Martin Hill: Lincolnshire will play its part with refugees

Martin Hill
Martin Hill

I’ve always thought Lincolnshire people were big-hearted – and that’s still very much the case.

Over the past few weeks, with the Syrian refugee crisis so much in the news, residents have been asking me what’s happening in the county.

Will we be taking some of those coming to the UK? How many? When? Is there anything they can do?

It’s been difficult to give a clear answer until we knew what the Government’s approach was going to be, and how that would impact on us.

Now, however, things are becoming a bit clearer, so I can respond to some of those questions.

As things stand, the UK will be accepting 20,000 refugees between now and 2020, and local areas will be asked to take a share.

Of course, Lincolnshire will play its part and – based on our population – we expect to receive around 200, although this hasn’t been confirmed.

It doesn’t seem, though, that any will be here before Christmas, and the arrivals are likely to be spread over the next few years.

That obviously makes it easier for Lincolnshire County Council and other organisations, including district councils, health and the voluntary sector, to plan our response.

As you’d expect, that work has already started, and we’ll have support in place for when it’s needed, including at our schools.

In terms of funding, the Government has committed to reimbursing the costs of that support for the first year and possibly beyond.

Given the financial challenges councils are facing, however, I’ve made the case for specific long-term cash help, and other local authorities are doing the same.

As I write this column, we haven’t heard further from the Government, but I will continue to argue for more financial support on this issue.

I mentioned that local residents are keen to help in any way they can, and we have information on the home page of our website at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk.

The most effective way to help refugees is donations to organisations like the British Red Cross Appeal, Oxfam and Save the Children.

The British Red Cross are also accepting clothing – including children’s items – at their high street shops, but not furniture or electrical goods.

Residents and organisations wanting to discuss ways they can help should contact the Red Cross’s dedicated phone line on 0800 107 8727.

Knowing Lincolnshire people as I do, I’m sure the charity won’t be disappointed with your response.