Ministry of Defence to establish what property could be made available locally.
“We are expecting information on how the Government wants to proceed later this week when the Home Secretary makes a formal statement to Parliament” said John Pollard. “Only then will it be clear how the scheme for settling Syrian refugees will operate and when refugees will begin to arrive in the UK.
“Cornwall is determined to offer help wherever possible but we need to ensure that we have a meaningful, co-ordinated plan in place and a degree of certainty over what the Government wants us to deliver. We are already preparing for this and, once we know the demand, Cornwall will respond.”