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This week, here in Stockton-on-Tees we are joining the whole country in celebrating ‘Refugee Week’. Unfortunately this year, due to Covid-19 we are unable to celebrate together as a community. But it’s a real opportunity for us to acknowledge our Refugee and Asylum Seeking Community and say how proud we are of the work that we have done in welcoming and providing sanctuary to those that need it most.

Refugees and Asylum seekers make many positive contributions to our community. Not only do they bring their own skills and knowledge but they also help shape our society by adding a greater understanding of their culture and encourage community development rich in diversity.

In Stockton-on-Tees we are lucky to have refugees who have set up businesses and created jobs for our local community, others continue to contribute by working for local businesses and helping support and enhance our local economy. Right now, some are on the frontline tackling Covid-19 and supporting our most vulnerable in the society.

We also have a new and exciting opportunity to support the refugee and asylum seeking community. Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council in partnership with Catalyst have made funds available for organisations that would like to or are already working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers to work on new and innovative projects, to improve and enhance community integration and cohesion across the Borough. Groups can apply for up to £500 to deliver this work. For more information on this contact Ben Chisanga by email on ben.chisanga@catalyststockton.org or via telephone on 07377995285.

Speaking about the Council’s support for the Asylum and Refugee Forum and the new funding, Councillor Steve Nelson has said “Here in Stockton-on-Tees we have a very proud history of, and longstanding commitment, to supporting people in need of a safe place to live. We are delighted to support the work of the Forum and to provide this funding to support organisations who are working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Refugee Week seems like an ideal time to be launching this fund and we look forward to seeing what is put forward”

We also want to thank acknowledge the contributions of the VCSE sector that work so hard to ensure our friends are settled, along with the statutory sector, including schools, NHS and public services.

I will leave you with the theme of this year’s National Refugee Week; IMAGINE and as Albert Einstein once said ““Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  Maybe we can all reflect on what it’s like to have to leave your family behind, arrive in a strange and foreign country and see our Borough for the first time. So finally, we want to express our gratitude to each and every person in the Borough who has played a part in making refugees and asylum seekers feel welcome in our community of Stockton on Tees and we hope that you will join us and not only celebrate refugees in June, but will continue to do so each and every day, throughout the year.

 

Ben Chisanga

Migration Co-ordinator, Stockton-on-Tees.