The annual Seafarers’ Service was due to be held at Portsmouth Cathedral at the weekend.
According to the cathedral it is a chance to remind the congregation of Portsmouth’s long tradition of welcoming newcomers from all over the world.
Maybe this is an ingenious way of Portsmouth City Council reminding the government of our stretched resources and asking for more Home Office cash
Last year members of the council, including its leader, Donna Jones, attended the service at the Cathedral of the Sea and presumably heard that message.
This year, just days ahead of the service, they passed a motion to ask home secretary Theresa May to remove the city’s cluster area status for refugees and asylum-seekers.
Cllr Jones claims the media, and The News in particular, has blown the issue out of all proportion and that the council is not ‘shutting the door’ on refugees. Instead it just wants to be treated like any other town and city that doesn’t have cluster status.
She says she wants the resources to look after our own first and foremost.
Well that’s a vote-winner right there. To listen to her you’d think our schools are over-run by unaccompanied children who can’t speak our language and are stealing the places of the far worthier children of Portsmouth.
And you’d be forgiven for thinking next year’s America’s Cup and Victorious events will have to offer camping — because of the rows of refugee tents pitched on Southsea Common.
The fact is Portsmouth took in 124 asylum-seekers from April to June and it’s the Home Office that pays for them, not the people from Portsmouth seemingly so desperate to look after their own.
And none of the unaccompanied children are in our schools.
It takes a lot for a religious body such as Portsmouth Cathedral to come out and condemn a local decision, but that’s what it did last week.
But maybe the cathedral was being hasty. Maybe this is an ingenious way of Portsmouth City Council reminding the government of our stretched resources and asking for more Home Office cash.
Because, let’s face it, Theresa May isn’t going to be scrapping any cluster area at a time when the country needs more of them. Trouble is, I don’t think councillors are that clever.