‘We must take more Syrian refugees than 20,000’— Tower Hamlets Mayor

Mayor John Biggs

Mayor John Biggs - Credit: Archant

The East End of London with its tradition of taking in refugees in times of crisis is to lobby the government for Britain to take in more families fleeing the ravages of war-torn Syria. Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs is to press Downing Street to open the doors after the Prime Minister set a limit of just 20,000 refugees over the next five years.

John Biggs [inset], Mayor of Tower Hamlets

John Biggs [inset], Mayor of Tower Hamlets - Credit: Archant

He has today pledged to offer refugee families an invitation to come to the East End.

“East London has a proud history of providing a safe haven for refugees of war and conflict,” Mayor Biggs declared.

“The pictures we’ve seen over the recent weeks have shocked the nation and we have all been touched by the scenes of desperate refugees fleeing for their lives.

“London must play its part and Tower Hamlets will be at the forefront of the response.”

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The Labour mayor’s declaration this-morning aims to cut across party lines in his appeal for the local authority to tackle “this humanitarian crisis”.

He warned: “The Government’s commitment that Britain will take 20,000 refugees over five years is a start—but it isn’t enough.

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“So we will lobby for a larger role in addressing this crisis by committing to take in more families and over a shorter time frame.

“We will work to ensure that we are part of an effective response to this humanitarian crisis and are happy to make an offer, like other London boroughs, to receive families.”

John Biggs, who also represents east London at City Hall and is the Assembly’s budget chairman, is to lobby Cameron’s government to “make sufficient resources available to local authorities” to ensure provision for refugees and asylum seekers can be made without damaging public services.

He added: “We will urgently look at how our services and front-line housing, social care, education and welfare can best support incoming refugees.”

The refugee crisis is to be thrashed out at the next council meeting at the Town Hall on September 16.

The East End has been the jewel in Britain’s long-established reputation for giving sanctuary to refugees.

The Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France first settled in the East End in the 17th century, followed in the 18th and 19th century by waves of Irish fleeing famine and Jews escaping pogroms in Russia. The East End also gave sanctuary in the 20th century to Jews in flight from Nazi persecution and the Holocaust.

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