UEA students, alongside many other Norwich residents, will warmly welcome the first Syrian refugees being resettled to Norwich. Welcome efforts have been underway following Norfolk County Council’s (NCC) decision to accept Syrians fleeing the country in the summer, and will include multiple campus-based efforts to help the first five families arriving in early February.
Norwich will offer sanctuary to the refugees as part of the government’s pledge to resettle an overall 20,000 Syrians fleeing from civil war over the next five years through the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme.
The final decision to accept 50 Syrians and pay for the long-term costs of resettlement was made by the county council in July 2016. The vote was 64 to six, with one abstention. There was some opposition, particularly from UKIP councillors, with the group leader calling the result “the tip of the iceberg”. However, Cliff Jordan, Leader of the NCC, said Norfolk had “a long tradition of extending the hand of friendship to those in need.”
Norfolk County Council will be providing a specialist team to help smooth the process of resettling refugees into council homes in the Greater Norwich area.
From the early days of the refugee crisis, Norwich has shown strong support to Syrians. In 2015, various initiatives spawned on social media, such as Izzy Day’s successful “Calais Action – Norwich Facebook”, which took food and clothing donations to Calais.
Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge, a History lecturer at UEA, is currently leading Refugee Hosts, a AHRC-ESRC funded research project, alongside academics from UCL, Queen Margaret and Durham. She said that the project aims to “critically inform public debates about refugees through print media, social media, television” and other types of media.
Stonebridge is currently calling on UEA students to participate in a cross-university competition to design a logo to be “the face” of Refugee Hosts. Interested students are encouraged to visit the Refugee Hosts website and submit a design before 13 February.
Livewire teamed up with the Migrant Solidarity Campaign (MSC) for their annual Battle of the Bands event last November, to collect donations. In January, UEA announced they would introduce scholarships for refugees living in Norfolk. The announcement followed a petition from the MSC and other students.
The Article 26 scholarship program is named after the clause stating “higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit” in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The University’s website states that they hope to support “the aspirations of refugees” through the provision of an undergraduate and a postgraduate scholarship.
SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer Jo Swo said that students “have a proud tradition of community involvement,” and praised students for collecting donations to send to Calais and for arranging art exhibitions in the city to raise awareness about the crisis.
She said the SU are currently in conversation with societies “about talking starting collections again with an emphasis on local refugee families and finding out what support they need.”
Nicholl Hardwick, speaking on behalf of MSC, said in February they will be “taking part in the ‘One Day Without Us’ campaign, producing a ‘Wake Up Love More’ zine as well as working in conjunction with Movement for Justice to host the ‘Speak Up for Refugees’ music and poetry open mic night on February 10.” She said with these events students are aiming “to provide care, solidarity, and produce a positive change in current attitudes towards migrants”