Cllr Sue James Encourages Local Community Wanting to Welcome Refugees

Whilst statements from the Leader of Cornwall Council are a good starting point, I am giving little nudges to do more.

I have committed to supporting Tiny Soul (a group based in the Town Hall in St Just) in their efforts to reach out to vulnerable mums & babies, with their knitted gifts. Whilst not set up specifically to help refugees, the group are now forging links with the Greek Island of Kos and are willing to be a focal point for others in the community of St Just and Pendeen, who want to get involved.

For more information on this local project, visit the Tiny Soul website.

I recently attended a meeting, called by those involved with the Tiny Soul group and someone there asked about registering her willingness to take a refugee family in an annex. She could not find any local way to make her offer known but had found and registered with Avaaz, who then put her in touch with Citizen UK

Avaaz is an international organisation enabling people to record their support for Syrian refugees and encouraging people to pressurise Governments to do more. Citizen UK describes itself, on its website, as “organising communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good”.

Sue James raises refugee issue at Full Council meeting

I had been contemplating asking a question of the Leader of Cornwall Council, at Full Council but there were so many questions that I had not settled on an area. The difficulty with the formal procedures of Council is that it does not allow for impromptu discussions. I was therefore aware that I could only ask a question which would receive a prepared reply, but there could be no discussion, at this point.

This is the question I asked, on 15 September:

I have been approached by a local resident wanting to offer an annex she has to a family of refugees. She was surprised that she could not find anywhere on the Cornwall Council website to register her offer and enquiries suggest there are now National bodies trying to do this but it seems to me a task that we as a Council should be doing.

More than that, we as a Council could invite caravan park owners, people with a spare room, 2nd home owners and holiday home owners to consider offering accommodation and register that offer with us, as a Council. That way we can collate that information alongside information on where school places and health services capacity is to start making plans about where best to offer places to refugees.

Can I be reassured that we will take that coordinating type role and that these sorts of plans will be made to demonstrate to Government that we, as a Council, are ready to play our part in welcoming refugees?

The Leader and Chair had pre-empted mine and another more general question by making position statements to Council and the press release that followed the meeting sums this up.

Empty Vicarage at Pendeen and support from Truro Diocese

Pendeen Vicarage

Sue at Pendeen Vicarage

Claire Healy, who also attended the Tiny Soul meeting made contact with the Truro Diocese, very conscious that there was a large empty vicarage in Pendeen. I too have been very conscious of that. This was the reply she received:

“I think it is fair to say that we are all in agreement over the need to offer help over the terrible situation with so many refugees coming to Europe for help. The difficult part, for us all, is trying to work out what form that might take.

As you can imagine this has been the subject of many conversations across the diocese. Bishop Tim is keen to ensure that whatever help is offered is practical and sustainable and, of course, may need to be delivered in tandem with other organisations – charities and the local authority, for example. Like many others, we are keen to hear fuller details of the Government’s plan in the coming days and hope there will be a joined up approach in which the church in all its dioceses can play its part. In all likelihood that help will come from both parish and diocesan levels.

This type of activity will be in addition to the existing and ongoing practical assistance that has been offered by parishes. All Saints, Highertown in Truro has been a good example of what can be done and is, I know, planning further activity. You might like to keep an eye on their website at www.asht.org.uk to see what they have planned next. People from all over Cornwall contributed to their recent collection and they became something of a focal point, and we are fully supportive of them.

Bishop Tim will be meeting with senior colleagues this week and plans to consult them over what help the diocese will be able to offer. The subject of empty buildings owned by the church will be discussed, among many other things. I suspect we will all be keen to ensure that any offers of help are backed up with practical and sustainable planning as to their ongoing nature. I know that while he believes there needs to be a determined focus in addressing the causes of the mass migration of people, Bishop Tim also believes that Christians should offer comfort and assistance to the vulnerable and those in need.

I hope that while this may not specifically answer your question, it demonstrates that Bishop Tim and our colleagues within the diocese are well aware of the need for action and keen to help where we are able, and when it becomes clear specifically what kind of help is both needed and practically useful at the present time.”

‘Refugees Welcome’ rally in Truro

Refugees Rally, Truro

Caroline Schofield with impromptu banner at the Truro rally

Some readers will have attended the rally in Truro last weekend and Caroline Schofield went to show that the people of St Just wanted to play their part.

I have been made aware of ‘Help for Refugees – West Penwith’, who are holding a meeting at Penzance Leisure Centre on Sunday 20th September at 7.30pm, where they will discuss what the next steps should be to offer help from the local community for those affected by the crisis. (I will get there, if I can BUT my daughter has just gone into labour so might not make it!)

Finally, based on my contribution at Council I was invited to record an interview for radio Cornwall. They gave me a surprising amount of airtime at the start of the programme which you can listen to (although this will only work until about 15 October 2015): Sue speaks on Radio Cornwall.

Whilst I welcome the fact that the Leader is moving forward, I feel that, like the Government there is a risk we are slightly behind the views of many of the public. Along with my LibDem colleagues I would like a more compassionate and welcoming attitude from the Council.

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