Refugee workers moved by Sheffield’s ‘heartwarming’ support for Syrians

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Sheffield will open its doors and give a warm welcome to more refugees as the community bands together to give aid to those fleeing persecution.

City residents have been donating lorry-loads of food and clothing for those in need – and some city families have even offered to take families who arrive into their own homes.

Donated shoes

Donated shoes

Pressure for the UK to take in more refugees intensified after a picture of the body of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed up a Turkish beach was published by the national and regional press.

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Prime Minister David Cameron subsequently announced that the UK will give refuge to 20,000 Syrians over the next five years.

In our city, about ‘10 to 15’ Syrian families will be immediately resettled, which is likely to equate to about 50 people.

More than 100 protesters gathered outside the town hall last weekend to plead with the public to welcome refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.

Sheffield, which is known as a ‘City of Sanctuary,’ is involved in a resettlement scheme called the Gateway Protection programme and had already pledged to rehome 130 refugees this year.

But this week Sheffield Council has said it will do more to help and will ‘immediately open its doors.’

Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: “In Sheffield we have a well-documented history of helping those fleeing persecution.

“We take part in the government-funded Gateway programme and have done so for the last 11 years.

“The current refugee crisis is a great concern to us. Along with other local authorities, we will consider any proposal from the Home Office about increasing the number of people resettled in our city as part of the national response to the Syrian refugee crisis.”

Sarah Aldridge, from the Gateway programme, said the scheme has had daily enquiries from local residents offering accommodation and support.

She said: “It is heartwarming to know that so many people are recognising that we can make room in our lives and communities for people who have fled appalling situations with nothing.

“There is already a vast community of volunteers working to help people arriving in the city and we invite everyone who has been moved by those scenes of fear and misery to join this movement of welcome.”

Sheffield MPs have also backed plans to take in more people fleeing war zones.

Louise Haigh, Sheffield Heeley MP, has opened her office as a collection point for donations, which will be taken to refugees in Calais,

She said: “The UK government has to rediscover its humanity and they should commit to playing their full part with their European partners.”

Nick Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, wrote to Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore calling on the authority to consider accommodating refugees fleeing from conflict in Syria.

Mr Clegg said: “We have all been distressed by the photos and video footage of refugees fleeing Syria and trying to seek sanctuary in Europe.

“The photo of the three year-old Syrian child washed up on a Turkish beach has brought home to many the horrors of the situation that the refugees are in.”

Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham councils have all also promised to do their bit to help to relocate refugees.