This time last year, as images of refugees fleeing Syria dominated the news, a host of charitable figures offered to do their bit and take refugees into their home. Exasperated that David Cameron was not allowing enough refugees into Britain, Sir Bob Geldof, Yvette Cooper and Nicola Sturgeon were among those who publicly vowed to lead by example.
Since then, things appear to have hit a few stumbling blocks. For one, Yvette Cooper claimed — in an interview with Nick Ferrari — that we should listen to the Tory government as they have said that ‘they don’t want people to take them into their home’. Happily times may now be a’changing. The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, has called for the ‘outpouring of sentiment’ shown towards Syrian refugees to be turned into real help. They have asked for people who want to foster a refugee child in their home to make themselves known as soon as possible.
So, one year on from their promises and with the need never greater, Mr S thought it best to check-in to see what progress the three have made. Have they got in touch with the Local Government Association?
Alas it turns out that Mr S must have been confused. When Yvette Cooper said that she would take a refugee into her home ‘if that’s what it took and that’s what was needed’, the former shadow Home Secretary wasn’t actually referring to child refugees. Her spokesman says that she never volunteered to be a foster parent as this is a full-time job that requires training. While they add that the bigger issue at hand is the ‘clear failure’ at government level to bring children to Britain safely, it’s unclear whether she is planning to take in an adult refugee. Presumably now Ed Balls, Cooper’s husband, is to appear on Strictly Come Dancing, he wouldn’t be around to help out.
Meanwhile Bob Geldof offered to house not one, not two, but three refugee families last July after branding the government’s response an ‘absolute sickening disgrace’. However, when Mr S approached, he declined to make a public comment at this time regarding the refugee situation — though Steerpike is assured that refugees remain a cause close to his heart.
But what of the First Minister? While the Local Government Association represents councils in England and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon previously said she’d happily have a Syrian refugee stay in her home in Scotland. Although Sturgeon’s spokesman admits that she is yet to do so, they say this is simply because there has been no need to. It turns out that ‘it has so far been possible to house refugees without asking individuals or families to provide shelter’. Of course with a number of Syrian refugees who have been given sanctuary in Rothesay complaining that the area is ‘where people come to die’, Mr S suspects they wouldn’t say no to the offer of a stay in the beautiful Bute House, in Edinburgh.
So in short, it appears that of the three, not one has taken in refugees nor do they have any current plans to do so.