‘Refugees can stay with me’ says ex-councillor

Refugees paddling a rubber dinghy close to the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, Kos, Greece.  Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Refugees paddling a rubber dinghy close to the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, Kos, Greece. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

A former city councillor has offered her home as a place for refugees to stay.

Joyce Taylor is one of thousands who have pledged to help the UK’s Refugee Agency as Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to house thousands more Syrian refugees in the UK.

Joyce Taylor.

Joyce Taylor.

Mrs Taylor, who lives with her husband in the Westgate area of Morecambe, was a Lancaster City councillor for Heysham Central from 1976 until she stood down before this year’s elections.

She said she’d been moved by the media images of what has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.

“It’s awful,” she said.

“I’ve watched it unfold and it’s absolutely heartbreaking for them.

Brendan Hughes.

Brendan Hughes.

“Nothing is going to deter these people from trying to get a better life.

“I think we should have helped long ago.”

Mrs Taylor phoned the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency (UNHCR) to say she’d be willing to house refugees.

“The lady there said she would let me know how things are progressing and I would imagine there’s a lot of processes before it will happen.

“She said they have been heartened by all the offers of help.

“I’m sure there will be people who think along similar lines to me.

“This happened in the war when families took in evacuees.”

A spokesman for the UNHCR welcomed Mrs Taylor’s call but said there wasn’t a procedure in place yet for Syrian refugees to be housed in UK residences.

“People all over the country have been contacting us without being asked.

“They have been moved by the images they have seen on the news.

“Some have offered their time, some have offered money and some have offered a spare room as shelter.

“We have been really encouraged by their compassion.

“We are taking their contact details to see if there is a possibility of doing this in future.”

Meanwhile a current Lancaster city councillor has also urged people to sign up to house refugees.

But Labour councillor Brendan Hughes, posting on his Facebook page, also spoke out against David Cameron’s policy to allow more Syrians into the UK.

He said: “Absolutely gutted that David Cameron is set to take in more refugees.

“Services like the NHS, police and benefits are already at breaking point and some taking massive cuts again this year. There is a national housing shortage, locally the waiting list for council homes is 2,500.

“Anybody who petitioned to take on more, should have a tax increase to cover the cost.

“Lancaster City Council has to save £2.5m in their budget which will inevitably mean service cuts.

“Other European countries should have helped the UK and the USA tackle Syria when they had the chance.

“This is fall out from ignoring the crisis.

“These are my personal views.

“I would ask people to sign up to house some refugees if they have the will and finances available.”

Mr Cameron said on Friday that extra refugees would come from camps bordering Syria and not from among people already in Europe.

He said: “Britain has a moral responsibility to help refugees as we have done throughout our history.

“We’ve already accepted 5,000 Syrians and introduced a specific resettlement scheme alongside those we already have.

“Given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of the people, we will do more.”

Calls for the UK to take in more refugees grew after a photo of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, was published worldwide.

Refugees have been fleeing the civil war in Syria since 2011.

The UNHCR recently reported that the number of Syrian refugees has surged to more than 4m people, mostly residing in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraqi Kurdistan.