PORTSMOUTH’S council leader has revealed that it is unlikely the city will play a part in rehousing desperate refugees fleeing from war-torn Syria.
Donna Jones made the comments in the wake of Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge for the UK to resettle 20,000 people from refugee camps over the next four-and-a-half years.
It’s a deeply, deeply troubling situation. We need to be helping people in that dire situation.Councillor Donna Jones, Portsmouth City Council leader
She said Portsmouth City Council would do ‘whatever it could’ if asked by the government.
But Cllr Jones explained: ‘I don’t envisage that a city like Portsmouth is going to play a huge part in rehousing the refugees because we’re one of the most densely-populated cities other than London.’
Instead, Cllr Jones praised the efforts of city residents who have rallied to donate food, clothes and supplies to the refugees, as well as the humanitarian causes who are also chipping in to help.
Praising the aid effort, Cllr Jones said: ‘Portsmouth is a bit like a lion – it’s got a loud roar but also has a massive heart.’
But she still felt more needed to be done on an international scale.
‘It’s a deeply, deeply troubling situation,’ she said. ‘We need to be helping people in that dire situation.
‘But the key is that world leaders need to get together.’
The news came as an emergency debate into the deepening plight faced by refugees in Europe took place in Parliament yesterday.
During it, Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond said focus should be on bringing stability to the epicentre of the crisis – Syria itself.
She wanted the nation to be restored to the ‘diverse, educated and economically stable society it once was’.
But she stressed that in opening the doors of the nation to refugees, it should not place undue strain on local councils.
‘You cannot look after anyone else if you cannot look after yourself. In my own crowded city, Portsmouth, I spend a lot of time working with people who face housing difficulties, or helping resolve problems in education and health.
‘We will need support in caring for refugees beyond their first year in the UK and the burden must not fall on the local authority.
‘People want to be assured that we are not undermining our own society in trying to support others,’ she told MPs.
Elsewhere, a private school in Fareham is opening its doors to help children fleeing their war-ravaged homeland.
Boundary Oak School, in Wickham Road, will take on two Syrian refugee children, for free, offering them a chance at a new life. Head teacher Hazel Kellett said: ‘If the UK is going accept 20,000 Syrian refugees, then we are putting our hands up to help.’