It’s funny how things hit home when when they happen on your own door step. The scenes of millions of Ukrainian refugees escaping into neighbouring countries in Europe has bought home the reality of war and need for safe passage. The chaos and suffering from the stories we’re hearing and seeing daily on our screens and radios is very powerful, upsetting and immediate.
When it’s a far off country, unrelated to us in proximity or culture or race or religion, then it’s out there. It’s ‘other’. But when it’s close to home, then it’s real and visceral. It’s ‘here’. There are of course hypocrisies and contradictions in all this which aren’t good enough and we must continue to seek to change.
At different times in our history we have welcomed refugees into Battersea and Wandsworth. I was reminded on Thursday how the Battersea (and now Wandsworth) Coat of Arms include tears, which represent the tears of the the Huguenot refugees that fled to Wandsworth in the 1700s. Tears of sadness and suffering mixed with tears of joy in finding safety and a new home. Many of their descendants still live locally.
At KLS we’ve worked with refugees for decades, offering refuge and a new home. We strongly believe that we should help those in crisis and hardship. We’ve seen how refugees quickly become involved in and part of our community. They are invaluable and give as much as they receive. Enriching our community, enriching Battersea.
It’s phenomenal to see that others think the same as us. The Disasters Emergency Committee has raised over £100m in just a few days. Local charities and community groups have been inundated with goods, clothes and food that are being transported over to Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. I’ve had phone calls with local businesses, charities and residents about what they can be doing to help over the last week. The Ukraine Institute of London has a helpful page about where support can be directed.
The UK government really needs to step up and be more proactive to support this refugee crisis. It beggars belief, as reported over the weekend, that only 50 Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed to these shores. The government needs to set up a dedicated process for Ukrainian refugees – currently, there is no safe and legal route for them to seek asylum in Britain unless they have British relatives or are sponsored by a community organisation. We urge the government to provide safe passage and set out a process by which Ukraine refugees can be welcomed to the UK.
You can join us and others calling on the Government to increase its support for Ukraine. Write to your local MP and ask for their support of Ukraine and safe passage for their citizens fleeing the conflict. You can find your local MP here.