Councils on red alert for arrival of refugees

Nick Herbert Arundel and South Downs MP pictured on the Downs (photo submitted). SUS-150721-093724001
Nick Herbert Arundel and South Downs MP pictured on the Downs (photo submitted). SUS-150721-093724001

COUNCILS are ready to play their parts in helping with the ongoing refugee crisis as the UK prepares to accept 20,000 Syrians over the next five years.

Prime Minister David Cameron set out the initial plans in the Commons earlier this month, with the Government confirming last Wednesday the first refugees would be arriving in the country within days.

Local authorities have not yet been informed specifically how many refugees may require housing in their areas but are on red alert to step in.

An Adur and Worthing councils spokesman said; “We are prepared to play our part and are awaiting more detailed plans from the Government and the county council on where our assistance may be needed.

“We are aware of the many offers of help and assistance coming from the local community which are benefiting a number of charities working to support this humanitarian crisis.”

East Sussex County Council estimated its towns would see around 200 refugees arrive over the next five years.

Its rough calculations were formed on the basis its population accounts for around one per cent of the total UK population, assuming the refugees will be shared proportionally throughout the country.

West Sussex has around 300,000 more residents, representing approximately 1.25 per cent. A proportional share would therefore be 250 refugees.

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “No one could fail to be moved by the plight of those fleeing war and persecution and the terrible scenes relating to that which have been played out on our televisions.

“We stand awaiting further information and detail from the Prime Minister and are ready to work alongside districts and boroughs as well as charities to play our part in supporting extra refugees welcomed into Britain.

“We will wait for further details of the Government’s long-term funding proposals for this humanitarian effort.”

An Arun District Council spokesman said the authority had sought guidance from the Local Government Association about the role it could play and councillors would consider policies in response when the Government clarified more details about the numbers expected.

The complex crisis has been discussed at length in Parliament, with the area’s MPs giving their views on the wider issues.

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert believes the country cannot just ‘simply open its borders to allow unlimited migration’.

He said limits on migration were needed to balance the economic advantages against pressure on communities, also introducing ‘proper border controls’.

He added: “There are no easy answers to these problems. But open borders, and a failure of resolve to confront those who persecute innocent people, has made them worse.”

Mr Herbert supports helping ‘genuine’ asylum seekers and thinks action to tackle the source of the problems is required, either through providing relief, promoting economic development in poorer countries or intervention to prevent humanitarian disasters.

The Prime Minister was criticised by Labour for not going far enough in accepting more refugees, using Germany, which has accepted thousands more, as the benchmark.

East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton said: “This is an incredibly difficult and harrowing problem and no one can be immune from the terrible images we are seeing in our media.

“But the Government is stepping up to the plate. The Prime Minister has proposed that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.

“But if we were to adopt the policy of Germany, which has unilaterally suspended the Dublin Convention and opened its borders to unlimited numbers of Syrians, then we will not be talking about taking in 10,000 refugees but hundreds of thousands and that is just not sustainable.”