Below is the transcript of a recent email exchange between the Next Century Foundation’s Education Officer, Mrs Veronica Morris, and her Member of Parliament, Mr Derek Thomas. Mrs Morris implored Mr Thomas to consider offering asylum to Sudanese refugees in light of the horrific accounts of what these people are going through. Both Mrs Morris’ original email and Mr Thomas’ response are transcribed below. We felt they might be of interest:
Dear Derek Thomas,
I am one of your constituents. I was simply horrified to hear of what is happening to the ladies in both South Sudan and the Darfur region of Sudan. It is not even safe for them to go outside in case they are kidnapped or raped. And a colleague of mine has been there and she says what is happening to those ladies is unimaginable. Now we live in a lovely part of the country. Is there any chance of letting some Sudanese refugees come as asylum seekers to this area? I think it would be great for the country to do something like that. This friend said that up to 1,500 women get raped every week.
The Penzance based Next Century Foundation that we work with had an interesting meeting about Sudan and that really opened our eyes to what was going on there and that forgotten part of the world really needs help because nobody talks about Sudan at all.
Another problem is the international banking sanctions against Sudan proper. There is no real hope for the women of Darfur unless those sanctions are lifted because there will never be development. That area really needs development so I would ask for that.
Mrs Veronica Morris
Mr Thomas responded:
Thank you for your email regarding the plight of those in South Sudan and the ongoing refugee crisis. I can only apologise for my delayed response.
I too am horrified by the sickening accounts of the brutal disregard for human rights being displayed in South Sudan, especially toward women, as you rightly raise. I am heartened that in the 18 months since Omar al-Bashir was removed from leadership, Sudan has been set on a good trajectory. Progress is never as fast or as complete as we would like, but the trajectory is solid. Some of the legislative changes brought in so far to end the oppressive legislation of the Bashir era are world class in their scope. I will draw your attention to the fact that female genital mutilation has now been criminalised across the country and the UK was instrumental in funding programmes to help women speak out against this practice on behalf of their daughters. Women have also been given the right to travel abroad with their children without producing proof of permission from their husbands. Whilst these seem like small steps to those of us in more privileged positions, they are giant for places like Sudan where basic human rights have been denied for many years.
In June of this year the Government committed to pledge £150 million to help the economy, including £75 million of bilateral support and £80 million for the World Bank and IMF’s work on economic reforms. This bilateral support covers not only vital humanitarian assistance but vital funding for health, clean water, media freedom, social programmes, new infrastructure, Government reforms, and, in addition, the coronavirus response.
I appreciate the growing concerns around the international sanctions imposed on Sudan these were put in place, appropriately, because of previous state sponsored terrorism. However, this new civilian-led Government led by Prime Minister Hamdok has taken steps to agree reparations. Sudan has been greatly hampered by being on the United States state sponsor of terrorism list, and I am delighted to inform you that as of December 14th that has been rescinded. (https://www.state.gov/sudans-state-sponsor-of-terrorism-designation-rescinded/). With this movement from the US, Sudan is in a much better place to attract global investment and move toward the development you are asking for.
Now to your call for increased Asylum support in Cornwall. The Government has committed for 2020/21 for 5000 global refugees to come into the UK. This extends the previous Vulnerable Persons Scheme working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to wider geographical areas to meet more need. The Government has already highlighted Africa – particularly Sudan, the Congo, and Somalia as having the highest need and work is being done to attempt to meet it. The Government is also committed to expanding this work with local communities. It may be helpful to reach out to Cornwall Council resettlement support (RefugeeHelp@cornwall.gov.uk) who are in the best place to answer your questions. In principle I welcome the desire to help these people on a more personal level and will be seeking further advice on what we can do here in this constituency.
Thank you for raising this with me.
Derek Thomas MP
For West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (St Ives)