Hundreds of people from across the UK gathered in response to the refugee crisis last weekend in a bid to push for the UK Government to build welcome rather than walls.
The Welcome Summit, hosted by Christian Aid and Citizens UK on Saturday 10th September, was a key moment to show politicians, the media and the people of Britain that the UK is ready to do more to welcome those who are fleeing violence and disaster.
Over 500 people attended the Summit, which took place in Birmingham only one year after the tragic death of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, who made headlines when his lifeless body was found washed up on a Turkish beach.
“It was so encouraging to see how communities across the nation have been united in welcoming those seeking sanctuary,” Alex Jones of Christian Aid told The Universe. “It showed in sharp contrast how the response from the UK government has not matched the scale of the crisis. The nine richest nations, which include the UK, host less than nine per cent of the world’s refugees. The vast majority of refugees are hosted by poor countries. The overwhelming response from those at the summit was that this situation is not acceptable.”
During the Summit, attendees posed questions directly to politicians and UN agencies around key issues, including the protection of refugee children and opportunities for local fundraising activities.
Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees and Labour spokesperson on refugees, Yvette Cooper were among those who participate in the summit.
“We got a commitment from the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, to take up situation of children trapped in Calais who are vulnerable to abuse with the Prime Minister, to unify more families and provide more safe and legal routes for refugees seeking sanctuary,” said Mr Jones.
Top specialists and local groups also lead workshops on interacting with child refugees, trafficking, communicating with refugees and building more welcoming communities.
“We believe everyone deserves a safe place to call home,” continued Mr Jones. “While many churches and communities across the UK are united in welcoming those seeking refuge, the response of the UK Government has not matched the scale of the crisis.
“On Saturday 17th September the Bishop of Croydon will be speaking at a ‘Change the Story’ ecumenical prayer service at 12noon at St James’ Roman Catholic Church, George St, immediately before the Refugees Welcome march, which we’ll walk on to join.
“We then look towards the UN Global Refugee and Migration Summit later this month, where we are calling for countries to commit to host their fair share of refugees, provide safe and legal routes for those seeking sanctuary and more to be done to address the root causes of forced displacement.
“We encourage everyone to support this work and help us to change the story from a rhetoric that seeks to build walls rather than welcome. Help us to do that and tell a more positive story in your community and local media at www.christianaid.org.uk/changethestory,” Mr Jones concluded.
Picture: Refugees and migrants wait in a queue as the sun rises, to receive food distributed by non-governmental organisation after their arrival from the eastern Greek islands to the Athens’ port of Piraeus on Thursday 25th February 2016. Greece has threatened to block decisions at a forthcoming EU migration summit if sharing of the refugee burden is not made obligatory for member states. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis).