‘REFUGEES are welcome’ is the clear message from hundreds of East Sussex residents who have signed petitions in response to the growing migrant crisis.
Harrowing images depicting the body of three-year old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach prompted more than 300 residents to sign the ‘refugees welcome in East Sussex’ petition on campaign website 38 Degrees.
Eastbourne-based nursing student Danielle Stenning, 26, who started the petition, to be forwarded to councils across the county, said: “Since starting this petition I have had families emailing me to offer spare bedrooms and anything else they can to help.
“It has been totally humbling to know that I live in such an amazing community. Some of our grandparents were refugees during the war and it wasn’t that long ago that English parents would send their own children to be taken care of by complete strangers in the countryside where it was deemed safer.”
Prime Minister David Cameron announced this afternoon Britain would resettle up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years.
Separate petitions have been launched in Battle, Uckfield and other towns and villages across West Sussex. Collections of clothing and vital supplies to send to Calais, where thousands of refugees are camped, have also been organised.
A Sussex-wide Facebook support network – ‘Sussex Refugee Solidarity’ – was created on Friday by parent Alison Philips, 32, from Worthing, to lobby politicians on the issue.
She said: “It had been a bit too easy to ignore what was going on but when all the horrific images started appearing of the boy on the beach it felt like a bit of a call to action. As a new mum I felt like I could imagine that being my child.
“Our intentions are twofold. We want to lobby politicians to say we are willing and ready to take refugees and two, to set up a community support database so we have got people to turn to.
“There has been a massive range of people, from doctors and nurses to carers and stay at home mums and we have been absolutely inundated with requests.
“This is not about having an extra burden on the community – they would be a real asset. They generally make a massive positive difference as they are so motivated.”
Eastbourne Borough Council leader David Tutt said: “Eastbourne Borough Council will play its part in what is a distressing, complex and rapidly evolving situation. Last week I signed a petition calling on the Prime Minister to take urgent action.
“We are now waiting to see how support arrangements will be developed by the government and will respond to these plans in the most expedient way possible. As information updates become available we will share these with residents through the local and regional media and on the council website.”
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said its responsibility for accommodating refugees would only be in relation to unaccompanied children.
They said: “We are seeing a steady increase in number of children and young people coming into the county. At present we are supporting 26 young people. Most have travelled alone to the UK.
“We would expect that figure to rise over the year. We will offer support to every child that needs the help of the county council, but we need more people to apply to be assessed as carers for this group of children and the wider population.”
For more information on the petition, visit https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/refugees-welcome-in-east-sussex
Visit http://www.sussexrefugeesolidarity.uk to get involved in helping the community effort.