Refugees from the Syrian conflict may soon be resettled across east London with the launch of a foundation set up this-evening by the Whitechapel-based Citizens UK network of community groups.
The new Sponsor Refugees foundation will advise and support groups taking on the responsibility of raising funds, finding a home and settling refugee families in their neighbourhoods.
It was launched at the East London Muslim centre in Whitechapel by Jewish, Muslim, Christian and secular organisations, with 30 pledges of community sponsorships so far.
The launch saw a Sukkah temporary biblical shelter for the Jewish festival of Sukkot being constructed inside the mosque, with groups from all over east London now taking up community sponsorship.
Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, is calling on the Jewish community to “put its intellect, skills and resources” behind the sponsorship scheme.
“We can make a real difference,” he said. “Sukkot is the festival when Jews live in temporary booths and are reminded of the frailty of their existence.
“I expect Jews to be particularly sympathetic to those fleeing persecution and disruption with their historical experience.”
The Community sponsorship scheme is ‘tzedakah’—or ‘social justice in action’—which organisers hope will help change attitudes to refugees.
The Muslim community’s Hasanain Jaffer said: “We have resources and are well placed to take on the responsibility for supporting refugees from the Syrian conflict.
“We will be stepping up to our moral and religious duty to sponsor a family and assisting the Methodist Church in their application.”
The idea of ‘community sponsorship’ of refugee families was set up by Home Secretary Amber Rudd last year and is now being pioneered up and down the country. It has led to tonight’s ‘Sponsor Refugees’ foundation launch by Citizens UK in east London.
The foundation’s director Tim Finch said: “This has the potential to be a quiet revolution in refugee protection. It gives ordinary people a chance to transform the life of a refugee family in their own neighbourhood.”
Community sponsorship is based on a Canadian scheme where churches, mosques, synagogues and secular groups have supported 300,000 refugees in Canada since 1979.
This article was first published in the East London Advertiser.