Our meeting at the Canterbury Street Mosque Gillingham was a memorable occasion. Our host speakers gave a simple rational on helping refugees from a Muslim perspective and highlighted on a practical level the fundamental steps they have taken as a local community to feed the hungry in Calais and help those further afield. The needs understood and the connections made have enabled them to give aid on a consistent and persistent basis from the Medway Towns and is certainly a good example for others to follow and be inspired by. We thank Anwar Khan and his team from the Kent Muslim Welfare Association for hosting this meeting. Councillor Adam Price spoke of the need for understanding across international frontiers including race, religion and culture and the need for all to work together in finding solutions for this deep seated crisis. He enjoined us not to be narrow minded nationalistically in terms of the up and coming Brexit vote.

Our following meeting on July 11th took place at Gun Wharf Chatham at Medway Council Offices. All 55 Councillors were invited. This was an important meeting in the light of the Revised Dubs Amendment encouraging local councils to dialogue with national Government involved in the plight of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children in Europe. Apologies were received from some and 4 attended from the Labour Group and 2 others were unable to come at the last moment. A few young local refugees also came. Lily Parrott in charge of the British Red Cross work with young refugees in Kent gave us insight into the difficulties many UASC (Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) face on a daily basis. Councillor Clive Johnson spoke with feeling and passion about what he had observed and seen with the British Red Cross work in Gillingham out of which was fashioned his motion and speech to Council on the 21st July.

The motion proposed to Council by Cllr Clive Johnson (and supported in essence by groups) such as ourselves, the Salvation Army, Medway Holocaust Memorial Day, Save the Children and the British Red Cross, was rejected on the basis (and the excuse) that it might cost the Council money! This is a shame because this was a genuine compassionate attempt to help young refugees already in Medway, and there are many local community groups who would want to facilitate such goals and will do so despite the Council’s negative stance.

Motion for Full Council Thursday 21st July 2016

This council recognises the plight of vulnerable young refugees and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children who seek refuge in our Medway community. It undertakes to engage in constructive dialogue with community groups, voluntary agencies, statutory bodies, educational institutions and other interested parties to develop support networks and opportunities for integration that may include but are not limited to:

educational opportunities

access to purposeful activities

structured contact with local residents.

Clive Johnson
Councillor
Gillingham South

Anyone who attended our invitational Council meeting would have been left in no doubt as to the importance of the contribution of passing such a motion would have had to the emotional well being, social stability and mental health of these young people who are in our midst, many of whom are not only battling with culture shock, but also social isolation.

We hope in the future many more Councillors and MPs will take a genuine interest in some of the local initiatives that are happening with these young people.