Over the past few weeks, several hundred refugees and people seeking asylum have moved to Cumbria. PERN members and other people who already live in Cumbria are actively welcoming and supporting the newcomers. We welcome this demonstration of empathy and compassion – it is what we do and who we are.
However, there is a divisive, racist policy underpinning the UK Government’s asylum approach, and we think it is important that we call this out.
In recent weeks, Cumbria has welcomed around 300 refugees from Ukraine, and more are expected. We have also welcomed around 220 asylum seekers escaping war and persecution from other places in the world including Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan and Eritrea, and more are expected.
The Ukrainians, the vast majority of whom are white, are provided with what is necessary to build a new life – the right to work, benefits, case workers from the council and much more. The asylum seekers, the vast majority of whom are black and brown, are marginalised and are on a slow road to disillusionment. They are not allowed to work or to get welfare benefits. They cannot open a bank account, and many are still waiting for their £8.00 a week allowance. They are unable to access most statutory services.
At PERN we welcome everyone. Please do not ignore this structural and institutional racism. We have to speak out about this injustice.