Refugee dispute – British towns resist charity

A huge influx of refugees has triggered a political battle in Britain’s small towns, the Washington Post reported June 17.

In the tiny English towns of Nether Stowey and Over Stowey, the debate centers on a refugee center that a local charity group wants to open. Refugees would live at the center while their applications for asylum are considered — a process that usually takes six to 24 months.

Many residents are not happy with the prospect of a steady stream of Afghans, Somalis, Romanians and ethnic Albanians from Kosovo moving into these totally white, Christian communities, however. The Over Stowey parish council has tried to block the center, noting that the community has no jobs, no recreational facilities and minimal public transit.

“So one has to query, what will these people do for six months?” Mike Lampson, chair of the parish council, told the Post. “Where will they get money? They’re mostly young men, you know. Will they be chatting up our daughters?”

Many opponents of the center feel guilty about turning away those in need, but say other communities are better equipped to handle refugees.

The Rev. Martin Blakeborough, director of Kaleidoscope, the charity that wants to set up the center, disagrees.

“There’s an excellent dormitory facility at the [defunct] boarding school in Over Stowey. We can provide minibuses to take the residents into the cities when they need it. The fact that there are no jobs is irrelevant, because asylum applicants aren’t allowed to work for the first six months they are here.”

Jobless refugees have become a major political issue in the country as a whole. War and poverty in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and parts of Africa have created a huge number of refugees in the last five years or so. Between 71,000 and 91,000 refugees applied for asylum in Britain last year.

For full text, go to the Washington Post.

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