Rother urged ‘take the lead’ over refugees

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A councillor has urged the local authority to ‘take the lead’ and play its part in helping those fleeing persecution, torture and war in their homeland.

Cllr Sue Prochak says Rother District Council should be proactive in its response to the international refugee crisis by contacting local church and faith groups and helping Rother residents offering accommodation to refugees.

Cllr Prochak, who represents the Salehurst Ward, says several people in the village are willing to open their doors to refugees, but there is currently no scheme locally to enable them to do this.

Rother District Council has previously committed to accepting eight refugees a year.

But council leader Carl Maynard says this is “very much dependant” on securing accommodation and having “appropriate support services” from East Sussex County Council and health sector.

In a question posed to Cllr Maynard at Monday’s full council meeting, Cllr Prochak said the country had a “proud tradition” of receiving refugees.

She said: “What better way of showing how much we cherish our freedoms than by extending those freedoms to those who are subject in their countries of birth to unjust imprisonment and torture.

“Refugees are forced to leave their country because they are at risk of or have experienced persecution.

“The main concern of refugees is for their safety, not economic advantage.

“In Robertsbridge I have had four residents contact me to offer a spare room for temporary accommodation for refugees.

“Indeed we have a five-bedroom vicarage which has been empty for a year and is likely to remain so until the Diocese decide what to do with the land,

“We have a strong community friends group which can offer support.

“Will Rother District Council take the lead in contacting church and faith groups to identify accommodation and to help individuals offering accommodation with the process of using that accommodation for refugees?”

She added: “The problem is here and now.”

But Cllr Maynard warned against “putting the cart before the horse”.

He said: “We do not yet have full details of the requirements from the Home Office/Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) but are working with the Government and local partners including East Sussex County Council, other districts and boroughs as well as health, voluntary and community groups to ensure that any refugees are properly supported in and by the local community.

“The potential number of refugees for most areas across the country is likely to be limited and it is likely to be some time until there are arrivals.”

Rother District Council has set up a dedicated email address for anyone able to offer self-contained accommodation to refugees - or alternatively residents can call RDC’s Housing Needs team on 01424 787598.