DO you know how many people were forcibly displaced across the world in 2022? What percentage of these people were children? Are more people displaced because of natural disasters, or because of conflict and violence?
These were some of the questions put to the Thursday Friendship Group at Holsworthy Methodist Church.
The guest speaker was Mrs Mary Whibley, founder member of the Bude Refugee Support Group, who gave an enlightening and topical talk on its award-winning work with refugees in the Bude area.
The answers to those questions: 100 million people were forcibly displaced in 2022; 40 per cent of these were children; most were fleeing from disasters such as earthquakes and floods. With the worsening climate crisis and the situation in Ukraine, in Israel/Gaza and countless other war zones, these numbers will only grow.
Mrs Whibley said the correct use of language was vital in distinguishing refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, so as not to dehumanise people, as some in government and media have done. Refugees are literally fleeing for their lives, from persecution or disaster. Asylum seekers are those who have left their country of origin and applied for asylum in another. Migrants have generally moved countries for other reasons, such as to find work.
It was the brutal crushing of the Arab Spring in Syria that ultimately led to the founding of the Bude Refugee Support Group in summer 2015. The group harnessed the energy of local volunteers concerned about the plight of refugees in Europe and beyond, and in 2017 it became a CIO (Charity Incorporated Organisation).
It’s been a journey of hard work, and some exasperation with officialdom and all its red tape – but with great local support, BRSG has achieved its original aim of sponsoring and settling two refugee families in Bude, under the government’s Community Sponsorship Programme. Part of the process has been to help refugee family members find accommodation and work, obtain visas, open bank accounts; to guide them through school placements, accessing medical and dental care, the use of post office and library, bus timetables, mobile phone jungles, and all the practicalities of starting life in a new country.
BRSG also organised interpreters and ran a language café at the United Reformed Church in Bude. Its amazing efforts were acknowledged in 2019, when it won the national Community Sponsorship Group of the Year award.
The group continues to support the two families, and offers advice to local people who are hosting Ukrainian refugees. There is also a small grants programme, thanks to money raised for Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, and the capacity to support others as the need arises.
For more information, visit www.buderefugeesupportgroup.org.uk
Facebook page: Bude Welcomes Refugees
The Thursday Friendship Group meets in the Bodmin Street Blue Room or chapel hall, from 2pm to 3.30pm, where everyone is welcome to come and share tea, coffee, cake and a chat. Guest speakers are regularly planned for alternate Thursdays, and on the other Thursdays, the group holds games and quiz afternoons.