Welcoming refugees to Southend-on-Sea
October 9, 2015 4 Comments
I was delighted to be able to speak at the Southend Welcoming Refugees event this week; the huge turnout spoke volumes itself about the importance of the issue. There can be no doubt that there are very many within Southend-on-Sea who are deeply concerned about the unfolding tragedy that is Syria, and the affect this is having on thousands of innocent people.
Of course, there are those who think we should not be helping those abroad, often citing ‘charity begins at home’ and pointing to those in need here. We do need to look after our own, but I do not see this as an either/or situation; we can, and should, help as many as we can. We are, after all, sitting comfortably within the top ten wealthiest nations.
I am acutely aware of the housing crisis and homelessness in Southend-on-Sea, and I have involved myself in these issues. I do not pretend that it is easy to find housing for either refugees or the homeless, nor will it be easy to find the money to do this. To do nothing, to not even try, is untenable.
My grandfather fled Belgium in 1914, and so I owe my existence to the generosity of the British in giving him, and thousands like him, a home. Many came here over the centuries fleeing persecution and warfare, as well as seeking a better life. Many have also left these shores, and a glance at the map of the world shows where the British have settled. I hope we are not to deny our heritage and history.
The local authority is offering home to ten refugees, and I am grateful for this. I am hoping, though, that we can be a bit more generous. That number is a mere fifth of our proportionate share of the total number being welcomed to these shores, and I think that Essex generosity will go beyond doing the bare minimum.