Stafford Welcomes Refugees (SWR) is a diverse and multicultural group over 100 local concerned and enthusiastic people, that was set up by Netta Cartwright in September 2015 in response to Central and Local Governments not providing a good enough response to the scale of the refugee crisis.
We meet monthly and are committed to supporting refugees in four main areas:
Tony, along with an enthusiastic group, has been lobbying the Government, Staffordshire County Council and Stafford Borough Council to receive more refugees in the UK than the promised 20,000 over 5 years. Maureen and Stephen played key roles here. We are affiliated to Citizen’s UK to campaign nationally and locally. Our local MP has championed refugees and has encouraged the Government to quicken procedures. We also took part in a local event he arranged to promote Stafford’s links in the world and had a successful SWR stall. Our petition to Stafford Borough Council is about housing 50 families over the next few years. Burton and Newcastle under Lyme are the other two towns involved. We now have over 500 signatures. We are receiving five families.
In Europe and the Middle East and any that have arrived in Stafford unofficially. Our Helping Hands group is led by Chris with Uzma and Liz. Chris enthusiastically collects supplies to send to Syria, Europe and the Calais and Dunkirk camps. He has been active in planning and executing this with others. A consignment was sent to Syria before Christmas and the Helping Hands group supported Hifsa and Uzma in a personal venture with supplies to Calais in February. Another consignment has just gone this weekend.
Preparing to help refugees in the future:
In conjunction with Refugee Action as they arrive here to be re- settled. Befrienders, Health & Well-being and ESOL groups are preparing themselves alongside Refugee Action, to offer emotional support, counselling and advice, translation, collection of goods and furniture etc. at the right time. The Befrienders group have had some local training to develop understanding of one to one needs of confidentiality, friendship, trust and support. Two families have arrived, another three should be arriving soon.
About the issues and situation for refugees. This includes dispelling fears through giving out accurate and truthful information. Letters and articles have been published in the Stafford Newsletter, some public lectures on Islam took place. We are looking at further community activities.
What difference are we making? What have we learnt so far? We are evaluating the situation as a group and alongside Citizens UK we are trying to decide how we can be more effective in welcoming refugees.