5 October 2016
Many people locally are feeling stunned by continuing news of atrocities in Syria, and confused by the conflicting opinions and stories. They are also frustrated by the inability of our governments and international organisations to have any impact on the crisis. On Wednesday September 28th, Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party responded to this need-to-know and want-to-help situation by holding an awareness-raising event at a Leytonstone venue. Attendees heard moving and passionate contributions from a range of people including: Ali, a Syrian recently arrived from the Calais Jungle, Aziz from the Syria Solidarity Campaign, Rita Chadha from Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL), and local resident Andrew Sharp, fundraising for Heart ELT (educators in refugee camps).
Rebecca Tully, joint co-ordinator of Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party and Syria meeting organiser, said: “I was told on the evening by many that they had learned a lot about why people leave, why they continue to fight for what they believe in the face of such hopelessness, and how the systems we have in this country aren’t working. It was fantastic to meet and relate to Syrians living here in our community; there was a real feeling of solidarity.”
When organizing the event, the Green Party had gone to great lengths to locate Syrians living in Waltham Forest or Redbridge, willing to tell their personal stories. They were impossible to find. Shockingly, just 9 councils in London, including Ealing, Kingston, Barnet, Lambeth, Hackney, Camden and Islington, have participated in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.
Redbridge has not resettled a single Syrian refugee, nor do they have a plan to do so, according to a recent Freedom of Information request carried out by Citizens UK.
A year ago, Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, had promised that the borough would take in ten Syrian families. There has been no further news on this promise.
Rita Chadha, chief executive of RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London), said: "Waltham Forest Community groups, more than in any other borough, have repeatedly and unapologetically led calls for the council to lead the way in settling Syrian refugees. They have gone to great lengths to arrange accommodation, to arrange support services for new Syrians settling in the borough. It is sad that such community spirit and voluntary efforts have fallen on deaf ears and that Waltham Forest Council alongside many others in London has remained silent on the issue and looked on as a bystander."