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Rabbis, Bishops and Imams call on Redbridge Council to Offer Sanctuary to UN refugees

10th October 2014

Yesterday, 8th October, at the start of the Jewish Festival of Succot at Bet Tikvah Synagogue in Ilford, senior faith leaders Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, Imam Mohamed Fahim (South Woodford Mosque), Father Brian McGrath (Saint Thomas of Canterbury), Rabbi David Hulbert (Bet Tikvah Synagogue, Ilford) and Iris Radulin, a refugee leader from Albanian community organization Shpresa (‘Hope’ in English), joined members of national community organising charity, Citizens UK, to call upon the Leader of Redbridge Council, Jas Athwal, to resettle a small number of vulnerable refugees living in UN camps near war-zones such as Syria and Iraq. Currently the UK has resettled fewer than 20 refugee families from Syria since the start of the crisis.

This action is part of a Citizens UK campaign held during Succot, during which time diverse leaders of faith and no faith will be standing in traditional Succot temporary shelters to remember the refugee experience of their ancestors as a means of highlighting the plight that refugees face today. The Succot events will all include a request to local authorities to help double the number of refugees that the UK currently admits.

The campaign hopes to persuade 15 local authorities to offer sanctuary to 50 people annually, which would increase the number of refugees resettled in the UK from just 750 to 1,500. Local authorities that agree will receive financial support from a UN refugee resettlement scheme funded by the UK government and the EU.

citizens_succot

Rabbi Danny Rich said: “I pledge that Liberal Judaism’s synagogues will build temporary dwellings during the Jewish festival of ‘Succot’ and invite our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters in to join us, as part of our work to ask our local councils to resettle refugee families in our neighbourhoods.”

In response to a question by Father Brian McGrath about whether he would meet with Redbridge Citizens to seriously discuss resettlement of refugee families in the next month, Cllr Athwal said: “I want to look at the technical detail of what resettlement actually involves. I am pleased to meet with you to discuss this issue. Armed with this knowledge, we can come forward with something positive so that we can go away having helped some families to make their lives better."

The call to help follows an urgent request by the UN for safe countries to resettle refugees and relieve the pressure on Syria and Iraq’s neighbouring countries that are supporting 2.3 million refugees. The UK is the sixth richest country in the world, yet has resettled fewer than 20 refugee families from Syria since the start of the crisis – not enough people to fill a single-decker bus. In contrast, Germany has committed to settle 10,000 Syrian refugees.
Last week, the Obama administration announced it would greatly increase the number of Syrian refugees approved for permanent resettlement in the United States next year. The State Department is reviewing more than 4,000 applications.

Angela Meyler, Citizens UK member, St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church, Redbridge, said: “Citizens UK represents a variety of institutions from across civil society, including churches, synagogues and mosques. Together we believe that we can make a difference. This isn’t about an open door immigration policy; it’s about helping some of the most vulnerable refugees and supporting them to safety here in the UK.” Succot has marked the start of the Citizens UK ‘Season of Sanctuary’ and will be followed by more events around Islamic New Year (24th Oct), and the Feast of St Nicholas (6th Dec) to continue to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and the opportunity local communities have to help.