Shift in sym­pa­thy

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Desperate Journeys -

The politi­cian in charge of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in Kent says that there has been a no­tice­able shift in sym­pa­thy among the public to­wards refugees and asy­lum seek­ers, trig­gered by the story of the three-year-old Syr­ian boy whose body was washed up on a beach.

Cllr Peter Oak­ford, KCC cab­i­net mem­ber for chil­dren’s ser­vices, said: “There has been a def­i­nite change in the public per­cep­tion. I can only imag­ine that it was the hor­rific im­age of the three­year-old boy. We have had a num­ber of calls and emails from peo­ple of­fer­ing help.

“It ranges from of­fers of cloth­ing to sports equip­ment to of­fers of English lessons through a school. I have had a re­tired English teacher of­fer­ing to come and help.

“We’ve had a football coach that says he has spare evenings and wants to come and run ses­sions for us. Where we were a few weeks ago is a very dif­fer­ent pic­ture to the sup­port we are now get­ting.”

He said he had per­son­ally re­ceived some “very un­pleas­ant emails and letters.”

“That is nor­mal, isn’t it when opin­ion is di­vided on what we should be do­ing. To me, the big dif­fer­ence is that peo­ple are be­gin­ning to see the dif­fer­ence in the eco­nomic mi­grant and those that are leav­ing war-torn zones and seen hor­ren­dous ex­pe­ri­ences in their lives and are gen­uine refugees seek­ing safety.”

Cllr Peter Oak­ford

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