Calais: Refugees - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:48 pm on 2nd November 2017.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 3:48 pm, 2nd November 2017

My Lords, I want simply to support everything that has been said, and will no doubt be said by further speakers. I do not have anything specific to add, other than to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno for his dedication and persistence in pursuing these matters. We happen to share an office and I more than anyone else know just how much he puts into this day after day when he comes to work in this House.

My noble friend mentioned one of the projects that he launched, the Citizens of the World Choir, which is a remarkable project. It consists of 30 to 40 refugees living in this country, from 16 different countries—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, alphabetically. It has a wonderful conductor, Becky Dell. It has sung, as my noble friend said, at the Llangollen Eisteddfod. It has sung in Llandudno. It has even sung at Ronnie Scott’s. This is just one example of the hundreds of projects there are around this country working with, supporting and looking after the refugees who are already here, whether they are unaccompanied young people or families, like the refugees we have in my own patch in Pendle.

When the Government announced their vulnerable persons resettlement scheme of people from Syria, the leader of the council and I—I declare my interest as deputy leader—immediately said, “Right, we will take as many as we reasonably can. We will act as the host authority for the district”. We now have 20 families, who came in two lots, who are now suffering the climatic conditions of the Lancashire Pennines—for their sins—and who are being looked after and supported in our part of the world. We are very pleased to do it. We will take more if the Government will only bring more people over.

We set up an official co-ordinating committee of all the agencies and official bodies, which is run and clerked by the council. That is very successful but it was clear that it was not enough and a group of volunteers, who all wanted to help and provide support, set up a group called Pendle New Neighbours, which has a weekly drop-in meeting and has resulted in individual people making friends with individual families and building up those kinds of relationships, which are so important if people are going to live successfully in our community. The point is that we cannot do more unless the Government pull their weight and allow more people to come.