Call for a National Refugee Welcome and Resettlement Board
Statement by the Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
In response to the outpouring of public support, including a number of clear expressions of concern from local Baptists, we join with others in calling for the formation of two new bodies to enable a co-ordinated response to the growing refugee crisis.
While government agencies might manage the process of re-settlement, including the provision of professional support, we believe there is a vital role for civic society, the private sector, local citizens and other stakeholders to play alongside this. This is a vision that has been developed by Citizens UK
, and we believe it is right to add our own support to this.
The successful resettlement of people with extreme and complex needs, will require significant support and it is particularly important that the substantial resources of faith and community organisations are not under-utilised at a time of such crisis. It is equally important that these organisations are able to work alongside and connect with professional agencies where this is required.
We share the belief that this could be effectively achieved by the establishment of a National Refugee Welcome and Resettlement Board
, which in turn would work to establish and build a network of local Refugee Welcome and Resettlement Committees
Historically, volunteers have been at the forefront of welcoming, befriending and even housing refugees in their local communities - notably in the cases of the Kindertransport, Ugandan Asians and the Vietnamese boat people. However this needs to properly connect with the activities of Government and non-governmental agencies. Historically, there were co-ordination boards and committees to fulfil this role, but these no longer exist, so new institutions need to be created.
Following the Prime Minister's commitment to increase the rate of Syrian resettlement to 20,000 over the next five years, and the reduced capacity of local government and refugee charities in a time of austerity, the need for the voluntary capacity of civil society organisations to assist in welcoming, befriending, mentoring, teaching English, finding appropriate housing and other tasks is greater than ever.
1 The National Refugee Welcome and Resettlement Board (NRWRB)
The NRWRB has the potential to bring together diverse national civil society organisations, leading private sector voices, and key public sector institutions. All would share a deep and long-term commitment to refugee resettlement, significant human and financial resources spread across a broad geography, and a commitment to mobilising voluntary effort to assist the state led resettlement process.
Civic members could include representatives of the Faith communities, Citizens UK
, the British Red Cross
, Save the Children
, 38 Degrees
The role of the NRWRB would be to organise the resources available on a national scale to support refugee resettlement programmes. Its key role would be to complement the work of other established agencies by helping to interface these with the activities and offers of help that emerge from local communities.
2 Local Refugee Resettlement and Welcome Committees (RRWC)
The NRWRB would develop guidelines for the formation of local RRWCs in areas where resettlement will happen and help provide coordination for their activities. Wherever possible existing local groups and community initiatives will be supported to form such committees, supplemented by a core of local affiliates of the national members of the NRWRB. Where they do not exist and significant resettlement is planned the NRWRB could support the initial convening and formation of such a committee.
The focus of the committees will be to support the local council and other relevant agencies in welcoming and supporting refugees.
Related: Baptists join call for a co-ordinated response to refugee crisis - and local church members encouraged to add support to Citizens UK's case for a Refugee Welcome and Resettlement Board
The Revd Lynn Green is General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain