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We don’t need Oscar-winning speeches to help refugees - let’s be practical

PUBLISHED: 17:57 14 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:57 14 February 2017

Syrian refugee children in the settlement camp where they live amongst an olive grove in Koura, near Tripoli, Lebanon.
Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Syrian refugee children in the settlement camp where they live amongst an olive grove in Koura, near Tripoli, Lebanon. Jane Barlow/PA Wire


Is this the most political awards season yet? Perhaps.

For often left-leaning luvvies across the Atlantic there is an incredulity that Donald Trump could be elected as president of the United States.

And for many on the British culture scene, a Conservative government enacting Brexit is too much to bear.

But it is not just among those hanging out at costly and lavish awards ceremonies where expensive bottles of champagne are free-flowing that there appears to be a desire to get political.

An open letter to Theresa May has been signed by 200 big names declaring the decision to close a scheme for child migrants and refugees which was spearheaded by the Kindertransport survivor Lord Alfred Dubs as “shameful”.

Actress Juliet Stevenson separately suggested that if a referendum were held, then people would vote to keep the Dubs scheme in place.

She may or may not be right - but I don’t suggest we find out.

The European Union referendum last year is estimated to have cost the taxpayer £142.4m.

Stevenson, a staunch campaigner for the plight of vulnerable minors, went on to say it was “impossible to understand the Government’s decision to renege on the Dubs amendment”.

These big names have compassion in abundance, but we need to hear more about where the resources are going to come for, and practical ideas to make helping desperate people from war-torn Syria a reality.

Amid the sound and fury of the debate around the scheme closure the stand-off between local authorities and central government has sometimes been lost.

We saw this play out in Norfolk over the refugee resettlement programme last year.

The county’s councils, like most people in the country, wanted to do their bit, agreeing to accept the refugees in principle.

But, for many local authorities, the realities of the finances kicked in.

Initially, in Norfolk, officers predicted a £400,000 shortfall between what the government was prepared to pay and the estimated cost of looking after the refugees for the resettlement programme for 20,000.

Under the Dubs agreement local authorities are being offer £114 a day for under 16 year olds, £91 a day for 16-17 year olds and £200 a week for former unaccompanied children leaving care.

These sums may sound big, but they do not always cover the full costs.

The reality is that often it will cost hard-pushed local authorities, already facing huge budget cuts and pressure on social care, more than the government is offering to do the important day-to-day work of giving these child refugees a better life.

Stevenson is right that the refugee crisis is “the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War” with vulnerable children “living in unspeakable conditions” - often in freezing temperatures, with no access to schooling and many without parents.

Our celebrities are right that we should be helping more.

But it is no good jumping up and down in outrage, we need more people to push the government to find the policies and resources to make it a reality.

This must not become a battle between local and central government. There are too many of those raging already.

It can be done. Canada has succeeded. As of the end of January the government had already resettled 40,081 Syrian refugees.

On the government website they urge businesses to offer money, time or jobs to support refugees. It is a group effort.

It is easy to make these theoretical grand gestures at an awards ceremony. But celebrities also need to understand the nitty gritty and the sums involved.

Syrian refugees don’t need speeches, they need everyone to work together on the practicalities.

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