Leeds Council is making clearer how it will deal with the refugee situation.

A proposal to welcome 200 refugees from Syria will be discussed by Council leaders next week. They will receive a detailed report on all aspects of accepting and settling refugees in the city. The current suggestion is to take 200 – though this is subject to government agreeing to some of the specific proposals on the table. Leeds is committed to its status as a City of Sanctuary. That means not only taking in refugees, but ensuring that the infrastructure is in place to support and help them once they arrive – and longer term. The Council has set up a task force to enable it to do just this.IMG_6176

The task group was formed to consider what additional arrangements need to be in place to support more refugees being accommodated in the city. It met for the first time this week. It is made up of a range of organisations and partners. The group is led by the council’s assistant chief executive James Rogers and attended by key representatives from Leeds City Council, the NHS, Migration Yorkshire, West Yorkshire Police and the Leeds Migration Partnership, who are representing third-sector groups in the city.

In the light of a report which will be submitted to a meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board on Wednesday 23 September, Council leaders will have a chance to consider and discuss a wide range of migration and refugee issues relating to the city.

Subject to receiving confirmation from the government on their specific proposals around the issue, a recently formed city task force given the brief of coordinating the city’s response to the crisis, has recommended that Leeds should seek to take up to 200 refugees from Syria over the course of the next two years. Having assessed the situation and the potential impact on Leeds, this number is felt by partners on the task force to underline the city’s commitment and status as a ‘City of Sanctuary’. But it is also considered to be a manageable number in meeting requirements on issues such as accommodation, schooling and health needs.

Additional costs associated in welcoming additional refugees to Leeds will be met through a specific grant by the government in the same way that other refugees have been accommodated in Leeds over recent months. The council is an established member of the Asylum Dispersal Programme which has already provided asylum seekers and refugees with a range of support from the city over a number of years.

To view the full executive board report, please see:
http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s137003/Migration%20and%20Refugee%20Cover%20Report%20150915.pdf

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said:
“While we are still waiting to hear from the government on how they specifically see local authorities helping refugees trying to escape conflicts in the Middle East such as Syria, we have been very keen to ensure that when the details are confirmed, Leeds is ready and able to act as soon as possible.
“The creation of a city task force was a key part in ensuring that our response as a city would be both structured and coordinated. This work has helped inform a view that Leeds should offer to take up to 200 refugees from Syria over the course of the next two years, which I fully support.
“The response and offers of assistance from the people of Leeds to this terrible crisis has been simply overwhelming, and as a compassionate city which also has City of Sanctuary status, we are determined to do everything in our power to help those people desperately in need of our help.”

On a very personal note, Alex Sobel, Chair of Leeds NW Constituency Labour Party, added
‘ I am very concerned about the crisis not just in Europe but in transit and refugee camps in the Middle East. I am the first generation in 4 generations of my family who has not been a refugee. My parents, grandparents and great grandparents all were refugees at times in their lives. So I have always supported asylum seekers and refugees in Leeds. I am delighted Leeds City Council is not only willing to step to the plate and play its part in welcoming refugees to the city, but is also challenging the Government on the damaging changes to the Asylum system it has introduced.’

So what can you do?
Anyone in Leeds who would like to do something to help with the refugee crisis can do so through a number of organisations in the city working with refugees and asylum seekers. They rely on the goodwill and generosity of the public:
Donations – for direct support to destitute asylum seekers, with food, clothing and money donations – main contact PAFRAS [Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers]- 0113 262 2163, http://www.pafras.org.uk. PAFRAS works with refugees, asylum seekers and the wider community to counter the effects of enforced destitution on vulnerable migrants. Its work includes providing immediate humanitarian relief and long-term support, advice and advocacy aimed at assisting service users to make lasting improvements to their situation.
Also Meeting Point in Armley, https://meetingpointleeds.wordpress.com/ Meeting Point started in February 2003 and works with Refugees and Asylum Seekers. They are based at Christ Church in Armley, Leeds.
Meeting Point aims to serve the needs of Refugees and Asylum Seekers regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ability or legal status. Meeting Point principally aims to work with Refugees and Asylum Seekers towards social integration. They provide a range of suitable community provisions in association with other organisations – whether health, employment, advice, family support or food provision. They also aim to reduce negative stereotypes and break down barriers in the local community.

Volunteer – help with English lessons in refugees’ homes, or provide a room in your home for a destitute asylum seeker to sleep for a day or two. LASSN [Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network] – http://www.lassn.org.uk It already has over 850 volunteers who have befriended those seeking asylum and helped them integrate into life in Leeds.
Other welcoming activities – Leeds City of Sanctuary co-ordinate activities to make Leeds more welcoming to refugees and asylum seekers, see their website https://leeds.cityofsanctuary.org/. It includes a link to ‘Here are 6 things you can do to help refugees if you live in Leeds’.

For more information about helping refugees around the region you can also contact Migration Yorkshire at admin@migrationyorkshire.org.uk 0113- 395 2434.

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