Helping refugees does not mean ignoring poverty at home

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an ever changing feast. It has been ever thus, since before the UK came into existence. Our islands have been the target of successive waves of migration.

My surname is Anglo-Saxon, and those peoples came to these shores as immigrants, refugees even. They assimilated, as did those that came before, and those that have come since. As a genealogist I know my family tree has a fair sprinkling of persons from outside of these shores; this will be the case with almost everyone who calls themselves English, or British.

To deny migration and the positive outcomes it delivers is to deny in many ways what it is to be British. Not only have we imported people, we are one of the more successful exporters of our people. Grab an atlas and look at the many places our cousins have settled in.

I have a son and two brothers in Australia, and a sister in South Africa. If I include my extended family the list grows. My siblings and others have taken partners from abroad too. My typical Essex family is a veritable United Nations if one peers closely.

I am the grandson of a refugee. My Belgian grandfather fled his home in 1914, returning to fight the German invaders, but eventually choosing England as his home after falling in love with my grandmother.

I have had a small number of people contact me because of fears about the settlement of refugees in Southend-on-Sea, often citing that we should look after our own first. Of course we should, but it is not an either/or situation. I would hope we could tackle the blight of poverty at home as well as offering succour to those caught up in the unfolding tragedy that is Syria.

The solution to housing shortages and deprivation at home is not to turn a blind eye to the suffering of those beyond these shores. This wealthy nation can and should meet its international responsibilities.


Motion to welcome, support and accommodate our fair share of refugees both locally and nationally

This is my second motion for the next Full Council:

Motion to welcome, support and accommodate our fair share of refugees both locally and nationally

This Council notes that:

Conflicts in the Middle East have created the largest refugee crisis in generations.

Thousands of people have died while seeking sanctuary from the violence this year alone trying to cross the Mediterranean sea; many of them were children.

The United Kingdom has played a leading role as one of the world’s top international donors, supporting refugees in Syria and the surrounding area.

The UN estimates there are over 320,000 people though who live in urgent need of resettlement. Survivors of torture or sexual violence, the very elderly or disabled, there are people who cannot survive in UN refugee camps near in countries surrounding Syria.

The UK has a long and important tradition of offering sanctuary to those who need protection. 100,000 Huguenots, 10,000 Jewish Kindertransport children spared the Nazi concentration camps, 160,000 Poles following the Second World War many of whom had served in the Battle of Britain, the Vietnamese Boat People, the 28,000 Asian Ugandans fleeing Idi Amin and the people who fled the war in Kosovo. This is our proud and decent tradition.

To play its part fully in solving this global crisis the British government must work for durable long term political solutions in the region, lead as a major international donor, and live up to its reputation as a place of sanctuary, integration and protection.

This Council believes:
  • That this crisis will be better managed if incoming refugees are accommodated around the whole country;
  • We can best rise to the crisis if a National Welcome and Resettlement Board bringing together local and national government, civil society and business leadership, is created to oversee efforts to resettle refugees and mobilise public support as in times past;
  • Long term political solutions are needed to ease the crisis, but in the mean time we must do what we can;
  • The UK must welcome its fair share of refugees to ease this crisis.
This Council resolves to:
  • Formally express an interest in both the VPR and Gateway programmes to the Home Office, requesting that 100 refugees be resettled here;
  • Write to local housing associations to encourage them to make properties available to resettle refugees;
  • To commit to ensuring that refugees are welcomed in this area and help facilitate this process by coordinating local service provision and coordinating the immense public will to help;
  • Write to the Prime Minister to assure him that the country stands ready and willing to help at this time of crisis.

Welcoming refugees to Southend-on-Sea

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.

Yakety yak (trash)

Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin, and yet more trash

Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin, and yet more trash

There are some places where you just know that a visit will result in a conversation with Council officers. One such is the Ceylon Road car park.

One small victory I think I can claim some credit for is that it is not as dangerous as it used to be. I wonder through quite safely at all times of day. It cannot be said, though, that it is a place that is much cleaner, despite the best efforts of the two Labour councillors for Milton ward. It does occasionally look lovely and clean, just after a spate of emails from Cllr Nevin and myself. This is followed in pretty short order with the next batch of trash to festoon both the car park and the walkways that lead from it. To be frank, it is often quite disgusting. Still, we shall never surrender to stupid and irresponsible actions.

