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York Labour makes call for firm action on refugees

The council’s Labour Group is calling for cross-party support in committing to accept a number of Syrian refugee families to the city.
The situation in Syria has been labelled a humanitarian crisis by international NGOs, governments and by political parties in the UK.  Millions have been forced to flee the war torn country. 
Yet responses from different countries have shown the UK unwilling to take positive action in the same way as other advanced, wealthy countries by committing to take no more than a small number of refugees.
So today Labour makes the commitment to work with other parties in advance of a council meeting next month where it is hoped a cross party consensus will back firm action to accept Syrian refugee families to the city.
Labour Group Leader, Coun. Dafydd Williams said:
“It is clear the UK has not done enough so it is slightly more positive to hear the Prime Minister now bowing to public pressure for the UK to play its role and accept more Syrian refugees, but it is still not enough.  Our focus has to be on what meaningful part York can play and I will be working cross-party to ensure the city does what it can, something we have done before and can do again.  We believe the Guildhall could be one option that would work as temporary accommodation while not in any other use, with some reasonable modifications, until those refugees are accommodated elsewhere through the usual process.  The Guildhall would be a symbolic commitment from York as a city to the plight of these people”.
Labour is working closely with Refugee Action York (RAY) to look at how funding would support the main costs of health, education and housing for at least 12 months and in looking at recommended numbers York could take, before submitting a motion to a Full Council meeting next month for councillors to debate the issue.
Esme Madill, speaking for Refugee Action York said:
“We want to help inform councillors on possible numbers of refugees York could take as well as on how any funding from the UN, European Union and the UK Government could be used to support refugees during their resettlement period.  York is in a great position to be able to act now, and I’m pleased Councillor Barnes has contacted RAY to engage with us on what York can do on this critically important issue, before it’s too late for those affected”.
Coun. Williams said it was important that councillors have the right information and evidence in front of them before debating the motion.  He said he would be speaking with other political leaders on the council to get their views before submitting the motion, which could potentially be proposed and seconded cross-party.
“This is a perfect example of something we can do locally which demonstrates a genuine commitment to those forced to flee their country”, he said.  “Refugees in the past have played a positive role in the life of the city and will do again. The current Lord Mayor is the daughter or a political refugee who fled Nazi-occupied Denmark, and there are countless other examples of the contribution refugees have made to York and to the UK.  Refugees are not economic migrants and this distinction is important in what we should do; where people’s lives are at risk we must act.  It is a measure of any civilised society with the means to do something how it responds in these circumstances and I’m confident York will respond in the right way”.
The government last week confirmed it will take thousands more than the initial 500 in three years it committed to under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS), which has seen 216 Syrians enter Britain since March last year.  The scheme runs alongside the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees Syrian Humanitarian Admission Programme (HAP). 
The Government move may be a response to indications that relations between Germany and the UK could be severely damaged by the UK’s position on resettling Syrian refugees.

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