Author- agency reporter
Quakers are among more than 100 signatories to an open letter to the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to make a lasting commitment to welcome refugees. They state that the UK can and should accept at least 10,000 refugees each year, including at least 1,000 vulnerable and unaccompanied children from conflict zones and Europe.
The signatories are from all faiths and include 33 rabbis, twenty Church of England bishops, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and a dozen Quakers.
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain, signed the letter. He said, “Quakers in Britain urge the prime minister to show compassionate leadership in welcoming refugees, especially vulnerable and unaccompanied children. Quakers say that each one is a precious life, worthy of dignity and sanctuary.”
Full text of the letter:
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Dear Prime Minister,
As you will be aware, on 17 June 2019 the Home Secretary announced that the UK will welcome up to 5,000 refugees in 2020-2021, following the expiration of the current resettlement programmes. Thousands more refugees will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety in the UK, a country with a long history of offering sanctuary to those in need.
This is a welcome development and one on which the government should be congratulated. In particular, the decision to broaden the geographical focus of resettlement beyond the Middle East and North Africa will enable the UK to respond to where there is the greatest need globally, which we hope will offer a lifeline to unaccompanied children currently surviving in camps and on the streets in Europe.
Ambitious and effective programmes for resettlement to the UK offer a life-saving alternative to incredibly dangerous journeys in the hands of smugglers or traffickers. This country should be proud to give people a route to safety that stops them risking their lives in overcrowded dinghies, or in wheel arches, or in refrigerated lorries.
Thus, we are writing to ask for your assurance that as Prime Minister you will ensure this recent announcement is not a one-off, but rather the start of a lasting commitment by the UK to welcome its share of people seeking sanctuary globally.
We believe that the UK can and must resettle more refugees. The Refugee Council, British Red Cross and others recently called for resettlement to be expanded to at least 10,000 refugees each year. Meanwhile Safe Passage International have been campaigning for the UK to welcome at least 1,000 children annually from Europe and conflict zones, and have already secured pledges from local authorities amounting to nearly 1,300 places if the government makes a commitment to child refugees.
10,000 people a year, including at least 1,000 vulnerable and unaccompanied children from conflict zones and Europe. As one of the world’s richest countries, seeking to build and demonstrate global cooperation and goodwill, this is a small ask of the UK.
To put this into perspective: in 2017 just 0.02 per cent of the world’s displaced people were refugees in the UK. In that same year nearly 31,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Europe and the government agreed to resettle 480 – or 1.5 per cent – of those children. In the first 2 years of the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme, just 20 unaccompanied children were brought to the UK. We can do better.
Today, there are families living in refugee camps who may be there for generations. There are people in conflict zones whose lives are in constant danger. There are children surviving in carparks and on the side of motorways in Europe; preyed on by traffickers and others who seek to do them harm. These are people who deserve a chance to rebuild their lives and to become part of British society, like so many refugees have before them.
The success of existing UK resettlement programmes, community sponsorship and the pledges by local authorities to take more children demonstrates that communities up and down the country are open to welcoming refugees. We urge you to celebrate these achievements and establish a truly world-leading resettlement commitment.
Refugee resettlement programmes can flourish when there is political will and may flounder if that will is lacking. As our new Prime Minister, we ask you to show the compassionate leadership this issue deserves.