Council leader calls for understanding as Derbyshire welcomes refugees

Pictured is Derbyshire County Council leader Anne Western.

Pictured is Derbyshire County Council leader Anne Western.

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Derbyshire County Council leader Anne Western has highlighted a need for sympathy and understanding after the authority has offered to help refugees during the current international crisis.

Refugees fleeing the deepening global humanitarian crisis could be given refuge in Derbyshire after council leaders extended an offer to UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Anne Western says the county would again be willing to act as a reception centre for refugees as it did during the Kosovan crisis in 1999.

She told BBC Radio Sheffield today, Saturday, September 5: “It was yesterday morning that Derbyshire County Council said it would be expecting more refugees.

“When you have a situation like that it needs to be properly co-ordinated and managed.

“When the Kosovan crisis was at its height Derbyshire offered a reception centre and we took about 70 refugees and put them in a country house that used to be a residential school.

“It helped establish whether they had family or relatives elsewhere and they moved on to live in other places.

“It’s about offering refuge and we can’t imagine the trauma they are going through and it’s about giving them a chance to get their lives back on track before they move on.

“A reception centre is a safe place - somewhere to go while they can sought out whether they have been separated from children or if they have got family in other places or if they have other urgent needs.

“And we can decide where they are going to live during their time in the country before they decide to go home as most in the Kosovan crisis did. This is a temporary situation.

“I can’t look at pictures of a child washed up on a beach and not be moved by that. Thousands of people are walking down a motorway to get to Austria and others are trapped in railway stations.

“This is an international crisis and we have to do something about it. If we don’t then worst repercussions will affect us all.

“I think Germany and Austria are doing fantastically well with compassion and we should do the same.

“There are a few people on Facebook and Twitter putting vile comments on there and it is quite shocking.

“We should be playing a part. It is not to say we should open our doors and everyone should come here. That is a myth because the numbers we have here are tiny. But it needs to be properly managed and co-ordinated and we need to get to the root of the problem which is the wars in the Middle East.

“People want to be in there own homes and safe. I would say to people if our country was being bombed to rubble, put yourselves in their shoes.

“I would want to live and ultimately go home.

“A lot of people come to me - members of the public, members of staff, community groups and they ask what can they do?

“We have had people even offering a room in a house for people to stay. But it all needs co-ordinating.

“Derbyshire County Council is offering its support to the Government in what happens next. Derbyshire County Council is offering a reception centre.”

Kosovan refugees were housed at Stretton House, a former residential special school near Clay Cross, when they were flown out of the war-torn country in 1999.

Council officers are now assessing what accommodation could be readied at short notice to accommodate refugees if they were to come to Derbyshire.

Councillor Western previously stated: “What is happening across the globe is absolutely tragic. Death and suffering on this scale should not be happening and it couldn’t be clearer that more needs to be done to help.

“Derbyshire is a caring county and I’ve been contacted by people wanting to help. We opened a reception centre when the Kosovan people were in dire need in the late 1990s and we’d be willing to do the same now.”

She added: “Every day more and more people are dying. We must act fast and I hope Mr Cameron will take us up on our offer. It isn’t just about people in Syrian refugee camps but the thousands risking their lives on a daily basis as they find any way possible to travel across Europe.

“I’m sure we won’t be alone in offering to do what we can to ease the suffering.”