Launch of refugee week

FAMED for his white suit Martin Bell has spoken of his concerns for the plight of refugees as he launched Refugee Week 2004 in Ipswich. Mr Bell was at the town's corn exchange yesterday at the invitation of the Refugee Council to launch a week of events designed to raise awareness and celebrate the contribution made by refugees to the community.

FAMED for his white suit Martin Bell has spoken of his concerns for the plight of refugees as he launched Refugee Week 2004 in Ipswich.

Mr Bell was at the town's corn exchange yesterday at the invitation of the Refugee Council to launch a week of events designed to raise awareness and celebrate the contribution made by refugees to the community.

He said: "I have been a war correspondent for 30 years and I have some experience of the realities of the world out there, it is a dangerous place.

"We have to understand the world we live in is possibly the most dangerous since 1945 there are tides of refugees sweeping across it.


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"I get very concerned when I find prejudice and ignorance directed at refugees. We in Britain have a history of tolerance and welcoming strangers. We did it in the 1930s as people fled the Nazis and we do it today.

Speaking to volunteers Mr Bell, who is an humanitarian ambassador for UNICEF, said many refugees came from places where British forces are at war.

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He said: "We are a decent people struggling to help others from parts of the world where we have been waging war for time immemorial.

"We live together like brothers but die together like fools."

"I think helping refugees is one of the best things we can do."

Eastern region team manager for the Refugee Council, Ian Beattie, said about 250 refugees and asylum seekers from world hot spots like Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia lived in the Ipswich area.

"The council is a national organisation working with refugees and asylum seekers. Refugee Week runs from June 14 to June 20.

"The aim is to raise awareness and counter some of the reporting that has been around by celebrating the positive contribution refugees make to the community."

Mr Beattie pointed out that several British institutions like fish and chips, Marks and Spencer and the mini car were the result of refugees coming to the country.

He said: "All these staples we take for granted have been introduced by people who were at one stage refugees."

"Asylum seekers get 70 per cent of normal benefits so they are living 30 per cent under the poverty line.

"To say they come here to claim benefit is not a strong argument. They are fleeing operssion, human rights abuses and torture."

Events planned in the Ipswich area include football matches, music events, talks, lectures, picnics, film showings, basketball and workshops.

Mr Beattie said the events were open to anyone and were a good way for asylum seekers to meet people from the host community.

For more information call Dagmar Grafton on 01473 297900 or visit www.refugeeweek.org.uk

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