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Statement on Tower Hamlets Council’s Response to the Refugee Crisis

49Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs said: “East London has a proud history of providing a safe haven for refugees of war and conflict.

The pictures we’ve seen over the recent weeks have shocked the nation and we have all been touched by the scenes of desperate refugees fleeing for their lives. London must play its part and Tower Hamlets will be at the forefront of London’s response.
I am getting messages from individuals from across the borough who want to help and to know what they can do. Irrespective of party affiliation I know my colleagues in the Council Chamber want to see us ready to play our full part in this humanitarian crisis.
The Government’s commitment that Britain will take 20,000 refugees over five years is a start. But it isn’t enough.
As Mayor of Tower Hamlets my immediate pledge is as follows:
•    We will lobby the Government to play a larger role in addressing this crisis by committing to take in more families and over a shorter time frame.
•    We will work with international aid organisations, the Government, government agencies and appropriate voluntary organisations and other London local authorities to ensure that we are part of an effective response to this humanitarian crisis.
•    We are happy, like other boroughs, to make an offer to receive families but we will need to see the details of the Government’s offer of support before we can work out exactly how to do this, and how many we might help.
•    We will lobby the Government to make sufficient resources available to local authorities to ensure that we can make adequate provision for refugees and asylum seekers without adversely affecting services for our residents. Our offer to refugees would have no effect on scarce resources, such as our limited supply of social housing.
•    We will urgently review how our various advice services and front line housing, social service, educational and welfare services can best support incoming refugees.
•    We will support community initiatives to collect funds and aid and to support refugees directly and through other means.
I will be introducing a motion at the next meeting of the Council on September 16 to enable a full debate to take place and an agreed Council position.”