Speech by Cllr Rafiq Raja at the Council on Monday seconding the motion to take Syrian refugees..........
Mr Chairman, fellow councillors, distinguished ladies & Gentlemen.
I second this motion and call on WDC to offer a generous humanitarian hand of assistance to the refugees of Syria. We know that Wycombe’s citizens have already stepped up to the plate, as it were, on their own accord and have been collecting donations for the refugees, living up to Britain’s proud history of offering refuge to people in dire straits stretching back to the Second World War and earlier. As you would be aware there has been a huge coming together of people from different parts of the community such as at the All Saints, [where Muslims joined Christians and people of other faiths]. This shows that the community has a burning desire to create harmony and goodwill. We cannot pretend here that we do not know that there are desperate people, with young children who have lost their homes, their livelihood and hope in their future. This is the biggest humanitarian crises facing Europe since WW2 and we need to play our part in offering hope and sanctuary. It is asking for help for the most vulnerable people - the victims of wars that the world is unable to stop
The minutes of the WDC’s Cabinet meeting of 16 November note and I quote “The Leader confirmed that the Council recognised the humanitarian crises in the Middle East and confirmed that the Council was working closely with other agencies to formulate a county-wide response”. So what has been achieved since the meeting of 5 October 2015, especially when the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, with responsibility for Syrian Refugees, wrote to all the Council leaders on 2 October and followed it up with a letter dated 26 November, giving details of the Funding arrangements for the Government’s Syrian Refugees resettlement programme.
Wycombe is a prosperous town in a prosperous country. Wycombe Labour Party believes that the humanitarian crisis needs to be responded to, and that we need to demonstrate our support for our fellow human beings who are suffering from the tragic events in Syria and show our respect for fundamental human rights in a practical and direct way. Yet there has been almost total silence from the council administration on this issue over the last 10 weeks.
How is it that other councils, less wealthy councils, have been able to accept the first refugees before Christmas but we refuse to acknowledge the urgency of the situation!
The UN and the EU were founded upon the Human Rights principles and now is the time to apply them by offering sanctuary to the refugees who are fleeing from a war torn Syria. As you may be aware, over 4 million people have fled from the brutality of the civil war in Syria. 1 in 4 of the population of Lebanon is a refugee and whilst other countries have taken larger numbers of refugees, with Germany having accepted their one millionth refugee last week. Sweden with a population of less than 10M is reported to have taken in over 30,000 refugees so far.
Many refugees are highly educated and skilled and will be a benefit to our society, as have been previous generations of refugees in this country. Many of us have heard of Steve Jobs the Co-founder of Apple and one of the most influential people in making ITC available to the masses. Well, his biological father was a Syrian. Are we going to deprive the world of another potential Steve Jobs?
There is only one argument for doing something; the rest are arguments for doing nothing. The argument for doing something is that it is the right thing to do. (FM Cornford 1908). It is vital that we do not close our hearts, or lose sight of the essential human response or ignore the needs of some of the world's most desperate people.
I therefore second the motion and ask that you support its modest demands.