Rallying call to welcome refugees to Ottery
- Credit: Archant
Ottery activists are stepping to the forefront and identifying ways to directly help families fleeing war-torn Syria.
The growing refugee crisis prompted a meeting of residents, councillors and church representatives in The Station, in Exeter Road, on Wednesday to discuss ways in which the town can do more to support the displaced.
Anna Roderick helped co-ordinate the meeting and mentioned the possibility of a scheme where community groups can sponsor a refugee to come to Ottery.
She said: “We could actually in time sponsor someone to come and settle here.”
Other initiatives included approaching letting agents to identify private landlords that might be willing to make homes available, lobbying MPs, and co-ordinating donations.
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The UK government has committed to resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees, but some group members said it is not enough.
Matt Booth, a town and district councillor for Sidmouth, has visited refugee camps in Calais and emphasised the need for a properly co-ordinated approach, so as to not add to problems. He said: “They have no sanitation, no irrigation – we are looking at a serious crisis on our doorstep.
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“It’s not the kind of place you want to live, frankly.”
He described the initiatives being proposed in Ottery as ‘fantastic’ and said, as winter approaches, there will be a need for tents and warm clothing for refugee families.
Resident Katrina Knight said if the group could help people in ‘dire need’ then it should.
Some concerns were raised over where refugee families might be housed and the potential impact on schools. It was agreed that this is why a co-ordinated approach, involving other groups across Devon as well as the district and county councils, is best.
A spokesman for East Devon District Council confirmed the authority’s willingness to aid resettlement efforts.
Meetings have been held with other authorities in the South West and the idea of cluster areas has been proposed, with the more experienced areas assisting and working with others. A request that the Government make funding available for the full term, and not just the first year of resettlement, has been made. Mel Argent, of North Street, first proposed the meeting and said she is very keen to take things forward.
Anyone who would like to help, or is seeking more information, can contact Mel on firstname.lastname@example.org or Anna on email@example.com.