Cllr Sonia Winifred at the #OurTurn rally during Refugees Week
Cllr Sonia Winifred at the #OurTurn rally during Refugees Week

This week is Refugee Week, a time where we celebrate the contribution that refugees have made to our borough, our city and the UK, and where we encourage better understanding between different communities.

I am proud to be part of a borough that is so open, tolerant and compassionate towards those in need. Lambeth has been at the forefront in supporting refugees who have had to flee their countries due to conflict and disaster. Lambeth has resettled 26 refugee families, over 100 people, and we will be welcoming our 27th family this month.

Our work supporting refugee families has been made possible through partnerships with incredible organisations like Lambeth Citizens, who have provided assistance in many ways, including finding properties outside the social housing sector for the families. In recognition of our work, Lambeth was awarded a grant to help us recruit and train more foster carers well suited to looking after Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).

I am pleased that Lambeth has now confirmed that it will welcome more refugee children who arrive in Britain unaccompanied, having fled war-torn regions of the world. We will increase the numbers of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASCs) that we look after every year.

We are taking action following a request from neighbouring borough, Croydon which has welcomed a proportion of UASCs nearly six times it’s so called upper limit (calculated as a percentage of the overall populations of under-18s in a borough). Almost 40 new unaccompanied children arrive in Croydon ever month. Alongside other London Boroughs, Lambeth will now be offering additional support to resettle these vulnerable children.

Working with other councils in London, we will be lobbying the Tory government regarding the inadequate funding that local authorities like ours and Croydon receive to help young people who are fleeing conflict and who need a great deal of support. This vital humanitarian service, which runs at the core of our Lambeth identity, runs with a very significant deficit at a time when council budgets are already at breaking point.

On Monday, the Home Office confirmed the UK plans to resettle in the region of 5,000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. It’s very apt that the Immigration Minister chose to come to Lambeth and make this announcement, meeting some of the 27 families our community have helped settle here and hear first-hand how important the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme has been. It is important that this one year extension is not the end of the government’s commitment and we will continue to make the case on behalf of vulnerable people all over the world. When children arrive here as refugees from war-torn countries, we have a moral responsibility to look after them and provide them with a home where they can finally feel safe and secure.

We lobbied the government in 2015 to do more to welcome unaccompanied children after the government shamefully failed to implement the Dubs Amendment in full. I’m proud that Lambeth has been at the forefront of efforts to help many of those fleeing conflict, whether they are unaccompanied children or families who have now been settled in the UK.

Lambeth stands ready to do more to help refugees – along with fellow councils and other organisations that are doing their best to provide them with a home and support. This short term relief will help relieve some of the pressure on Croydon but, equally importantly, it will enable us to have a life-changing impact on the lives of more young people who come to this country alone.

Cllr Sonia Winifred
Cabinet Member for Equalities and Culture

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