Dave (the editor)

We’ve read reports of refugees being placed in private rented accommodation in Chadwell St. Mary by an agency acting on behalf of the Home Office without notifying Thurrock Council. It appears that the refugees have been placed with little or no thought for providing support to help them adapt to life in the area. This is how it’s been covered in the local media so far: Home Office dumps unsupported refugees in Chadwell St Mary. Councillor confirms: “Thurrock Council was not given any notification of this arrangement and only became aware when the refugees visited the local library to see what help is available”.

This is far from being a new issue in Thurrock. Back in the mid nineties, Bosnian refugees fleeing the ongoing conflict in what was then Yugoslavia were placed in South Ockendon with minimal consultation or liaison with the local community. In a different political existence, in a bid to get a fuller picture of how both the refugees and the local community felt about the situation, I was dispatched with a comrade to do some vox pop interviews in the blocks the refugees were housed in and also in nearby Derwent Parade.

The responses from the locals ranged from those sympathetic to their plight to outright hostility with one household we came across actively harassing the refugees. Needless to say, the household in question weren’t too pleased when we came to canvass their block and made it clear we needed to vacate pronto! Fortunately, we took the precaution of starting our canvassing from the top of the block and working down to the ground floor to avoid getting cut off by pissed off residents looking to turn us over.

The conflict in Yugoslavia was getting a lot of press and TV coverage at the time with particular focus on the ethnic cleansing and atrocities taking place, so many of the locals we talked to were fairly well aware of what was going on. A few who were broadly sympathetic to the plight of the refugees did raise questions about the wisdom of placing them in an area that probably had more than its fair share of issues anyway. A few more questioned why there appeared to be no consultation with the community before the refugees were housed. It should be noted that there was a case worker assigned by the council to assist the refugees, albeit an under-resourced one. Needless to say, the far right were taking the concerns about the lack of consultation with the host community and trying to twist them to boost their agenda.

Twenty five years later and it would appear that none of the lessons of the experiences of the host community and the Bosnian refugees have been learned. If anything, it’s worse because as the council were previously not aware of the presence of the recently arrived refugees, they’ve not assigned a case worker to offer assistance in adapting to life here. It would appear that the first anyone knew about them being here was when they turned up at the local library in Chadwell St. Mary to see if there was any way they could access some support.

No support and no consultation or liaison with a local community which has in some places, has more than its fair share of issues to deal with. A box ticking exercise from the agencies responsible that meets a few bureaucratic targets but does sod all to help the refugees or assuage the fears of the local community. So it’s no surprise that rumours have been flying around unchallenged about the refugees being offered social housing. Those rumours are gradually being put to rest as Thurrock Council are making it clear they’ve been placed in private rented accommodation. The only saving grace is that as things stand at the moment, the far right don’t have the presence on the ground they had twenty five years ago to exploit the situation. Let’s just hope it stays that way…

Here’s a final thought for people… If it wasn’t for constant Western meddling in the affairs of the Middle East plus an arms industry only too happy to flog their wares to players in the region, maybe there would be a lot less conflict and no need for people to have to flee their homes to get away from it.