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Paul Wordsworth writes…..

After only 12 days, the war which erupted in the borders of Israel and Gaza has already produced more than 5,000 deaths with thousands injured, from both sides of the conflict. Who knows how many more will join that list? As ever, civilians from both sides are victims, and have lost their homes, families, work, and security. For the time being, many will be refugees, displaced in their own country, until peace can be made, and communities rebuilt.

The displaced Israelis will not want to leave their homeland. They will want to stay and re-build their homes if peace can be made. The displaced Palestinians do not want to leave their small Gaza strip, since it is their homeland. They will want to stay, and re-build, if peace can be made. Gazans fear never being allowed to return, though their lives are at risk if they stay.

The rapid scale of displacement is huge. Gaza is one of the most heavily populated regions in the World, with a population of more than 2 million. More than half a million people are on the move from the city and towns of that Palestinian enclave. Where they will go and how they will be looked after is unclear at this moment. It is a humanitarian disaster which requires a response from the nations of the world. Efforts are being made, even as I write.

International voices urge restraint. Will they be heard? Even if they are listened to on this occasion, how many more times will the tensions between Israel and Palestine break out into lost lives, if a resolution is not found with the support of the international community? Does this pattern have to go on endlessly repeating itself?

Here are some words from an unknown source which sum up the joint aspirations of many Palestinians and Israelis.

‘A person needs a little place. Small as it may be, of which they can say;

“This is mine, here we live, here we love, and here we find our rest. This is our land. This is our home”.

Is it too much to ask that such basic needs cannot be met and a lasting peace created?

Will refugees from the war be coming to the UK?

It is unlikely that refugees in any numbers will be coming to the UK from Gaza or Israel. However, for our part we may need to be ready to raise our voice in condemnation of any local attempts we hear to encourage hatred or threaten violence through anti-Semitic words and actions, or Islamophobic actions and words. Here in York, the Jewish community and the Islamic community need to feel safe and secure in our City of Sanctuary. The events unfolding in Israel and Gaza should not provide an excuse and cover for hate and violence here in our city.

The flagship is open for business

On the 19th October, the Bibby Stockholm barge, currently moored in Portland, Dorset, will re-open for asylum seekers. Challenges continue from local residents, refugee agencies, and from the County Fire brigade who describe the barge as a disaster waiting to happen. This barge costs £300,000 a week to run and maintain. It has so far been occupied by 39 people for a total of 5 days, before Legionella disease meant that the ship had to be abandoned. It has lain empty for a further 68 days.

Accommodation has cost £5494 per person for 5 days. That is 5 star hotel prices. The unoccupied days have cost us £2.3 million. This flagship meant to cut the cost of providing asylum seeker accommodation in hotels. Civil servants estimated that a barge would only be as economical as a hotel if it was capable of housing 1000 people. No such barge has ever been built to that size. The Home Office response to that was to invest in a costly refit increasing the original 220 accommodation to 500. Single berths are now shared. Communal areas are reduced. Only 3 steep gangways serve the entire crew and ‘passengers’. Imagine!

At the price the Bibby Stockholm has cost so far, the 39 could have stayed in the Ritz, and it would have been cheaper than 5 nights in Portland. I wish I was making this up like meat taxes and 7 bins. These figures are correct. Still, who wants the real facts these days?

Still looking

We are still looking for landlords and those with accommodation to rent, in order to assist Ukrainians to move on from being with hosts. On the one hand, the generosity of hosts in York has been phenomenal. They have gone above and beyond in welcoming and befriending those to whom they have been hosts. If you have not hosted before, you can still offer. We would be pleased to hear from you.

Part of the re-settlement for those who came from war torn Ukraine in April 2022 onwards is finding employment and their own housing. That is no easy matter in York.

If you or someone you know has a room, an apartment, flat, or house to rent, we would love to hear from you or them. You can go to our website; or follow the links below.
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You can get in touch with us at [email protected]
Paul Wordsworth