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Council commits to refugee support

Leeds

Published at 12:44pm 5th September 2015. (Updated at 12:50pm 5th September 2015)

As the migrant crisis continues, Leeds City Council has confirmed its commitment to support refugees.

The local authority says it's "working quietly behind the scenes" to help families seek sanctuary.

Over the last year, it's also been in negotiations to bring families to the city under voluntary Afghan and Syrian relocation schemes.

Some Afghan families have been successfully settled in the city over the last couple of months and the first Syrian people are due to arrive soon.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: "We have been witnessing the most devastating horror in the news, as terrible human tragedy is escalating as a result of the conflict in Syria. Desperate people are battling to keep their families alive as they are displaced from their homes and it is our responsibility as a city and a nation to help.

"Normally we would not discuss our efforts to help people fleeing unspeakable horror, so we can protect them as they settle into their new lives. We want to reassure people that Leeds is playing its part in supporting people whose lives have been torn apart and will continue to do so.

"We are also calling on the Government to give us some clarity about their proposals and how we as local authority can respond to them.

"Leeds has a long and proud history of welcoming people from many different countries and we would not be the city we are today without our rich and diverse communities from all over the world."

Otley has a particular history with welcoming refugees.

During the Irish famine known as An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger), Thomas Constable saved and welcomed 500 refugees to the town.

There's also a plaque on the Otley Jubilee Clock to mark the Belgian refugees who arrived during World War One.

Local MP Greg Mulholland said: "Ultimately these are people who just want to be able to live and raise their families. The Syria conflict has already seen over 300,000 killed and the photo of the three-year-old boy washed up on a beach moved many of us.

"Where the UK can play a role to help, it should, and I hope Leeds will very much be a part of that. That's why I've written to the council, and I do hope it will consider strongly how it can resettle some of the refugees. It might persuade other councils around the country to do likewise, and subsequently encourage ministers to allow some of the refugees into the UK."

Anyone who would like to do something to help with the refugee crisis can do so through various organisations which are working with refugees and asylum seekers:

  • For direct support to destitute asylum seekers, with food, clothing and money donations, contact PAFRAS on 0113 262 2163 or www.pafras.org.uk
  • Help with English lessons in refugees' homes or provide a room in your home for a destitute asylum seeker to sleep for a day or two - www.lassn.org.uk
  • For more information about helping refugees around the region, you can also contact Migration Yorkshire on 0113 395 2434 or by e-mailing admin@migrationyorkshire.org.uk
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