20th to 26th June 2016 is Refugee Week and today we are highlighting some of the many different events which have been taking place across Wokingham Borough and the nearby areas. The theme of this years Refugee Week is “Welcome” celebrating the welcome shown to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, and seek to encourage and inspire communities to continue to welcome new arrivals in the weeks, months and years to come.
The Refugee Week website writes about why “welcome” has been chosen as the theme this year
During the second half of 2015, the ‘refugee crisis’ was accompanied by incredible acts of welcome by communities and individuals across the UK and Europe. Some were getting involved in refugee rights for the very first time, while others were continuing the volunteering and campaigning they are committed to all year round, year on year.
Wokingham Methodist Church organised a day of prayer and reflection with resources around the theme “Different pasts, Shared futures” on Saturday 16th July.
St Nicolas Earley collected items including towels, toiletries and children’s clothes which were made into Care Packs for expectant mothers, babies and families as part of the Samara’s Aid Appeal. The cost of delivery to the refugees in the Middle East is being funded through the sales of Ice Cream Sundaes on Sunday 3rd July.
Palmer Park United Reformed Church held a day Refugee Week Cultural Event on Sunday 26th June including prayer stations, international foods and music and a chance to get to know different cultures.
Clare Hooper, from Wokingham Baptist Church is part of the steering group working with Wokingham Borough Council to work out how refugees can be supported locally and says that the process is moving along well with a suitable house being sought in the borough. A summary of how this works is provided below by St John the Baptist Church in Crowthorne
In December 2015 a meeting of Wokingham District Council was chaired by Simon Price and subsequently addressed by: Daniel Hobbs from the Home Office, Deputy Head of the Government’s Resettlement Programme; Ray Millard, the partnership manager S.E. Strategic Partnership for Migration; Nick Hagbourne – Reading Refugee Support Group; and Zaimal Koroma – Reading Red Cross. They described their experiences in Reading. The Government has pledged to take in 20,000 refugees from the United Camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Life there is very basic although the Government has already spent billions in aid there.
Of the 20,000 promised, the first 200 came in September. It was expected that 1,000 would be resettled before Christmas. Daniel Hobbs is in charge of this resettlement programme together with the help of “a team made up of local government representatives”. Of the numbers seeking resettlement there were two levels of screening including medical screening done, first in the camps and again on reaching the U.K .but those selected would match up to the following criteria: women with children on their on their own; survivors of torture; those with particular medical needs; those with problems of sexual identity.
Each local authority is being asked to house five families. Five-bedroomed houses are being sought for which the rent and maintenance would be paid over a five-year period. Support from the Overseas Development Aid would be provided. After five years the resettled family can return or apply for resettlement. A case worker and translator would accompany each party of refugees. For practical reasons the authority is hoping to find accommodation within reasonable distance of work which does present difficulties. It is probable that Wokingham’s refugees will probably be placed in the Woodley/Earley area.
You can also read this report by The Wokingham Paper which was written about this important process.
In neighbouring Reading the Reading Refugee Support Group is hosting the bid to become a Town of Sanctuary for Refugees. RRSG help refugees and asylum-seekers overcome the many challenges they face and help them to be independent, to access their rights and to encourage their self-esteem and confidence. This week they hosted, at Reading Film Theatre, Nicky’s Family film which tells the nearly forgotten story of Nicholas Winton, an Englishman who organized the rescue of 669 Czech and Slovak children just before the outbreak of World War II. This was followed by a Panel Discussion.
Last, but certainly not least, a Wokingham Borough resident, Rachel Bradley, has continued to inspire and encourage gossip girls (and guys) across Wokingham to donate items needed by refugees in The Jungle in Calais through the Gossip Girls in Action Facebook Group. This group has over 1100 members who have already delivered clothing to refugees and are currently collecting food to be delivered at the same time as the colouring books and stationary items on the trip next month. Please join this group if you would like to donate the following items:
Tinned pulses/beans (any variety other than baked)
These are just a selection of the collections, prayers and discussions happening across Wokingham Borough to support refugees, if you know of something else then please comment to spread the word about the good news.