Refugee Week 2017
By bringing this motion to the Council we are asking for the relevant Cabinet Member to look at how Northampton can play a part in Refugee Week next year.
We have heard Nour's heartbreaking story of the impossible decision to stay in Syria and face starvation, rape, persecution and death or the make the enormous decision to leave her home and family to find sanctuary, a safe home and a place to continue her studies here in Northampton.
Today is the start of Refugee Week and tomorrow the 20th June is World Refugee Day. This week is the start of the United Kingdom's biggest festival. The festival which started in 1998 will see tens of thousands of people across the country attending all kinds of cultural and educational events.
It is an opportunity to shine a light on individual stories, and aims to tell these stories in different ways. We often hear of refugees numbering in their thousands and it can be difficult to remember that behind the number there is an ordinary person with the same hopes and dreams we all have.
Northampton is a town already enriched by many and diverse cultures. It is through participation and enjoyment of the art, dance, music, drama, poetry, stories and culture that a greater understanding between communities flourishes and grows.
The arts transcend barriers of language, race, age and nationality. By telling their stories, by whatever means, we can be humbled by an insight into the oppression and dangers which drive people to leave their homes and often their families, to make the perilous journey to our country and to our town.
Northampton Town of Sanctuary works with the University, faith groups, community organisations, the Interfaith forum and volunteers to offer education and practical help, particularly to young people who have come to our town. Foster parents, youth groups, support in school and activities are arranged for the unaccompanied asylum seeking children to make them feel safe and work towards coming to terms with the traumas experienced on their journey. As part of Refugee Week, the Northampton Town of Sanctuary is running a stall on Saturday, in the market square, we encourage you all to come along.
Our wish is that next year, during Refugee Week, Northampton can add its voice and join in with the hundreds of other festivals and events around the country. We can listen to the stories, hear the music, engage with the art and join in with the dance. We have talented and powerful artists and musicians who have sought sanctuary in our town, they will challenge misconceptions and we can all understand each other better. We should probably include some Morris Dancers as an example of British history and heritage. Some young Eritrarian asylum seekers recently came to a Barn Dance and after a half hour of complete mystification they were dozey-do-ing with ferocious energy and enthusiasm. Their willingness to engage and join in, is a lesson to us all.
This past weekend has seen the 'Great Get Together' on the anniversary of the murder of Jo Cox. Hundreds of events were held around the country to celebrate her work and passion for life. My daughter knew her at university and said Jo was always going to do something amazing. She certainly did. Jo Cox campaigned for more help and protection for civilians and victims in Syria. For medical and food drops to besieged communities. She went on to launch, alongside Andrew Mitchell, the all party parliamentary committee on Syria, and became its chair. She campaigned tirelessly for stronger communities and greater understanding of the plight of refugees.
Refugee Week gives us another opportunity to pause and reflect on Jo's life and work. The hopeful words in her maiden speech in Parliament 'we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us' resonates not only with the plight of the refugees and asylum seekers in our town but throughout the country. We ask for your support for Northampton to play our part in Refugee Week next year.