The image of the body of 3 year old Syrian refuge, Aylan Kurdi, touched people around the world and brought into sharp focus the ongoing tragedy resulting from the civil war in Syria. Many Lewisham residents have acted to play their part and there are a number of local groups working to help refugees in different ways.
The Council has also been contacted by residents offering to help and urging the council to play a role. We want to do this and are working with other councils and the Government to establish how we can assist with the resettlement of some the families that the Prime Minister has promised to bring to the UK shortly. At the time of writing these discussions are still going on so it is not yet clear when any Syrian refugees will come to Lewisham but I know that they will be made welcome just as others have in past.
I have been contacted by a Lewisham resident, Julie Peakman, who was on the small Greek Island of Leros when refugees started arriving by boat. One of those boats sank on 13 September resulting in 34 deaths including 15 children. Julie and others have been doing a remarkable job helping the refugees there on an island which is being overwhelmed by the numbers arriving. They are in need of resources to enable them to do more and their donations page is at https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/lerosrefugees
Labour’s contest to choose as the mayoral candidate was between two stalwart South London MPs, Sadiq Khan and Dame Tessa Jowell, and either would have been a strong candidate. It was Sadiq who won and I look forward to working with him over the next 9 months as I know he is determined to address the issues that matter to us in Lewisham as well as across London.
Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, quickly demonstrated that he recognises talent and rewards it by appointing our own Heidi Alexander as Shadow Minister for Health. Heidi was my Deputy Mayor for four years and has been a really effective MP since being elected to parliament in 2010. She already knows a great deal about the NHS having playing a vital role in our campaign to save Lewisham Hospital but will now be working to protect the whole NHS at a time when the continuing impact of the Government’s austerity policies is placing it under enormous pressure. I can’t think of anyone who is better qualified to do that difficult job. Well done Heidi!