Today is World Refugee Day when globally we recognise the dire situations facing refugees and asylum seekers worldwide. In the last year, I have visited the charity Help Refugees in Calais and seen the shocking conditions in which many refugees are forced to live just a three hour drive from our community. The UK and the international community must help refugees, who have fled unimaginable experiences, to rebuild their lives. You can read about what I have been doing in Parliament this week here >>
On Tuesday, I was delighted to host Citizens UK in Parliament. Citizens UK have been supporting groups across the country to welcome refugees into their communities under the community sponsorship programme, including in our own area, Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees. It was a pleasure to join their panel of refugees who spoke movingly about their experiences, and discuss my experience working with Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, who over the past two years have successfully fundraised and found housing for an Iraqi family who have recently been welcomed to our community.
Whilst an increasing number of refugees settle in the UK through community sponsorship, most will arrive through Government schemes including the asylum process. Asylum accommodation is often poor quality and offers little support for people who are often vulnerable and traumatised. I have long been calling for the Government not only to increase the number of refugees the UK welcomes, but also to ensure everyone who needs it is provided with the administrative and emotional support to allow them to rebuild their lives here.
I am particularly concerned about the absence of meaningful support for young, and often unaccompanied asylum seekers. I have been campaigning with Refugee Rights Europe calling on the Government to fund a Youth Welfare Officer in all government-funded asylum accommodation in the UK. This will make sure that correct safeguarding procedures are followed and provide young people with one to one support they need to flourish. We have recently delivered a letter, signed by Parliamentarians and others with an interest in this issue. You can learn more about this important proposal here.
The UN estimates that there are nearly 25.9 million refugees globally and over half are under the age of 18. Excellent work is being carried out to combat this crisis in our community and across the country but the Government can and must do more to support the world’s most vulnerable people.