Our patrons are Emma Thompson, actress, writer, director, comedienne and campaigner, author Hari Kunzru and Lord Bill Morris, former leader of the Transport and General Workers Union.
Emma Thompson is best known as an award-winning actress, but her talents go much further than that. Writer, director, comedienne, campaigner - she has the distinction of having won Oscars both for acting and for screenwriting, for Howard’s End and Sense and Sensibility respectively.
In 2005, she combined those talents to make Nanny McPhee - a delightful children' s film. Emma and the film's co-star Colin Firth agreed that the proceeds from ticket sales for its West End premiere should go to the Refugee Council. In previous years she has supported our Day Centre with very generous donations that have allowed us to hold our annual festive party for clients. And as well as financial support, Emma has often come along to help in person.
Here's what Emma said about becoming a patron:
"I am delighted to become a patron of the Refugee Council. I have been a supporter for a number of years and have seen at first hand the great work the Refugee Council does. Helping out at the Festive Party has given me an opportunity to see how remarkable and resilient asylum seekers and refugees are and how they deserve respect and understanding.
It's only when we imagine for ourselves what it would be like to run from state terror, torture, rape, the destruction of our homes and families that we can understand how vital it would be to find a place that welcomed us and tried to heal our wounds. Fortunately the Refugee Council provides such a place."
Hari Kunzru is one of this country's brightest literary talents. His debut novel, The Impressionist won a number of prizes and is currently being made into a film. It also led to him being named by Granta literary magazine as one of the best young British novelists. The follow up, Transmission was also praised by the critics and Hari has become a well known figure on television and radio.
Hari's association with the Refugee Council began when he donated prize money from the Daily Mail to the Refugee Council in protest at coverage of asylum seekers. He has twice taken part in our literary evenings and continues to be an active supporter.
Hari said of becoming a patron:
"I am very pleased to become a patron of the Refugee Council. My association with the organisation stems from my refusal of a literary award sponsored by the Mail on Sunday newspaper. In protest at its editorial policy of vilifying and demonising refugees and asylum seekers I suggested that instead of paying £5000 prize money to me, they should write a cheque to the Refugee Council.
I was motivated by my anger at the way refugees and asylum seekers are treated in the UK. Britain is a wealthy country and a safe country. It also has a reputation as a fair country. We have a duty of care for victims of persecution and conflict. At the moment, we are failing shamefully in that duty.
Fortunately the Refugee Council, both through its direct work with refugees and asylum seekers and its campaigning and lobbying, is leading a fight-back. I am proud to be associated with this effort and will work to support it in any way I can."
Lord Bill Morris
Lord Morris is a man of great distinction and commitment. He was the first black trade union leader in this country, leading the powerful Transport and General Workers Union for 12 years. He was born in Jamaica and rose to lead his union after starting on the shop floor in Birmingham. Lord Morris's involvement with the Refugee Council began when he was a strong supporter of the campaign to end the voucher scheme for asylum seekers.
He has remained a strong friend of refugees and asylum seekers, speaking up on their behalf during last year's General Election. We are delighted that among all his other commitments Sir Bill has agreed to become a patron. This is his message of support:
"Now more than ever Britain needs an asylum and immigration policy that has integrity, not one that is dictated by hostile headlines or driven by fears about security and terrorism. That is why I am pleased to become a patron of the Refugee Council, which has taken a lead in supporting asylum seekers and refugees.
Whilst holding office as General Secretary of the Transport and General Worker's union, I worked closely with the Refugee Council to end the government's voucher scheme. I believe that refugees, like other immigrants, make a huge contribution to the UK and we should be giving them opportunities instead of denying them basic rights.
The last general election turned into a bidding war between the political parties over who could be nastiest to asylum seekers. We need to keep working with the politicians to make them see how dangerous such policies are. The Refugee Council has a huge role to play in the years to come and I will be supporting it in every way I can."