Cllr Stephen Cowan talks to child refugees in Calais

REFUGEE WEEK: H&F calls for more unaccompanied refugee children to be given safe passage to the UK

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is set to mark Refugee Week (17-23 June) with a major storytelling event at the Lyric theatre.

The free event – titled ‘You, Me and Those Who Came Before’ – will be held at Hammersmith’s Lyric theatre in King Street. It will see Lord Alf Dubs and H&F Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan, make an impassioned call to the government to allow safe passage for 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe and regions of conflict.

“Europe is experiencing its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War,” Cllr Cowan said.

“Then, as now, we all need to do what we can to help vulnerable child refugees who are fleeing the horrors of war and conflict. In 1938, the UK welcomed 10,000 refugee children. In H&F, we stand ready to play our part once again and welcome more refugee children to the borough.”

The finale event at the Lyric is on Friday 21 June and starts at 6.30pm.

Download the Refugee Week finale flyer (pdf 420KB).

First-hand accounts

The national Refugee Week programme of arts, cultural and educational events is designed to illustrate the important contribution refugees have made to British society, encourage a better understanding of the current refugee crisis and to celebrate the refugee communities that have made the UK their home over generations.

The event at the Lyric will feature speeches and videos from child refugees, young people who have refugee family members and groups who work with refugees.

One of those refugees is Abdi. In 2014, he fled from his native Somalia and travelled to safety in England after making the perilous trip from Libya to Italy in a boat. He was only 15 at the time of his year-long journey. 

Watch our video to hear about Abdi’s experience fleeing Africa for Hammersmith.

Other short films will also be shown, including clips from Inadmissable, a new film from Matthew Cassel that explores anti-refugee polices in Europe through the eyes of a group of Syrian friends.

There will also be an art installation from Hammersmith pupil Giulia Pesciarelli, 17. After visiting Calais twice on Latymer Upper School trips, she created the work using a series of tents as a backdrop alongside the audio of an interview with a refugee named Daniel from Eritrea. The accompanying video shows hundreds of origami paper boats with candles that she made bobbing along – until they get wet and sink.

Giulia said: “The sinking boats and candles represent the hundreds of refugees who have died attempting to reach Europe this year. Despite this, all the refugees I met were so full of hope that they could get to safety. It was amazing given their circumstances.”

She will be joined at the event by fellow pupil Charlotte Bouvier, 15, who will recount the story of her grandparents - both were refugees who fled their home countries in the Middle East and Europe during the Second World War.

Tell your story

We want to hear more from our local refugee community and any organisations who work with refugees in H&F. If you can share your story, stop by our video booth at the Lyric and tell us about your experiences as a refugee, working with refugees or growing up in a family of refugees. All the collected stories will be edited together and then shown at the evening’s event.

The video booth is open from noon to 5pm on Friday (June 21).

Safe passage

Lord Alf Dubs speaking at H&F Council’s Unity Day in Ravenscourt Park
Lord Alf Dubs speaking at H&F Council’s Unity Day in Ravenscourt Park

H&F Council has been working closely with Lord Dubs for several years to bring ‘Dubs children’ (unaccompanied refugee children in Europe) to safety in the UK.

So far, H&F has welcomed 20 Dubs children – the most of any local authority in the UK – which is on top of the 26 refugee children the council has also taken through the government’s voluntary National Transfer Scheme (NTS).

Following a visit last month to what is left of ‘The Jungle’ in Calais by the Cllr Cowan (at his own expense) and Lord Dubs, H&F doubled its target for welcoming Dubs children – from 100 to 200.

H&F is the only council to send social workers into refugee camps to assess their legal rights and assist NGOs on the ground who are seeking to have the UK government follow through on the commitments it made (Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016) to take its fair share of unaccompanied children.

H&F is also the only council whose social workers are working with an NGO (Safe Passage) in Greece to help bring children to safety in the UK.

Lord Dubs said: “As a Hammersmith resident, I am so proud that H&F is leading the UK’s efforts to welcome unaccompanied refugee children.

“On the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport, which brought me to safety in the UK aged six, I would love to see the UK open its arms once again and offer a home to 10,000 desperate refugee children. We did that at the outbreak of the Second World War and we can do it again.”

Alf Dubs

Alf Dubs arrived in Britain on a train from Prague in 1938 when he was just six years old. He was one of 10,000 Jewish and other children rescued by the Kindertransport in the two years before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Now a member of the House of Lords and life-long advocate for refugees, Lord Alf Dubs is leading efforts to help a new generation of unaccompanied child refugees in Europe and on their arrival to the UK.

Learn more about the Alf Dubs Children’s Fund.

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