By Rania Ramli
Earlier this year, the Labour Students BAME caucus chose the refugee crisis as our priority campaign. With the rise of a far-right rhetoric that demonises minority communities and promotes hatred towards some of the most vulnerable, this issue is becoming increasingly important.
As part of the campaign, we are encouraging all students to write to their local councillors over Christmas and the New Year, asking them about the decisions they’re taking and lobbying for further action.
Below is a draft template outlining some key priorities – it can be sent as either a letter or an email. Please do amend this to make it relevant to your local community. Any additional information about specific things that you would like to see or why the issue is important to you would be particularly useful.
The student movement has always been at its best when it’s radical, bold and ready to take on the fight against some of the biggest injustices in society. It’s why I got involved and it’s why this campaign is so important to me. As the daughter of immigrants who came to the UK with nothing, unable to speak English, I know how difficult it can be start a new life in a foreign country.
So at a time when it feels that people are more divided than ever, we cannot stay silent. We have a responsibility to stand up and make sure that the voices, concerns and needs of refugees, particularly children, are not pushed to the sidelines.
I hope you can get involved in our campaign – the more elected representatives recognize the issue, the more likely we are to get change.
Feel free to get in touch with Labour Students’ BAME officer, Rania Ramli (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you have any questions.
Councillor’s contact details
Dear (insert councillor’s name)
I am writing as one of your local constituents regarding the provisions that (insert council name) has in place for refugee children who arrive in the UK.
As I’m sure you are aware, the refugee crisis has been characterised by the displacement of thousands of people, with over 360,000 in Europe alone at the end of 2017, many of whom are children. Current EU law means that those who have family in countries such as the UK are able to join them, an important policy which we must fight to protect regardless of what happens with Brexit.
However, this is only the first step and work must be done to ensure that children are properly supported as they settle in to the UK. Barriers to education can be particularly high, especially for those who arrive unable to speak English or suffering from trauma as a result of past experiences. I hope you would agree that giving all children equal opportunities and the chance to succeed should be fundamental to the actions and priorities of any politician.
In light of this, would you be able to please let me know of any policies or schemes that (insert council name) currently has or that you are campaigning for? Whether it’s extra resources to help schools support refugee children or youth services that promote community integration, there are a range of things that could be done. Also, is there anything that you are currently doing to engage with local charities that support refugee children?
Furthermore, figures from Unicef show that 20,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived in Europe last year, a majority of them extremely vulnerable. Would you be able to please provide me with the figures for how many of these children (insert council name) has welcomed and found suitable accommodation for?
Shocking images like those of 3-year old Aylan Kurdi are usually met with outrage and a condemnation of the authorities and those in charge, rightly so. But unless we channel this anger and frustration into action, there will be more and more children like Aylan. I understand that cuts have put local councils under significant financial strain but I hope you would agree that protecting and providing for some of the most vulnerable people in society must always be a priority.
I look forward to hearing from you and please do let me know if there is anything that I can do to help.