Portsmouth has a ‘moral duty’ to take in Syrian refugees

Refugees in Calais
Refugees in Calais
  • City reaction to claims that Portsmouth is too crowded to help desperate refugees from Syria
  • Labour leader argues these comments were ‘sending the wrong message’
  • Sociologist says everyone has a part to play in helping with the migrant crisis
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THE city’s Labour leader has rebuked claims that Portsmouth is too cramped to house refugees.

Councillor John Ferrett was reacting to statements made by the Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones on Tuesday.

In an interview with The News, Cllr Jones said it was ‘unlikely’ the city would take many, if any, migrants, claiming Portsmouth was too densely populated.

Speaking of the remarks, Cllr Ferrett said: ‘I think the city will have to play its part with others in the country.’

He said no formal assessment of the city’s capacity had been undertaken and that the relief effort was still in its early stages, with many decision still to be made by central government.

Cllr Ferrett added: ‘We don’t want to give out the message that we’re unwelcoming here – we want to give the message that we’re prepared to work.’

However, sociologist Dr Charles Leddy-Owen, lecturer at the University of Portsmouth and trustee of Friends Without Borders said Cllr Jones could be right about the city’s availability to help.

But, Dr Leddy-Owen said the crisis should not simply be an issue for world leaders to address, as Cllr Jones said. He felt people had their part to play, on a local level.

‘Local organisation Friends Without Borders is already struggling to provide support for destitute asylum seekers and refugees in Portsmouth at our drop-in at All Saints Church on Commercial Road,’ he said. ‘Portsmouth and Britain are part of an interconnected world and should be prepared to make sacrifices in order to help those in need, whether already resident here or potentially on their way.’

Likewise, Hazel Kellett, head teacher of Boundary Oak School, in Wickham Road, Fareham, agreed.

Her school was one of the first in the nation to open its doors to refugee children from Syria by offering two free places.

Mrs Kellett – whose idea has been given the full backing of the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) – said: ‘Everyone in England has got so much and when you see those poor children having gone through the trauma that they have, I just think that it’s everyone’s moral duty to help.’

No fixed date has been given for when the children will join the school. The operation is being led by the BSA.

‘The children that come I expect will be traumatised,’ she admitted.

She added she backed the Prime Minister’s pledge for the UK to take on 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.