Campaigners hope Paddington Bear will inspire Redbridge Council to house Syrian refugees

PUBLISHED: 15:03 01 September 2016 | UPDATED: 10:41 02 September 2016

Council Leader Jas Athwal met with Redbridge Citizens, dressed as Paddinton Bears, to discuss the possibility of Redbridge resettling five refugees from Calais.

Council Leader Jas Athwal met with Redbridge Citizens, dressed as Paddinton Bears, to discuss the possibility of Redbridge resettling five refugees from Calais.

Redbridge Citizens

The leader of the council met with campaigners dressed as Paddington Bear to discuss the possibility of rehousing Syrian refugees in Redbridge yesterday.

Cllr Jas Athwal would not be drawn on committing to rehoming the five children that Redbridge Citizens were calling for, but did agree to meet with campaigners again after visiting Calais.

One of those in attendance outside Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, Ilford, was Faisal Laloo, who wants to help because his children have grown up and left home, meaning he has a spare room.

Faisal called on Cllr Athwal to work together with Redbridge Citizens to help bring refugee children from Calais to safety in Redbridge.

He said: “The issue of refugee children is at my heart as I was an orphan myself at the age of seven years old.

“Children shouldn’t be burdened with such heavy responsibilities of fending for themselves, and in fact they should be cared for, enjoying life and do normal things as other children, playing and having fun.”

And Naomi Clifton from the Ilford corp of the Salvation Army echoed Faisal’s sentiments.

She said: “We have demonstrated on numerous occasions that we want to work with the council to make resettlement work in the borough.

“We found 14 people interested in being foster care parents on one night and four more have contacted us since.

“Now it is the council’s turn to show that they want to work in partnership and save the lives of five unaccompanied refugee kids currently living in Calais, by bringing them to live with us.”

A spokeswoman for Redbridge council stressed they were doing all they could to help child refugees stuck in Calais, but that it was their responsibility they did so in a safe manner.

She said: “Pressure to name a number is understandable, and we know that the position in Calais is desperate. However it would be premature to make a commitment to a specific number until we are clear that we are able to provide appropriately for the needs of these children.

“Redbridge already has a higher number of unaccompanied refugee children in its care as a proportion of its total ‘looked after children’ population compared to other similar authorities.”

And Cllr Athwal also pledged the council would not turn its back on the on-going crisis.

He said: “I want to accept as many refugee children as possible, I don’t want to set a target too low; or too high.

“I will do everything in my power to help; and I look forward to working with the Redbridge Citizens group to achieve real outcomes for refugees fleeing from these terrible situations in countries like Syria.”

To read our full report on Redbridge Citizens’ campaign, be sure to pick up a copy of next week’s Ilford Recorder, on sale from next Thursday.

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