Refugee crisis: A Yorkshire Welcome

The borders of our great county were set up by foreigners over a thousand years ago, we use place and geographical names imported from abroad, and use words today that have their origins in what is now modern day Denmark and Norway.

Yorkshire – and immigrants – have made us who we are.

The current refugee crisis is the biggest movement of population since the Second World War. Millions of people are escaping war and persecution – in Syria, but many other countries in the Middle East and Africa as well. It is a world crisis which needs global solutions. Europe is the focus of the current humanitarian crisis and the UK needs to be part of practical action on a co-ordinated EU wide basis.

But here in Yorkshire we can also do our bit right now to help make a real difference. Yorkshire people have a tradition of welcoming people affected by war and tyranny over the last hundred or so years... Belgian refugees in the Great War, Basque children fleeing from the Spanish Civil War, refugees from Nazism and – in the 1950s - people escaping Stalin’s invasion of Hungary.

Already, in small communities like Meltham, near Holmfirth, collections of food and clothing to help refugees in Calais and other locations have put restored many people’s faith in human nature. Yorkshire First calls for strong action across our region involving all local authorities, the charity sector, faith groups and community organisations.

Yorkshire First welcomes the humanitarian actions of our communities, local charities and all those groups working with refugees who are in need. We believe our 22 Yorkshire councils can help by ensuring that aid is effective and co-ordinated at a regional level. Those providing aid should be given local government support to achieve this: anything from providing temporary storage to advice on what resources are required.  We are calling for people to unite under the banner of ‘Yorkshire Welcome'.

The time to do this is now. Shame the Government by our actions in offering the hand of friendship to those in need. Their half-hearted promises to allow a handful of refugees into the UK whilst leaving local councils to pick up the longer term bill shows yet again the importance of our region having the money raising, and decision-making powers to make this happen.

Our decision. Our choice. Our Yorkshire. Welcome.

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