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Letter: Conservatives Should Persuade Their Parliamentary Colleagues to Properly Fund Refugee Assistance

Published on: 19 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 19 Aug, 2021

From: Zoe Franklin

Guildford Lib Dem’s spokesperson on Parliamentary matters

I read Conservative comments in the article ‘GBC ‘Already Working with the Defence Ministry to House Afghan Refugees’ with confusion given their implication that Guildford and Waverley Borough councils were/are trying to avoid supporting Afghan refugees. Speaking to Lib Dem colleagues on both councils nothing could be further from the truth – as is obvious from Cllr McShane’s comments.

What needs to be understood clearly about this terrible situation is the difference between our councils’ responses and the reality of Conservative responses behind their public words. On the one hand, both councils have existing commitments to supporting refugees and I have no doubt that both councils will continue to do all they can over the coming weeks to progress support for Afghan refugees quickly and effectively.

But their ability to do so goes only as far as parameters set by this Conservative Government allow.

So if Ms Richardson, Ms Barker and Mr Spooner want our councils to do more for the refugees that Boris Johnson’s foreign policy has created they need to speak to their own colleagues in Westminster and demand a better and more timely response from them.

It’s also important to note that while councils provide this support for refugees willingly, it is costly and to expand what they are doing they need a long-term assurance from the government that they will be provided with the funding needed – and not just for the first 12 months. Council finances are already stretched due to the pandemic and Conservative funding cuts; they do not have a bottomless pit of cash.

In contrast to Guildford and Waverley councils, the Conservative Government has a much poorer record on providing support for refugees and vulnerable people across the globe. Indeed, Ms Richardson has consistently voted with the Conservative Government for a stricter asylum system for those seeking refuge in the UK and, just this month, she voted to cut overseas aid spending, including a 78% aid cut to Afghanistan.

Finally, the 20,000 refugees figure quoted at the start of the article may sound positive but the reality is less so. The government has only committed to housing 5,000 refugees (just seven per constituency) over the coming year. The remaining 15,000 is over an unspecified ‘long-term”.

After the savaging that Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab received in the House of Commons from MPs on all sides of the House on their handling of this crisis, I would encourage Ms Richardson and her Conservative colleagues to reflect on their own actions and that of their party before they attempt to cast aspersions on the compassion of our local borough councils.

As my colleague and Leader of Waverley Borough Council, Cllr Paul Follows, said in an interview on BBC Radio Surrey, rather than Ms Richardson taking to social media, she should pick up the phone to the local council leaders to have a conversation and ask what she can do to help.

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Responses to Letter: Conservatives Should Persuade Their Parliamentary Colleagues to Properly Fund Refugee Assistance

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    August 19, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    I don’t normally get “political” but I must say there are a couple of points with which I strongly disagree. Dragging refugees halfway across the world is not the best way to deal with the problem: one refugee housed in the UK can pay for 100 housed in adjacent countries to their plight.

    Second, poor old “Boris bashing” again. Problems with Afghanistan have been going on since the 18th Century and continue. Boris was not in power 20 years ago when it was decided to go in and prevent the sponsorship of terrorism and our Army was not the major contingent in Afghanistan. When the US decided to leave it was impractical for smaller partners to stay on but the chaos was not of the UK’s making.

    The expectation that our country can support refugees from around the world is out of proportion. At what point do our politicians say: “Sorry we have no more electricity, no more water, no more sanitation, no more rubbish tips – we are at capacity.”

    Of course, our standard of living is much higher than many other countries but is the answer to constantly bring more people into our small country? Is it best for them? Taking another countries’ educated, mentally determined and physically able, so we ‘prosper at the other countries expense, is this what we want for our grandchildren a country built on the “lost sweat of other countries”?

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