At the Cheshire East Council meeting on 22 October, Sam Corcoran, Labour & Co-operative Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, proposed the motion that
This Council would welcome an appropriate number of Syrian refugees to Cheshire East.
The motion was seconded by Cllr Laura Jeuda, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield South. The Mayor did not allow any statement to be made by the proposer or seconder and the proposal will be referred to the Cheshire East Cabinet.
Had they been allowed to speak then this is what the councillors would have said:
Speech by Cllr Sam Corcoran
Earlier this year there were calls for Cheshire East Council to commit to accepting Syrian refugee families. At the time the Leader of the Council responded by saying that we needed to sort out the details including the finances. That was an entirely reasonable response at the time. But time has moved on. I think that the time has come for the Council to be making some clear commitments. I hope that by the time this proposal comes before Cabinet, this Council will be in a position to commit to welcoming Syrian refugees to Cheshire East and that before the end of the year we will have welcomed several families.
The proposal I am making is deliberately vague; it talks of an appropriate number. I do not know what that number is, but I know that it is more than zero. If I say we can commit to taking 10 Syrian refugee families, then I am sure somebody else will say 20 or 30. My point is that we need to make a start. We should not delay taking anyrefugees simply because we haven’t decided all the details.
This is a matter that has touched the hearts of many local residents. I have been shamed by one elderly couple living south of Crewe who rang me up and offered to open up their home to Syrian refugees. If a couple in their 80s are ready to make such a commitment, then their Council should be too.
Syria is not a third world nation or perhaps I should say was not. Syriahad a long culture of tolerance and was home to ancient communities, including one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. More than 10% of the population was Christian. Please do spare a thought for Syrian Christians who will often have particular difficulties in neighbouring muslim countries. Accepting refugees from official refugee camps in neighbouring countries is a good idea, but what happens to refugees not accepted into those camps?
In April last year, Patriarch Gregorios said "The future of Christians inSyria is threatened not by Muslims but by... chaos”
Cheshire East can and should be a refuge from that chaos
Speech by Cllr Laura Jeuda
In seconding this motion today Madam Mayor I would point out that more than 50% of the Syrian population is currently displaced, fleeing violence and persecution. Throughout history migration has been a fact of life and there will be few of us in this room today whose ancestors have at some time not migrated to this and to other countries.
Around 1,700 refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterraneanbetween January and April this year alone. How desperate must a person be to risk the lives of themselves and their children to make this treacherous journey often walking hundreds of miles to reach safety? How many more dead children must we see washed up on beaches before we act and offer sanctuary?
Every year we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, remembering those who lost their lives in the camps; others who were fortunate to reach safety fleeing from a certain death and who have contributed much to the countries they settled in.
Let us open our doors and welcome Syrian families with kindness and gratitude for the enrichment that they will bring to this country and to our culture.