“It is only by getting out and speaking to people that we can convey the importance of helping refugees and asylum seekers who often feel lost and unsupported in an unfamiliar country and culture.” Martin Simmonds, Communications Officer for Suffolk Refugee Support (SRS)
Martin Simmonds, Communications Officer for Suffolk Refugee Support (SRS)

A compelling talk given by Martin Simmonds, Communications Officer for Suffolk Refugee Support (SRS), brought into sharp relief the plight of refugees and asylum seekers trying to rebuild their lives in our county.

The talk, given at the latest meeting of the Mid Suffolk Rural Branch Labour Party, resulted in members voting to donate £150 to the not-for-profit organisation, which relies entirely on donations and grant funding.

Said Simmonds: “We estimate there are approximately 2,500 refugees in Suffolk, the majority of them living in Ipswich. For historical reasons, the largest community comprises Iraqi Kurds, with established communities of Iranians and Afghans as well. Many of these have refugee status or leave to remain in the UK, with some also having achieved British citizenship. Others, however, find themselves still in legal limbo after more than a decade in the country.

“There are also currently 80 to 90 asylum seekers, many of them families, housed in Ipswich under the government’s ‘dispersal’ system. These people come from a range of countries and all are awaiting a decision on their asylum claim.

“It is only by getting out and speaking to people that we can convey the importance of helping refugees and asylum seekers who often feel lost and unsupported in an unfamiliar country and culture.”

Eddie Dougall, chair of the Mid Suffolk Rural Branch Labour Party added: “We regularly invite guest speakers to our meetings so that members can better understand the problems many of us face on a daily basis. Not only those encountered by asylum seekers and refugees but also by individuals and families struggling to make ends meet in an era of austerity and deprivation. We were so touched by Martin’s talk that it was unanimously agreed that the Branch would donate £150 to SRS”.

Suffolk Refugee Support provides high quality independent advice and support for a wide range of needs including housing, health, employment support and training, a friendly, volunteer-supported group providing a welcoming, safe and social space for women and perhaps most importantly English language tuition.

Martin added: “Being able to speak English is the first step in the process of integration. It empowers people and helps them adapt to life in the UK. Our classes provide refugees with the language skills they need to help themselves.

“Suffolk is also taking part in the UK government’s refugee resettlement schemes, with political leaders across Suffolk’s public sector unanimously agreeing to take up to 230 vulnerable refugees from Syria, the Middle East and North Africa by 2020. Suffolk Refugee Support has been commissioned to provide specialist casework for these families. The first refugees arrived in Ipswich in March 2016 and as of August 2018 we have welcomed 22 families to Ipswich under the schemes. They are settling in well, with many working, volunteering, studying, setting up businesses and beginning to rebuild their lives with our support.”

To donate to the Suffolk Refugee Support go to: suffolkrefugee.org.uk

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