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Deputy calls for islanders to help "desperate" refugees

Deputy calls for islanders to help

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Deputy calls for islanders to help "desperate" refugees

Guernsey should "do the right thing" by resettling 20 vulnerable Afghan refugees, says a States member, as he insisted that "most Guernsey people are not racist" and will welcome those in "desperate" need.

Deputy Charles Parkinson has also addressed concerns about any additional strain on infrastructure and housing - a widespread crisis facing islanders that "will not be compounded significantly" by re-homing less than two dozen refugees.

The current line from Government is that Guernsey is "engaging with the UK", which plans to resettle 20,000 Afghans in the next five years, the majority of whom will be women and children. 

Guernsey did not join the UK in resettling Syrian refugees back in 2016. At the time, then-Chief Minister Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq made the national papers for saying the island's authorities would not be able to guarantee the safety of refugees because of "Islamophobia" in the community.

Pictured: Deputy Le Tocq, now the External Affairs Lead, has expressed support for helping refugees this time. 

Deputy Parkinson says the island has an important call to make now the question arises again. 

“My thinking for Guernsey is that we offer to take our share of the number of refugees that the UK takes," he said.

"The UK Government has pledged to take 20,000 refugees and, because of our population, everything tends to be 1,000th of what the UK does. So that’s 20 refugees.”

He says Guernsey’s housing shortage – cited by some as a reason not to accept refugees – is a separate issue that the States needs to get a handle on. 

House prices are up by 10% on last year, waiting lists are bursting for ‘affordable’ homes and some estate agents are holding properties on their websites for months after they’ve already been taken. 

Deputy Charles Parkinson

Pictured: Deputy Parkinson says Guernsey needs to confront its housing crisis, regardless of any refugees being re-homed on the island.

“There is a serious question around housing that the States needs to address,” said Deputy Parkinson. “However, taking 20 refugees is not going to compound that problem significantly in my view.  

“There are desperate people who have endured a really horrific experience. I think most Guernsey people are pretty tolerant, are not racist and are sympathetic to the plight of refugees.”

The UK has pledged to welcome up to 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next five years, with 5,000 being resettled during the first year. 

Priti Patel has stated that the priority will be religious minority groups and women and girls who are at a higher risk under Taliban rule.

Despite the UK government’s resettlement route having been heavily criticised and labelled as ‘not enough,’ Ms. Patel and Boris Johnson have defended the scheme as ‘one of the most generous in our country’s history.’ 

Pictured: Several people have publicly offered their support in providing the accommodation needed to take refugees. 

The Home Secretary emphasised that the UK cannot re-home 20,000 Afghans in one go and there is a need to focus on the country’s infrastructure to provide refugees with adequate accommodation and resources.

Providing this is pursued, there is potential for the number of refugees resettling in the UK to be significantly increased.

Deputy Le Tocq has declared that #AfghanLivesMatter on Twitter, alongside statements which indicate a willing attitude in the conversation around resettling refugees. 

"Putting aside the debate on the foreign policy decisions behind this going on in the West, it is heart-breaking to think about the future for those people of Afghanistan who wished to embrace the freedoms and rights that we value and promote in the Commonwealth," said the External Affairs Lead. 

"We should look to follow the coordinated efforts in the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis engulfing Afghanistan to see what role, no matter how small, we as a community can play in that."

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