MP Thangam leads in Parliament on refugees - and knits scarves to help asylum seekers too

December 19 2018
MP Thangam leads in Parliament on refugees - and knits scarves to help asylum seekers too

Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire has joined local refugee and asylum seeker charity Aid Box Community (ABC) in its fight to support displaced people living in Bristol.

 As part of ABC’s annual ‘Refutree’ campaign, which raises money through the selling of Christmas trees, decorations and other festive items, Thangam has personally knitted scarves and mittens for children and adults who have arrived in the UK fleeing persecution or war.

 ABC helps refugees and asylum seekers living in the West Country have access to basic goods as many of them arrive with nothing and are receive no financial support.

 The Refutree initiative started in 2016 and proceeds go directly to providing clothing, shelter and basic supplies. Funds raised from just one Refutree can pay for bus fares, sanitary packs, pants and fund a woman’s group, to help relieve loneliness.

Thangam, who is the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Refugees, said: “Asylum seekers often come to this country looking for refuge, often with little more than the clothes on their backs. While they wait for a decision on their asylum claims, many of them live in cold, vermin-infested accommodation.

 “Over the last few months I have knitted gloves and scarves for asylum seekers and refugees, who may not be able to afford warm clothing at this time of year. It is just a small contribution to Aid Box Community’s important work, but hopefully these clothes will make some people feel warmer and more welcome in the UK.”

ABC has supported more than 300 people and their families since last Christmas and in 2019 they are hoping to double this number through fundraising initiatives such as Refutree. 

Imogen McIntosh, founder and CEO of ABC, said: “We really appreciate Thangam’s support for our work and this campaign as it is the simple things that connect people, especially at this time of year.

“Providing people with basic items like scarves and mittens to keep warm, pots to cook in and toys for little ones are things most of us take for granted but they go such a long way for those who have nothing and no means to purchase anything at all. It is truly heart-breaking when you consider what they have already been through just to get here.”

Thangam said: “The law states that these people cannot work and are forced to live on an allowance of just £5.39 a day. And the growing Home Office backlog of cases means that many asylum seekers are stuck in this situation for years.We need to change the law to give them a warmer welcome. For example, we should allow asylum seekers to work after waiting six months for a decision. We could also make it easier for refugees to be reunited with family members.

“At the moment it’s largely thanks to the work of organisations such as ABC that means the winter is a bit more bearable for these vulnerable people in Bristol.”