This car park is not the only place within the ward where there are regular litter issues, and I have to wonder at the mindset of some people, and it is clear that much of this must be down to regular repeat offenders. There are some, it seems, who just view the world as one big trash can.

Recently I went to a CAST meeting. There is an event on Thursday (8th October) where I will be one of the speakers talking about the refugee crisis in the Middle East.

Also had an Essex Fire Authority meeting this week where the independent cultural review was discussed. It is no exaggeration to say that this was a very damning report.

And to my doorstep engagement, the most enjoyable aspect of politics as far as I am concerned. Jeremy Corbyn came up twice, once favourably, once not so – so honours even. I have to say that I am hearing reports that suggest his impact is not quite so even elsewhere. Ed Miliband also came up in conversation, and I find that those who dislike Labour and its brand of democratic socialism/social democracy will find any reason to be critical.

I am seeking re-selection this year in Milton ward, and next Saturday is decision day. I welcome challengers, no-one should be immune from the democratic process. I hope I have done enough over the last three and a half years to merit being allowed another go, although I am hearing rumours of a far-left attempt to have me de-selected – an irony for this Marxist brought-up former Communist who apparently, according to some, does not belong in the Labour Party. I guess my championing the homeless and migrants is just too right-wing for some!

Syrian Refugee Resettlement Councillor Briefing – 17.09.15

Southend-on-Sea’s current position:

We have drafted a response to the LGA putting forward an initial figure of 10 refugees in total with a preference for families.

This is based on the fact that details of the resettlement scheme including the funding element are yet to be confirmed. Also we are already working with the Home Office on the expansion of the Asylum Dispersal scheme and the impact of that on local services is yet to be seen.

In the response we have raised a number of questions about the process and the funding and have stated that once more information is released about the scheme we will reassess the numbers we would be able to support.

All the regional responses are being compiled nationally by the LGA.

(Not my words!)

Are we really full-up?

The United Kingdom is the 53rd most densely populated country or dependency in the world. Since this list has 241 entries we can safely say that the UK is in the top quarter of the most densely populated places.

However, a look at who is first (Macao) and last (Greenland) will show that our position when ignoring what are city or small island states gives a different position, and is a fairer comparison.

The following list (at the foot of this post) only includes those countries or dependencies with an area in excess of a thousand square miles.

England is the most densely populated of the four parts of the UK, and is eighth in the list of the larger places, beaten in Europe only by the Netherlands.

However desirable (or not) it would be to have more people living in the UK, the argument that we are full up is demonstrably untrue – unless you can win the argument that other place are more than full-up.

The world’s population is growing, partly a feature of birth rate and partly a feature of better healthcare. Predictions are that later in this century the growth will peak. To stop growth in the UK now would either require large-scale repatriation, or a cull.

In the meantime, the best form of birth control appears to be money – declining birth rates are a feature of wealthy nations.

