Rochdale sends Valentine’s Day message to refugees in call for a fair new plan

Date published: 14 February 2024

Rochdale AFC and Healthwatch Rochdale are just two of the influential organisations from Rochdale joining forces to call for a fair new plan for refugees this Valentine’s Day (14 February). 

They have signed a letter to share love and solidarity with refugees across the area to make it clear to political leaders that refugees are welcome in their community.  

The action has been organised by Rochdale Refugee & Asylum Seeker Forum as part of a new campaign, Fair Begins Here, from campaign coalition Together With Refugees.

Today (14 February) organisations and individuals will be showing the love to refugees through community activities taking place across Rochdale and using #FairBeginsInRochdale. 

The letter states: “As people from all walks of life in Rochdale - from voluntary sector and professionals, community centres and sports teams, faith institutions and community activists and allies- we are signing this joint message to you to show that our community is standing together with refugees and calling for a fair new plan.

“Given the chance, we know communities like ours go the extra mile to welcome refugees – opening our homes, volunteering, speaking up, and donating. And, given the chance, we know that refugees do so much to enrich our society as they build new lives here...

“...We want you to know that there is overwhelming support across Rochdale for a fair new plan for refugees, one that’s rooted in fairness, justice and compassion - a positive alternative to the current uncaring, costly and chaotic refugee system. Now is the time for a fairer and more compassionate approach towards refugees in the UK.”

A spokesperson for the Rochdale Refugee & Asylum Seeker Forum said: “Organisations across Rochdale borough are working hard together to support refugees. From the voluntary sector and sports teams to faith groups and schools, we are proud of the welcome Rochdale gives to those fleeing unimaginable horrors.

“We know the current chaos and cruelty of the refugee system does not represent us. We want a system that offers protection and allows refugees to rebuild their lives in our community. That is why we need a fair new plan for refugees.”

Kate Jones, CEO of Healthwatch Rochdale, said: “As an organisation, Healthwatch Rochdale serve the residents of the borough. We stand together in supporting the refugees of Rochdale and pledge to support this campaign in bringing together a better plan for these individuals and families that are affected.”

Daisy Silva, the co-founder of Maverick Lab CIC, said: "As someone who's immigrated here, I really feel at home in the Rochdale community. Rochdale has a great tradition of welcoming immigrants and helping them become part of the community. This campaign is like a ray of hope and support for asylum seekers and refugees finding comfort here in Rochdale."  

Sohail Ahmad from Deeplish Community Centre said: “Deeplish Community Centre welcomes, supports and connects with people who are new to our town and neighbourhood.

“We fully understand the challenges faced by many when they are newly arrived and settling to survive. we work in in partnership with other organisations to make sure that everyone is fully supported and introduced to local services and offers in place. It could be finding school places for children, GP surgery, health centre, pharmacy services, English classes, food and shopping places as well as making friends and offering safe spaces and conversations at the centre.”

With a recent poll commissioned by Together With Refugees, showing that 80% of the British public want an approach to the asylum system that is well managed, fair and compassionate, the campaign is calling for a fair and kind new plan for refugees that works for everyone. 

It demonstrates how prominent people from across the UK and all parts of society support this call including the BMA, UNISON, National Association of Head Teachers, faith leaders and stars of sport, stage and screen, and those with experience of being a refugee.  

The poll also reveals that fewer than one in five (18%) of the British public think the government’s approach to the asylum system is working well. This number increases to just one in four (28%) when only looking at respondents who intend to vote Conservative at the next election and decreases to one in six (16%) for those who intend to vote Labour.  

The Fair Begins Here campaign is calling for a fair new plan for refugees with:

  • Protection for people fleeing war and persecution by upholding the UK’s commitment under international law to the right to claim asylum and by scrapping the Rwanda scheme. 
  • A proper strategy for welcoming refugees by ensuring fair, rapid decisions on their application for asylum, and the chance to rebuild their lives through settling in a community, being allowed to work and the chance to learn English.  
  • Stronger global cooperation to tackle the root causes that force people to flee their homes and provides positive solutions when they do, including through safe routes to refugee protection.    

With more than 600 members of Together With Refugees – from large national organisations to small grassroots projects – they will be bringing the campaign to communities across the UK throughout the year.

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