* UPDATE February 2017: Thanks to public pressure the situation is improving as volunteer bodies take matters into their own hands. See link at end of this article
* UPDATE August 2016: The Home Affairs Select Committee published a report that London councils took in only 33 Syrian refugees. Committee chairman Keith Vaz today said they must take more
THE SIGNS THAT stood for months opposite Dalston Junction station expressed a worthy sentiment.
They were removed this month but they leave a hollow echo as Hackney council, which could help, moves slower than a rudderless dinghy floating across the Mediterranean.
Pressed by this site over the last six months for details of action rather than fine words of sympathy, Hackney eventually revealed to Loving Dalston that it would house a — yes, one — family from Syria. The council was “working to bring them over as soon as possible”. And it said: “We also expect to receive four more families in the coming months.”
Hackney, a huge flats and houses-owner, next claimed: “Finding properties has been a challenge… so the reality is that the majority of refugees will be housed outside the capital.”
As for the idea of residents offering the refugees a place in their homes, the council emphasised that the Government insisted accommodation be self-contained and available for at least five years. A room would not suffice.
That is not sufficient for Keith Vaz. The Labour Leicester East MP said: “The Government has been reluctant to let people take Syrian asylum-seekers into their homes. But it should look at this.”
Local MP Diane Abbott, asked by Loving Dalston about Hackney’s minimalist approach to helping Syrians, countered: “I do not doubt the willingness of Labour councillors in Hackney to house Syrian refugees. But there are many practical problems.”
The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington said that when she was Shadow International Development Secretary she “visited refugee camps all over Europe and the Middle East”.
If Hackney is moving slowly, it is not among the 100 local authorities flatly refusing to house asylum-seekers.
They have, however, an excuse to be wary: G4S, Serco and other businesses with no previous experience of accommodating asylum seekers are involved in the scheme, which is known as Compass and has been heavily criticised.
On the government scheme to take in unaccompanied Syrian children from Europe, Hackney council commented: “We will need to make sure that everything is in place to provide these vulnerable children with the long-term support they need.
“Providing care for an unaccompanied refugee child requires… foster carers with the skills to look after children who may have been traumatised by their experiences.
“We would encourage anyone who wants to help… to contact us to find out more about what it involves and to start the process of becoming a foster carer.”
This may not be easy. The BBC’s Sima Kotecha reported in March this year 2016 that the system for housing asylum-seekers was near collapse.
So perhaps the Labour-run Hackney regime can produce reasons to snailpace on Syrians, the while posting pious statements about its “long history of offering support to refugees” and “developing a robust resettlement model”.
Where will that leave the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children waiting in Turkey and eastern Europe? Just there… possibly for years.
David Altheer 240716
* Press here to see Eiad Zinah’s Freedom From Fear photographic exhibition, shown at Haggerston this month July 2016, of asylum-seekers given refuge in Britain.
* How you can help refugees.
* All pictures on this page © DavidAltheer[at]gmail.com. All for sale for reproduction. Most photographs can be visually enlarged by pressing on them.
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.