Country/region Population Area
 Bangladesh 142,319,000 56,980 2,497
Taiwan 23,069,345 13,890 1,655
Palestinian territories 4,100,000 2,320 1,764
South Korea 48,456,369 38,432 1,261
Puerto Rico 3,982,000 3,427 1,163
Lebanon 4,224,000 4,036 1,046
Netherlands 17,000,000 16,033 1,059
England 53,012,456 50,346 1,054
Rwanda 9,998,000 10,169 984
Israel 7,697,600 8,020 961
India 1,277,401,883 1,269,210 953
Haiti 10,033,000 10,710 938
Belgium 10,827,519 11,787 919
Japan 127,387,000 145,898 873
Sri Lanka 20,238,000 25,330 798
Philippines 92,226,600 115,860 795
Burundi 8,303,000 10,747 772
El Salvador 6,163,000 8,124 759
Trinidad and Tobago 1,339,000 1,980 676
Vietnam 85,789,573 128,066 671
United Kingdom 62,041,708 94,060 660
Jamaica 2,719,000 4,244 640
Germany 81,757,600 137,847 593
Pakistan 188,390,000 310,400 606
Dominican Republic 10,090,000 18,792 536
Kuwait 3,566,437 6,880 518
Italy 60,200,060 116,340 518
North Korea 24,051,706 46,540 518
Nepal 29,331,000 56,827 515
Switzerland 7,761,800 15,943 487
Nigeria 154,729,000 356,669 433
The Gambia 1,705,000 4,361 391
Wales 3,063,456 8,022 381
China 1,369,150,000 3,722,342 368
Uganda 32,710,000 93,065 352
Transnistria 555,347 1,607 344
Czech Republic 10,532,770 30,450 347
Northern Ireland 1,810,863 5,345 339
Guatemala 14,027,000 42,042 334
Malawi 15,263,000 45,747 334
Qatar 1,409,000 4,200 332
 Denmark 5,532,531 16,639 332
Cape Verde 506,807 1,557 326
Thailand 64,232,760 198,115 324
Poland 38,163,895 120,728 316
Indonesia 237,556,363 735,358 313
Moldova 3,567,500 13,067 272
Syria 21,906,000 71,500 306
 Togo 6,619,000 21,925 303
 Portugal 10,636,888 35,672 298
 France 62,793,432 212,900 295
 Slovakia 5,424,057 18,932 287
 Albania 3,195,000 11,100 287
 Armenia 3,230,100 11,500 280
 Hungary 10,013,628 35,920 280
 Azerbaijan 9,165,000 33,400 275
 Slovenia 2,139,920 7,821 275
 Cuba 11,241,894 42,426.45 264
 Serbia 7,800,000 29,913 262
 Ghana 23,837,000 92,098 259
 Austria 8,372,930 32,378 259
 United Arab Emirates 8,264,070 32,300 256
 Turkey 77,804,122 302,535 241
 Spain 46,087,170 195,380 236
 Romania 21,466,174 92,043 233
 Costa Rica 4,579,000 19,700 233
 Cyprus 801,851 3,572 225
 Malaysia 28,306,700 127,355 223
 Northern Cyprus 287,856 1,295 223
 Greece 11,306,183 50,949 223
 Republic of Macedonia 2,114,550 9,928 212
 Cambodia 14,805,000 69,898 212
 Sierra Leone 5,696,000 27,700 205
 Benin 8,935,000 43,484 205
 Croatia 4,443,000 21,829 205
 Ukraine 46,936,000 233,100 202
 Egypt 85,495,585 386,662 220
 East Timor 1,134,000 5,743 197
 Burma 50,020,000 261,228 192
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,843,126 19,741 194
 Ethiopia 79,221,000 426,400 186
 Morocco 33,388,613 172,410 194
 Jordan 6,316,000 34,495 184
 Iraq 30,747,000 169,235 181
 Brunei 400,000 2,226 179
 Kenya 39,802,000 224,081 179
 Swaziland 1,185,000 6,704 176
 Lesotho 2,067,000 11,720 176
Scotland 5,327,700 30,414 174
 Bulgaria 7,351,234 42,823 171
 Honduras 7,466,000 43,433 171
 Côte d’Ivoire 21,075,000 124,504 168
 Ireland 4,581,269 27,133 168
 Samoa 184,984 1,093 168
 French Polynesia 256,603 1,500 166
 Georgia 4,465,000 26,900 166
 Senegal 12,534,000 75,955 166
 Tunisia 10,327,800 63,170 163
 Uzbekistan 27,488,000 172,700 158
 Burkina Faso 15,757,000 106,000 150
 Mexico 107,550,697 756,066 148
 Ecuador 15,414,710 109,484 140
 Tajikistan 6,952,000 55,300 127
 Belarus 9,755,106 80,200 122
 Lithuania 3,053,800 25,200 122
 Fiji 849,000 7,056 119
 Tanzania 43,739,000 364,900 119
 Bhutan 2,162,546 18,000 119
 Afghanistan 29,863,010 251,770 119
 Panama 3,454,000 29,157 119
 Iran 74,196,000 636,372 117
 Montenegro 630,548 5,415 117
 Yemen 23,580,000 203,850 117
 Guinea-Bissau 1,611,000 13,948 117
 Nicaragua 5,743,000 50,000 114
 Eritrea 5,073,000 45,400 111
 South Africa 50,586,757 471,445 106
 Cameroon 19,522,000 183,569 106
 Guinea 10,069,000 94,926 106
 Colombia 47,890,568 439,737 109
 Djibouti 864,000 9,000 96
 Madagascar 20,653,556 226,658 91
 Latvia 2,248,961 24,900 91
 Zimbabwe 13,009,530 150,872 85
 United States 318,980,000 3,794,100 83
 Liberia 3,476,608 43,000 80
 Venezuela 30,881,831 353,841 88
 Estonia 1,315,819 17,400 75
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 68,692,542 905,355 75
 Mozambique 22,894,000 309,500 75
 Abkhazia 200,000 2,756 73
 Kyrgyzstan 5,482,000 77,200 70
 Laos 6,320,000 91,400 70
 Somaliland 3,500,000 53,100 65
 The Bahamas 342,000 5,358 65
 Equatorial Guinea 676,000 10,831 62
 Peru 29,461,933 496,225 60
 Brazil 201,239,065 3,287,612 62
 Chile 17,849,658 291,930 62
 Sweden 9,366,092 173,732 54
 Uruguay 3,463,197 67,574 52
 Vanuatu 240,000 4,706 52
 Solomon Islands 523,000 11,157 47
 South Ossetia 70,000 1,500 47
 Sudan 31,894,000 728,215 44
 Zambia 12,935,000 290,587 44
 New Zealand 4,315,800 104,454 41
 Finland 5,469,189 130,559 41
 Paraguay 6,349,000 157,048 41
 Angola 18,498,000 481,400 39
 Algeria 34,895,000 919,595 39
 Papua New Guinea 6,732,000 178,700 39
 Argentina 40,091,359 1,073,500 36
 Somalia 9,133,000 246,201 36
 Belize 322,100 8,900 36
 New Caledonia 244,410 7,172 34
 Norway 5,119,890 148,709 34
 South Sudan 8,260,490 239,285 34
 Niger 15,290,000 489,000 31
 Saudi Arabia 28,146,658 830,000 31
 Mali 14,517,176 478,841 31
 Republic of the Congo 3,998,904 132,000 31
 Turkmenistan 5,110,000 188,500 26
 Oman 2,845,000 119,500 24
 Bolivia 9,879,000 424,164 23
 Chad 11,274,106 496,000 23
 Russia 142,905,208 6,601,668 21
 Central African Republic 4,422,000 240,535 18
 Kazakhstan 17,010,000 1,052,100 16
 Gabon 1,475,000 103,347 14
 Libya 6,420,000 679,360 9.3
 Guyana 762,000 83,000 9.1
 Canada 33,740,000 3,855,100 8.8
 Botswana 1,950,000 224,610 8.8
 Mauritania 3,291,000 395,960 8.3
 Suriname 520,000 63,250 8.3
 Iceland 318,452 40,000 8.0
 Australia 24,373,336 2,966,200 8.3
 Namibia 2,171,000 318,261 6.7
 French Guiana 187,056 35,000 5.4
Western Sahara 513,000 103,000 4.9
 Mongolia 2,671,000 603,909 4.4
Greenland 57,000 840,000 0.067


