Immigration Minister Damian Green started early celebrations for Refugee Week 2011 (20-26 June) during a visit to the Refugee Council in Sheffield earlier today where he met refugees rebuilding their lives in the city.
In Sheffield, the Refugee Council works directly to support to some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees who have been resettled in the city through the government’s Gateway Protection Programme. The charity offers essential advice and practical support to introduce the refugees to their local community by helping them find employment, to learn English, and find school places for their children.
Through Gateway, the UK resettles groups of refugees who have been living in refugee camps around the world with no prospect of returning home. Sheffield was the first city in the UK to welcome refugees via the Gateway programme in 2004. Refugees from Liberia, Iraq, Burma, and most recently Somalia have since settled in the city, having been forced to flee the violence in their own countries.
This year the Refugee Council celebrates its 60th anniversary, 60 years since the UN Convention for Refugees was created to protect people whose lives were at risk in their own countries following WWII. The charity is celebrating Refugee Week 2011 by holding a range of events to celebrate the contributions have made to the UK over the last 60 years.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said:
“The UK has a proud tradition of helping those who need our protection and of giving genuine refugees the support they need to start a new life in the UK.
“I’m delighted today to have met some of the refugees who have benefited from this scheme and to hear about the significant contribution they have made to life in the UK.
Mr Green met refugees including Esther Freeman, a Liberian refugee who had been living in a refugee camp in Guinea for 20 years until, in 2004, she came to Sheffield as part of the first intake of Gateway refugees.
She said: “I would never have lived peacefully without the Gateway Protection Programme.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to the UK government and the Refugee Council for their support. The Gateway programme has changed my family’s life.”
Jonathan Ellis, Director of Advocacy at the Refugee Council said:
“What a great way to kick off Refugee Week! We were delighted that Damian Green visited our offices today to meet refugees who came here through the Gateway programme, and in doing so, showed his commitment to ensuring refugees in the UK get the protection they need. These are refugees from some of the most hostile parts of the world, and have no prospect of ever returning home. Based on the success of the Gateway programme in helping people rebuild their lives here, we would welcome efforts from the government to expand the programme to enable more vulnerable refugees, like the people the Minister met today, to settle here.”