Janet`s June 2015 letter to the Community

We’ve had an election and now the country is adapting to a new government.  Whether or not you think this is good news, the fact is that all but a very small number of us who are adult UK citizens have had the opportunity to elect our representative.  We have a voice.  And even more than that, our law insists on respect for those who made a different choice as well as for those who chose the winning “side”.  Perhaps it’s not a perfect system, but, as Winston Churchill once quoted, “democracy is the worst form of Government … except for all the others.”


Spare a thought, then, for the millions of people in this world who have no such choice, no such opportunity and no hope for the future in the place where they grew up and where we might feel they would have a right to belong.  I imagine you have been moved, as I have, by the plight of those who feel there is no alternative but to attempt to cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded, unseaworthy boats in order to try to reach Europe.  I cannot imagine what kind of desperation leads people to take such drastic action, especially as, even if they succeed in getting to Europe, the future remains very uncertain. 


For those who arrive in the UK seeking refugee status, a long and difficult road lies ahead of them.  Even those who are granted leave to remain in the UK may end up homeless and destitute.  Did you know that, once Refugee Status is granted, all support from the Home Office, including accommodation, is terminated 28 days later?  The decision letter announcing that Refugee Status has been granted needs to be followed by new identity documents, which can take a while.  But there is no access to Welfare Benefits without them.  And it’s not possible to find work without a National Insurance Number, which, of course, invariably takes longer than 28 days.  I wonder what we expect people to do in these situations? 


The problem is clearly huge and we can feel overwhelmed by it.  But the fact that we can’t put everything right shouldn’t stop us from doing what we can.   We could join the campaigns of organisations such as Shelter, Christian Aid and the Refugee Council.  We could make a donation to those or similar organisations to support their work.  We could begin to plan now how we might make time to volunteer with the Ilford Salvation Army Winter Night Shelter when it begins again in December.  Could you make a small difference, in appreciation of the freedom that we enjoy in the UK?  After all, the ocean is made up of drops!


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