Ukraine crisis: Preston pledges to help those fleeing in fear

Preston will begin engaging “straight away” with any moves to resettle Ukrainians fleeing the conflict that has erupted in their homeland.

By Paul Faulkner
Sunday, 27th February 2022, 12:52 pm

Preston City Council’s Labour leader Matthew Brown made the commitment at the authority’s budget meeting, which began just hours after the Russian invasion of its Eastern European neighbour.

He was responding to a plea from Liberal Democrat group leader John Potter for the city to do whatever it could to help those driven from their homes in fear.

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Liberal Democrat group leader John Potter and the Labour leader of Preston City Council, Matthew Brown, were united in a desire for Preston to help the people of Ukraine

The Post understands that Lancashire County Council would co-ordinate any such effort in Preston and right across the county, should a refugee resettlement programme be set up by the Home Office. The authority has previously taken on a local lead role in bringing Syrian and, just last year, Afghan refugees to Lancashire.

Cllr Potter told the meeting that it was a “very disturbing day” and that Russia’s actions had created a “scary situation”.

“For the first time since 1945, Europe may be on the verge of a war with a superpower. If a full-scale invasion is happening in Ukraine…there will be millions - and I do mean millions - of refugees flooding out of that country into Europe and hopefully into this country as well.

“I would like to ask the cabinet for their reassurance that we will do everything possible to make sure that Preston is a safe haven for as many Ukrainians - or Russians, for that matter who want to come to this city and start a new life safely,” said Cllr Potter, who is married to the granddaughter of a Latvian refugee who settled in Preston at the end of World War Two.

Cllr Brown said that the city had a “proud tradition of taking refugees when there has been conflict - and we will continue doing that”

“We have worked very hard to bring in refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the past and…we will start engaging straight away [over Ukraine] and see what we can do.”

The meeting heard that Preston’s commitment to helping those in fear of their lives was embedded in its 'City of Sanctuary' status.

Cabinet member for communities and social justice, Nweeda Khan - who is also a core group member of the Preston City of Sanctuary organisation - said: “We welcome any people - migrants, asylum seekers, refugees - from different parts of the world [who] are fleeing conflict, torture [or] whatever it may be.

“Our record stands very good for that. Should [it arise] that we are going to have to accept refugees or people fleeing from [this] conflict, once again, we will be welcoming them and supporting them, said Cllr Khan.

She added that the city council was committed to working with County Hall on any resettlement programme that is ultimately established.

LIGHT SHOW DEMONSTRSTES CITY'S SUPPORT

Preston's Market Hall was lit in the blue and yellow colours of Ukrainian flag on Friday night in a symbol of the city's solidarity with the war-stricken country.

Cllr Brown also reaffirmed the city council's intention to help refugees in any way it could.

"We join towns and cities across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world in condemning the illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We urge the international community to work together to find a diplomatic solution and restore peace.

"As an act of solidarity, Preston Market Hall and canopy will be lit blue and yellow – the colours of the Ukrainian flag...to mark the innocent victims of conflict.

"I know I am not alone in sending my thoughts and prayers to those who are now facing this terrible crisis.

The city of Preston has a long, proud history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into our city and communities, and we will of course work with partners to support those individuals and families who look for refuge here. I will continue to ask that the government will provide the necessary resources to ensure their needs can be met,” Cllr Brown added.