08:08 Thursday 29th October 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: Local taxpayers will not foot the bill if they help to foster refugee children in Cambridgeshire and the UK. Those are comments from the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement group, after there were calls for Cambridgeshire County Council to do much more to help find foster placements for around 1,000 child refugees currently staying in Kent. But not everyone in Cambridgeshire agrees, as Johnny D. found out in Wisbech this morning.
PUBLIC ONE: I think it’s all wrong, because they’re migrants as such, but they’ve done it on purpose. I don’t think any of the migrants should be allowed in the country, because there’s plenty of other countries they can go to.
JOHNNY D.: What do you mean it’s done on purpose?
PUBLIC ONE: Well I think the parents just let them go. Oh, they’ll get in, and then we’ll get in. And as far as I’m concerned none of them should be allowed in the country, adults or anything, because we don’t even look after our own people in this country. And there’s enough immigrants here. Everything is overloaded, the system. You can’t get a doctor’s appointment. You can’t get in doctors. Everything else. Walk round this town, all you hear is foreign voices. Nothing’s done with the foreigners. They come down on the English. We’re just overloaded. There’s no room any more for people in this country, and these people that are going over to Calais should be stopped at the Tunnel this side, all the goods taken off them, sent back, because they’re a …
DOTTY MCLEOD: That’s the man who Johnny D. met in Wisbech this morning. Of course many people would say that any claim that Britain is full is not the case, that there are huge swathes of the country that are unbuilt on. Many people would also counter his view on the negative contribution of Britain’s migrant population, would say that in fact people from abroad do a huge amount to help this country, including working in the health service, working on the police force, and doing many many positive things in Britain. Now the group calling for Cambridgeshire County Council to do more to help the refugee situation in Kent is the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement group, which held its first public meeting last night. That meeting featured a talk by Adrian Matthews, a Principal Policy Adviser for Asylum Immigration at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. I spoke to him earlier on.
ADRIAN MATTHEWS: The Home Office are actually offering quite a generous amount of money to take some of Kent’s children to local authorities, more than the rate that they would normally offer. So I would ask Directors of Children’s Services including Cambridgeshire’s to look very carefully at the offer that’s on the table from the Home Office.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Cambridgeshire County Council says it can’t take in any of the thousand child refugees currently staying in Kent, as it doesn’t have the resources. They arrived at ports and through the Eurotunnel, after travelling across Europe as the refugee crisis continues. Authorities in Kent are said to be under huge strain as they try to find foster homes for the under-18s who arrived there without an adult with them. The issue was discussed last night during this public meeting at the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign. Stefan Haselwimmer from the Group joins me in the studio now. Stefan, good morning.
STEFAN HASELWIMMER: Good morning. How are you doing?
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes good thank you. So what do you make of the County Council’s stance that they don’t have the resources to share the load with Kent?
STEFAN HASELWIMMER: Well we hear this quite a lot, this talking on behalf of the general public, and I think what we have to do as a community is to actually demonstrate to the County Council that actually there is a lot of demand, a lot of will, to actually solve this problem.
DOTTY MCLEOD: In what way do you feel that the County Council are speaking on behalf of the public though? Because as well as needing foster carers, you also need some kind of infrastructure to vet those new foster carers.
STEFAN HASELWIMMER: Well absolutely, and we’re very happy, we have a network of volunteers, we would be happy to actually get involved in that process. A lot of them are sort of experts anyway. It’s a case of trying to find solutions, rather than playing it through the kind of conventional way of tackling a problem. If we work together with the councils as a community, we can actually help solve this problem. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
DOTTY MCLEOD: There is nearly always a shortage of foster carers it seems in Britain for children who are born here who need to be looked after by someone other than their parents. So how do you expect there to be more coming forward now for children from abroad?
STEFAN HASELWIMMER: What I’d say to individuals, people have seen the terrible images of children suffering, and we need more foster carers. That’s both for child refugees and for unaccompanied children in the UK anyway. So what I’d say is if everyone, listeners now, could take a moment today, whether they’re walking to work, at lunch, driving in the car. Just sit there, take a moment to think, could I be a foster carer? And there’s lots of reasons to say no. But just take a moment to think that through, ask that question. And if you have issues, concerns and doubts, right, drop us an email, info at cambridgerefugees.org, and we can try and find ways through, financial or concerns about other things.But take a moment, have a think, have a chat maybe with your partner, and see what are the options. But at least spend some time today just thinking through that possibility. That’s all we ask.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you think people will respond in a situation like this more than they would during the general run of the mill shortage of foster carers?
STEFAN HASELWIMMER: I think what we have now, we have a crisis across Europe. And it’s basically the occasion is piled high with difficulty. We must rise with the occasion. We have an opportunity here to actually really tackle this problem, to come together as a community. And I think we can either let this moment go, and just go back to the sort of normal way of doing things. Ir we can actually step up and show that we can come together and really deal with problems.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Will you be applying Stefan to foster?
STEFAN HASELWIMMER: I’m going to spend today, and I’m going to spend a moment thinking about that question. And I think if we all do that, and if I have some concerns, I’ll probably be posting them on our Facebook group. I don’t have much spare room, but I’m certainly going to be thinking about it today.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We did speak earlier on to a foster carer in Peterborough who has fostered hundreds of children over the years including many from abroad, from places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and he did say that there are significant extra challenges when you’re fostering a child who is from abroad, and who also may have been through significant trauma on their way to arrive in Britain. Is it a good idea to have brand new foster carers dealing with children like that?
STEFAN HASELWIMMER: Well I think any foster carer knows that there are always challenges with fostering children. It’s a difficult thing, as indeed being a parent is a difficult thing. So let’s not pretend it’s ever going to be an easy process. But the point is there’s a community of volunteers who are able to help with foster carers, and there’s a desire to make this happen. So you’re not alone. There’s lots of people across the country that will be doing a similar thing. I think if we work together we can tackle this.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Stefan, thank you for your input this morning, and thank you for coming into the studio as well. If you want more information on Stefan’s group, which is the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign, then the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And that was Stefan Haselwimmer, who is from that group.