Our meeting updated us on the rapidly changing nature of the worst Refugee Crisis since the Second World War and even since this meeting the revised ‘Dubs amendment’ finally adopted by the Government puts the emphasis on local Councils consulting with national Government on providing a local response to this crisis for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).
The Rev Stephen Greasley of Gillingham Baptist Church gave us a strong insight into the perils, tensions and difficulties of asylum seeking refugees from his personal, practical involvement with refugees in the North of England. Recent evidence on Channel 4 news suggests little has changed. Stephen also spoke about the parable of the rich young ruler and his attitude to Lazarus, giving a strong challenging message to our society and for us as individuals to consider about how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst, including refugees.
Rob Lloyd from the West Kent Refugee Project run by the British Red Cross spoke about the hundreds of young refugees in Medway, Maidstone and Gravesend and the practical life skills they need. Issues of education, English language learning and provision and integration were raised. It is apparent that individual circumstances can vary considerably as can the services provided by social workers, local councils and the education system. Help will be very welcome from Medway City of Sanctuary in aiding and mentoring individuals through some of these areas of difficulty and need.
As a follow up from this meeting, Councillor Vince Maple and Stephen Goldsbrough gained direct contact with young refugees in Gillingham and saw first hand some of the problems and obstacles these young people face. It was also good to appreciate the enthusiastic work of the British Red Cross and its volunteers in providing a regular, stable and educationally stimulating, weekly meeting point for these youngsters. Much more can be done and Medway City of Sanctuary will seek to play its part in helping to provide a safe and welcoming environment within the Medway Towns for these youngsters whose parents we may never meet. Vince was presented with an evocative painting by a refugee from Eritrea, which he has placed in his Council office.
Our next meeting is on Thursday 2nd June at 7.30pm at the Gillingham Mosque 114 Canterbury Street Gillingham ME7 5UH. All are welcome male and female. (We will be removing shoes as a matter of cultural courtesy). We are looking forward to an informative evening on the not insubstantial efforts of the local Muslim community in responding to this refugee crisis as well as hearing from local Councillor Adam Price.