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We had to Act – Jean Michel Knutsen, Colchester

By June 17, 2016Stories

We had to act – fast

It all started in October, when 15 leaders from local faith groups, charities and student societies decided they would act together to welcome refugees to Colchester. They wrote a common letter to the leader of the Borough Council, whose answer was really positive. We all met and decided that we would organise four actions together:

JMK blog - Pledge assembly - Credit David Ward

Credit: David Ward

  • Raising Awareness (We have organised a march attended by 350 people, and three events called “Refugees: Facts and Fictions” in local churches)
  • Organising regular convoys going to Calais (Thanks to Refugee Action Colchester, a convoy has been organised every six weeks since then and the MP of Colchester, Will Quince, will soon be going with us)
  • Creating a support network for a local charity called “Fresh Beginnings” which was already experienced in the welcoming of asylum seekers and refugees (for them we have channelled volunteers, gifts and financial donations)
  • Campaigning for the welcoming of 50 Syrian families to Colchester (the Borough Council has unanimously voted the welcoming of an unlimited number of refugees, and since then we have organised a Pledge Assembly attended by 250 people representing 30 civic institutions ready to help the local authorities and Fresh Beginnings to welcome those 50 families)
JMK blog - Pledge assembly - Credit David Ward 2

Credit: David Ward

Thanks to this amazing campaign, five families have already been welcomed to Colchester in December 2015, and three will be soon welcomed to Brightlingsea by the new Refugees Welcome group which has been inspired by our methods.

This is only the beginning of an extraordinary story of solidarity and compassion, and our new Refugee Resettlement Board (gathering a representative from each key local civic institution) will be making sure that we welcome 45 more families to Colchester.

I moved to Colchester (Essex) from France in September 2015. I am so proud of the incredible Refugees Welcome campaign we have organised in only a few months.

Jean-Michel Knutsen
Community Organiser
Citizens UK

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