I know that the refugee crisis is an issue of great concern to my constituents – I’ve received more emails on it than I have on any other issue except Brexit, writes Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood…
We are faced with the biggest global refugee crisis since the second world war, and it is possible to feel completely helpless in the face of it.
It is hard to understand the geopolitics and the nature of specific conflicts, but easy to appreciate that no-one chooses to leave their home, community and familiar surroundings unless they have absolutely no choice. I know that the refugee crisis is an issue of great concern to my constituents – I’ve received more emails on it than I have on any other issue except Brexit.
So it is heartening to see action being taken very close to home. I was really proud to attend a fantastic event last week, celebrating the work of Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, a community group which has successfully sponsored a refugee family to come and live in Herne Hill. It was very moving to hear members of the community speak about their involvement with the group; and the family themselves, for whom the past few years have been very hard indeed, speaking about the transformative difference that it has made to them to be living in a safe and secure environment.
Community sponsorship began in 2015 as a response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Amid the outpouring of public concern in 2015 was a huge desire to help, with local residents getting in touch with me to offer rooms in their homes and practical support, but at that time there was nowhere to channel this generosity and enthusiasm.
Since 2015 more than 140 groups across the country have been working to sponsor a family to live in their community and more than 200 people have so far been able to settle in safety in the UK and start to rebuild their lives.
I’ve been supportive of Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees since the beginning of their journey 18 months ago, and it has been an absolute delight and inspiration to see them come together as a group of local residents who didn’t previously know each other, build relationships, raise funds, generate support and successfully jump through each of the hurdles of the application process. Elsewhere in our local area other groups are now following the same journey.