True colours: a nasty shade of purple

Two meetings tonight; I had Place Scrutiny followed by Full Council. Both were fairly undramatic affairs.

Cllr Davies (UKIP, Kursaal) likes to raise the issue of immigration with alarming frequency. I am fully expecting a question along the lines of “would the portfolio holder agree that tea tasted a lot better when it was produced in the Empire” at some point.

His second question to Full Council (as a councillor on this occasion) was succinct: Can the Portfolio Holder inform me what the impact of EU immigration (in particular those claiming benefit) has been on Council services?

His supplementary question went on to mention care home workers with a poor grasp of English – a bit rich from someone who regularly struggles to utter a comprehensible sentence himself. Cllr Davies may worry about care home residents who are supported by nurses with poor English – when he reaches old age he will have to find a nurse fluent in gibberish.

Our care homes, and hospitals, GP practises, dentist surgeries, etc, have many foreigners working in them. Without them we would see services suffer, and in many cases effectively vanish. I hope he explains this to his Kursaal residents.

Cllr Davies still appears to not understand how the Council works. In his rush to exercise his thinly-veiled bigotry he clearly takes little time to prepare his thoughts, or to consider what is actually being discussed.

For the record the 2011 census showed that 3.1% of Southend’s population were born in EU countries outside of the UK, of which 281 were unemployed. Cllr Davies may believe that there has been a ‘flood‘ of immigrants into the Borough since 2011 (I do not happen to think that is the case) but it most certainly is not the job of the Council to maintain such statistics.