Help people to help #refugeeswelcome

The people of Britain are desperately asking what they can do to help those affected by the crisis in Syria, particularly those (at least 10,000) who will soon start to arrive here in Britain. The government needs to seize the moment and take us up on our offers. At the moment they don’t seem to be doing so and I can’t help worrying that if they don’t start co-ordinating the public’s offers of help soon, this extraordinary national humanitarian response could be wasted. With this in mind, I hope Labour MPs (and any others) will find the suggestions below helpful when discussing the government response in the days ahead in Parliament.

1. Establish a national phone helpline which people can call to offer help, particularly housing, foster care, employment, free professional advice and support. This outpouring of help urgently needs coordination. All of this information can be collated and given to local authorities so they have a full picture of support available in their areas.

2. Phone helpline to also signpost to organisations already helping e.g. Save the Children. This will help people, for example, donate money in the best way.

Re: National phone helpline 

3. People offering to accommodate refugees can be coordinated and mapped geographically (very helpful to local authorities)

4. People offering employment can call and be mapped geographically

5.  Voluntary sector organisations/professional individuals who can help in a variety of professional ways (e.g. with counselling, medical help or assistance with filling in forms) can call and be mapped geographically

6. People offering to foster unaccompanied children can be coordinated and mapped geographically

7. Government should call for UK resident volunteers who speak relevant languages, e.g. Arabic and Kurdish, to build up a national database of people who can help non English speaking refugees to communicate and help smooth their welcome here in Britain.

8. I understand that Local Authorities will be told they will get funding for one year per person they support. This means they effectively have a year to help people become self sufficient. This means starting as soon as possible to help people access jobs and rebuild their lives.

9. It is (therefore) essential that the government allows those coming here from the refugee camps to work in the UK straight away. They want to rebuild their lives and have a chance at a decent future. Labour should challenge any beurocratic (or political) obstacles to this as a priority.

10. Start seriously exploring programme of Humanitarian led regeneration, outlined briefly here

The hope has to be that sometime in the future Syria will be safe again and anyone who wants to can return home. But that doesn’t look likely anytime soon. That means we have an urgent duty to do whatever we can to provide refuge and shelter and to do so in a way which allows people not just to exist (in temporary accommodation, jobless, without either prospects or hope) but to thrive. These people have already borne too much, far more than most British people can possibly imagine. We must now do everything we can to ensure their arrival and time in Britain (however long or short) gives every woman, man and child as good a life as possible.

We need a unity of purpose right now. The suggestions above give (I hope) food for thought on how to constructively bring together national government, local government and the people of this country.