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Frome says ‘Refugees welcome here’

A GROUP of Frome residents took to the streets with a family-friendly demonstration to spread the message that refugees are welcome in our town.   

The demonstration was to highlight the tragic situation taking place in Afghanistan, to offer a show of solidarity for all those affected and as a call to the Government to provide safe and appropriate care for all refugees.

Around 25 people attended the event, which was held on 4th September, starting at Victoria Park’s bandstand and ending at the Town Hall where mayor, cllr Andy Wrintmore, was waiting to greet them.

Speaking to the Frome Times, organiser Harri-Lu Wyatt said, “I think we’ve all seen the really terrifying scenes in Afghanistan and I wanted to make a statement that we, the people of Frome, stand for those fleeing for their lives and that refugees are welcome here.

“I think the only difference between me standing here with my baby safe and sound and those scenes that we saw of a mother trying to hold up her baby and hand it over to military above barbed wire is where we were born.

“I think it’s really important that the government are aware that we want refugees to be supported, we want them to have safe passage here, and we want them to be adequately taken care of when they are here

“Lastly, if there’s even one refugee or family that see what we’ve done here and feels welcome, then we’ve done our job.

“There’s lots of people who would open their own homes so we should be looking at that, as well as council involvement – it’s about trying to do things in advance and being prepared rather than a retroactive response.”

Frome Town Council (FTC) stepped in to open their doors to the demonstrators and hear their concerns. As a town council, FTC hold no housing stock of their own, but want to help facilitate the important conversations around what can be done for refugees, as well as the many local people facing ongoing housing issues.

Mayor of Frome, Cllr Andy Wrintmore said, “The housing crisis is very real, for both those currently risking their lives to escape Afghanistan and also those in our own neighbourhoods. We felt it was very important to encourage this dialogue and see what can be done to support for those in need – supporting one does not take away from the other.”

Frome is well known for its acceptance of refugees, accepting three Syrian refugee families in 2015. Local charity group, RAISE (Refugee Action in Somerset East) also works to provide fundraising and support for those affected.

The local charity is a great way to offer your support for refugees whether by volunteering as a fundraiser, donating items of clothing or if using your hands is your thing, they are always happy to accept knitted hats, blankets or teddies. Get involved by going to www.raise.today

Cllr David Fothergill, leader of Somerset County Council also said, “As a council we look forward to receiving our allocation of refugees as they arrive in this country, and I know our local residents will do us proud once again, as they did with the Syrian refugees over the past few years.”

“The council anticipates the Government will fund a number of places for refugees through its resettlement programmes.

“The first refugee family was welcomed to Somerset in the spring of 2016. With the help of local services, charities, and generous offers from the community, we have since supported 137 people across 30 households to safely resettle.

“The number of refugees that can be accepted by each council depends on a variety of factors, ranging from ease of access, to transport and infrastructure. Councils are particularly keen to speak to private landlords with self-contained accommodation in a bid to rehouse more people more quickly. If you can help, please contact resettlement@somerset.gov.uk.

Refugee Action In Somerset East (RAISE) also attended the event.   

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