Petition launched urging Norfolk County Council to offer sanctuary to Syrian refugees

An e-petition has been launched urging Norfolk County Council to offer sanctuary to 50 Syrian refugees.

Humanitarian organisation Norfolk Sanctuary met with the authority three months ago to discuss the proposed resettlement of 50 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees.

Refugees in a rubber dinghy arriving on the beach at Psalidi on Kos aecd6113-4790-48d2-a3c5-fa68b3b6

Refugees in a rubber dinghy arriving on the beach at Psalidi on Kos aecd6113-4790-48d2-a3c5-fa68b3b6

Working together with Citizens UK, the Norfolk Sanctuary petition is calling on Norfolk County Council to accept a small quota of UN refugees into our local community.

The petition, launched by Juliette Harkin, reads: “As time goes by the crisis in Syria is getting worst and those most vulnerable are paying the highest price.

“We feel we need to act urgently and do what we can to help. In doing this Norfolk County Council will be joining other local authorities around the UK who have already committed to aid in this humanitarian effort.”

The petition has already been signed by almost 900 people.

George Nobbs, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “We are naturally sympathetic to the plight of these Syrian refugees and have been in discussions with the Home Office about both a national and regional response.

“We recognise the human cost of fleeing persecution and war, having settled 420 refugees as part of the government’s Gateway programme.

“We were one of 18 authorities to take part in this voluntary programme and are proud of the support and compassion that the county has shown to refugees in the past.

“Clearly this is a problem that goes far beyond the borders of Norfolk and East Anglia and is a matter for the national government and the whole of the European Union.”

David Cameron has said he was “deeply moved” by shocking pictures of a drowned Syrian boy washed up on a beach published in the national media today - but refused to say whether Britain would increase the number of refugees it takes.

The Prime Minister promised that the UK would fulfil its “moral responsibilities” amid a backlash over handling of the migration crisis wracking Europe, but stopped short of making specific commitments.

The government has opted out of UN and EU schemes that could mean accepting tens of thousands of asylum seekers, instead taking smaller numbers and arguing that the focus should be on bringing “peace and stability” to the war-ravaged areas they are fleeing.

But Labour and a number of Conservatives have demanded a shift in policy, with Mr Cameron being warned that he faces a “test of humanity” and must honour the British tradition of offering sanctuary to those in need.

Mr Cameron told reporters: “Anyone who saw those pictures overnight could not help but be moved and, as a father, I felt deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach in Turkey.

“Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities.”

Speaking during a visit to a Hitachi factory in Newton Aycliffe, Mr Cameron said Britain’s commitment to acting morally was why Royal Navy ships had gone to the Mediterranean and “saved thousands of lives”.

“That’s why Britain meets our commitment of 0.7% of our economy spent on aid, much of which goes to North Africa, goes to the Middle East to help those countries,” he went on.

“That’s why Britain is the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to those Syrian refugee camps.

“And that is why, yes, we are taking thousands of Syrian refugees and we will continue to do that. As I said yesterday, we keep that under review.”

He went on: “There’s not a solution to this problem that is simply about taking people.

“We need a comprehensive solution, a new government in Libya, we need to deal with the problems in Syria.

“I would say the people most responsible are President Assad in Syria and the butchers of Isil and the criminal gangs that are running this terrible trade in people and we need to be tough on them at the same time.”