On Tuesday night, a couple of hundred citizens of Leeds pitched up to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to find out how they could respond to the Refugee Crisis unfolding in Europe.
The focus of the meeting, was on helping turn concern into action, and to help people find the most practical and useful ways of helping out.
Although Leeds has not yet seen an increase in the number of asylum seekers and refugees resulting from the current crisis, we are already home to people from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and many other countries from across the world. Many families are struggling with reduced financial support, and some are even having to sleep rough.
After Ed Carlisle briefly set the international and local scene, Aster went on to speak movingly of her passage into the UK, and the reception she received when she arrived.
The big group then split down into smaller workshops – themed around activism, campaigning, teaching english, collecting things, volunteering, arts and faith, health and other topics. The aim of each group was to help people find a way of helping out that suited their skills and interests.
We hope each of those groups will feed back and give us updates on their progress.
That same evening, Leeds City council announced their intention to help resettle 200 refugees over the next 2 years, and to ensure third sector organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers receive money to safeguard their essential services.