Emma Thompson and Colin Firth join 10,000 people in call to welcome refugees in UK - Refugee Council
March 16, 2012

Emma Thompson and Colin Firth join 10,000 people in call to welcome refugees in UK

– Over 10,000 people declare pride in protecting refugees in UK –

Actors Colin Firth and Emma Thompson have joined over 10,000 people in calling for the government to ensure refugees fleeing persecution and conflict are protected here.

In signing the Refugee Council pledge, celebrities, MPs, peers, and over 10,000 people have declared they are proud the UK protects refugees, and are now asking the government to ensure refugees fleeing abuses in countries such as Syria and Iran are able to build a new home in safety here. Other celebrities who have signed the pledge include Jon Snow, Esther Rantzen, Zoe Wanamaker, and Livia Firth.

The petition was presented at an event in parliament yesterday (15 March) at which MPs and peers discussed the challenges facing refugees integrating in British communities, following the publication of the government’s controversial integration strategy.

The event marked the end of a year of celebrating 60 years of protecting refugees in the UK, with the anniversary of the UN Convention for Refugees – the international law that protects refugees’ rights – and of the Refugee Council which has been supporting refugees and asylum seekers in the UK since 1951.

Actress Emma Thompson said:
“My son escaped violence in his country, and I am thankful every single day that he did. He was able to build a new life here – we have the UN Refugee Convention to thank for that. But it isn’t easy and refugees still aren’t treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. We must never forget the importance of giving people who have lost everything the chance to start again in a safe country and we can all do more to make the UK a welcoming place.”

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“We are delighted that over 10,000 other people have signed our pledge in support of protecting refugees in the UK, 60 years after Britain signed up to the UN Convention for Refugees. We urge the government to uphold its commitment to ensuring people who have fled horrors in their own country, like those we see taking place in Syria at the moment, are able to get the protection they need here, and can start to rebuild their lives in safety.”

TV personality Esther Rantzen said:
“When I was researching my relatives for the BBC’s Who Do you Think You Are I found out more about the terrifying experiences and journeys that refugees are forced to make to survive. It was a humbling experience which made me realise why we must always do our utmost to be here for people escaping persecution.”

News presenter Jon Snow said:
“As a journalist I am only too well aware of awful eternity of war and human suffering. The Refugee Council is on the front line of human consequence of this vast and constant displacement. That’s why I support the vital work they do in protecting and assimilating those seeking sanctuary on British soil.”

The 10,000 signatures were presented to parliament at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees on 15 March in Portcullis House, entitled, “Welcome to the UK – the future of refugee integration?”. The event followed the publication of the government’s integration strategy, which was criticised during the debate. This was the final seminar in a series based on refugee integration held by the Refugee Council and the Refugee Law Initiative at the School of Advanced Studies. The seminars are available to listen again on podcasts at www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/seminar

Text of the Refugee Council pledge:

“Refugees have fled war, torture and persecution. Refugees must always be treated with dignity and respect, and properly supported to rebuild their lives.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention, I call on the UK government to ensure that our asylum system is fair, humane and effective, enabling refugees to find a safe haven and a new home here.
I urge the government to show international leadership on refugee issues and to encourage all countries to meet their obligations toward refugees.
I am proud that the UK protects refugees.”