Rabbis and JCORE meet Minister for Refugees

The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) led a group of rabbis to meet with Lord Richard Harrington, Minister for Refugees.

The purpose of the meeting was to get information on a range of issues affecting both Ukrainian and Afghan refugees in the UK and also to put to him some concerns about how these schemes are running in practice.

Rabbi Alexandra Wright, one of the participants in the meeting, asked the minister what the government is doing to speed up visa applications for Ukrainian refugees wanting to come to the UK. Lord Harrington, a member of West London Synagogue, responded that a new system has recently been introduced which should significantly speed up the process, with applications being turned around in just 2-3 days. He said that so far more than 107,000 visas have been issued.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg raised concerns about the difficulties in getting through to the Home Office with queries which the minister said will also be solved with the new system.

Turning to the issue of Afghan refugees, Rabbi David Mason asked the minister what is being done to find housing for some of the 12,000 Afghan refugees still living in ‘bridging hotels’ some 9 months after the fall of Kabul. The minister admitted the situation of refugees living in hotels is far from ideal but pointed to the difficulties in finding suitable housing for families of 9 people or more.

“We are pleased that the minister made time to meet with us”, said Dr Edie Friedman, Founder and Executive director of JCORE. “The rabbis expressed the sort of concerns one would expect from religious leaders in a community with a long history of refugee experience. Whilst we were glad to hear that some progress is being made, there is still more to do and we look forward to continuing the conversation to ensure that the lives of both Ukrainian and Afghan refugees in the UK are improved and that more safe routes are opened up to allow people to come more quickly”.