Minutes of meeting of Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group
Thursday 16th January 2015. Quaker Meeting House – taken by Pip Harris
Anne Watts, Simon Chater, Hilary Townsend, Inge Page (chair), Jo Barley, Judy Gordon Jones, Jude Cranmer, Nigel Ward, Paul Taylor, Pip Harris (minute-taker) , Sarah Parker-Khan, Yaara Lahav Gregory, Judy Marshall
Andrea Sife, Jenny (from gnash comics), , Lucy Lepchani, Sophie Pierce, Tanja Brown, Tanmayo Murray-Clark, Anna Dunscombe, Stefan Batorijs, Andy Sife
2. Review of minutes from last meeting (04/11/2015)
Minutes are currently embedded within the blog, which makes them hard to find and read/print out. We will look at alternative place to hold them;
Action: investigate possibility of hosting as a Word document on the website
3. Matters Arising
Modern Slavery DVD. The Quakers have a copy of this, which can be shown at a future event if felt appropriate. Pip hasn’t seen it yet, but has the details. Action: Pip to follow up.
Xmas Appeal: Thanks to the Fish Deli for holding an extra collection for the Syrian Appeal, the Xmas Appeal raised £350 + £160, creating a grand total of £1375.50p raised for refugee charities since our inception in September ‘15.
Correspondence with Mel Stride
Yaara has received a letter from Richard Harrington MP, Minsiter with responsibility for Syrian Refugees. She will upload it to the website; it doesn’t address the questions raised in her initial correspondence regarding numbers of refugees being allowed into UK, but reiterates the Government’s position. People reported that this is similar to the response from Sarah Woolaston MP for South Hams.
Letters do have an impact so we should keep writing and asking; letters from individuals are very important – more so than petitions.
Tanya’s fundraiser (poetry event Sunday 17th Jan). No need for publicity, enough people are thought to be attending. Invites were kindly provided for the group.
5. Sharing Group Responsibilities.
Chairing meetings in rotation:
Pip has agreed to chair the next meeting (with apologies for not chairing this due to lack of prep and a kind offer by Inge)
There are many things the group still needs help with: none of these need a commitment to do them for very long, an offer for a month or two would be very helpful. Yaara is happy to provide pointers and oversight, but can’t do everything needed …
• Website maintenance
• Twitter account
• Ongoing letter writing and lobbying
• A contact for Beyond Borders
Action required: offers from volunteers please
6. Establishing what help refugees are likely to need from us
e.g. language practice, driving, meals and social interaction.
We need to find a way of exploring this with existing volunteers who are mostly in Plymouth. We haven’t heard from Emma Brown yet.
Our group is not clear as to how rooms are allocated to refugees. British Red Cross seem to be the only group involved in Plymouth. The government have made reference (Theresa May speech) to the possibility of a scheme which would enable local communities to arrange housing. Without specific volunteers willing to step forward to look at this issue, we aren’t able to take this forward.
We understand that “language skills” are significant need. A local resident has fostered a young Sudanese man and he would appreciate help with his English. Judy GJ is TEFL trained.
Simon reported some very exciting things happening as part of Bristol’s “Regional City of Sanctuary”:
Things are happening in Exeter and Newton Abbot as they both have “City of Refuge” status. Exeter is expecting its first refugees shortly. We are unsure what the situation is in Teignmouth. Very little has been discussed at Town Council level beyond a “we are waiting for advice from Central Government and have been advised not to billet people in spare rooms” type statement.
Refugee Support Devon has recently produced a document called “A Safe Haven: Devon’s response to the Refugee Crisis”, as a first “Issue Brief”. Simon gave us a hardcopy and electronic versions are free to download from website;
The groups in Totnes and Dartington are very active and we can gain a lot of information from them. Saif has suggested to the group that we join the “About Time” platform, and this certainly needs investigating.
A lot of information gets disseminated down from “Totnes without Borders”.
Whilst the links between local groups are important and we need to do as much as possible to support each other, we feel there is an important place for our group within Ashburton and surrounding moorland villages,
Refugee Support Exeter is planning an online tool to help plan and exchange information.
Things for refugees. Is anyone interested in co-ordinating information about where to send stuff (e.g. clothes, equipment) as this is a frequent question to the group, and we feel we would like to be able to signpost to local initiatives collecting for refugees. Action: a volunteer please.
7. Possible future events/activities
There was general discussion about the aims of Ashburton Refugees Welcome.
Link to webpage where are current aims are spelled out in the Home and About pages: https://ashburtonrefuge.wordpress.com/
We do seek to clarify this on the web pages (where 4 clear aims are set out on the landing page); we are very much a support group and a platform rather than a project group. If any individual wants to do a specific piece of work, we would hope to be able to support them.
e.g. setting up some informal meetings in Plymouth for the families to practice English conversation.
The group felt there was a need for clarification / confirmation as to what the group is; a need to educate ourselves; to share information and practice speaking about issues was also identified. We need to educate ourselves so that we can engage others in debate more successfully.
Simon felt this was quite natural for the group at this stage. Many groups are faced with a “shortage of refugees” to work with; at this stage a focus on lobbying and letter writing is essential. LOBBY LIKE FURY! There is a guide to this in our December blog: https://ashburtonrefuge.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/lobbying-help-a-sample-letter-with-some-ideas-of-points-to-make-to-local-and-national-politicians-blogpost-by-judy-gordon-jones/
Action: everyone to keep the pressure up by writing
The group felt it would be a good idea to run an evening devoted to the issue of educating ourselves as a group (rather than the general public). Pip proposed a “Myth Busting / What do we think we can realistically do?” type evening.
Action: A small group will come together to plan facilitation of this session.
Yaara, Pip with help from Simon
Research for other events
People undertook to do some fact finding before the next meeting:
• Beyond Borders/Totnes Embracing Refugees (Judy M)
• Cultural Kitchen (Plymouth, every other Friday, Pip, Yaara, Inge, Lucy)
• Exeter (Paul Taylor, Simon, Jude Cranmer)
• Platforms for English Support ???
• Linkings with British Red Cross ???
Date of next meeting
Thursday 11th February 7.30-9.30pm.
This evening will allow the group to educate itself, practice myth busting conversations and generally explore the issues more closely
Likely to be a longer session – 2 hours.
Quaker Meeting House.