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vigilA vigil was held in Louth at St James’ Church on Saturday 12 March 2016. Over one hundred people turned out to hold up hearts with the names of over 200 people in Lincolnshire who are ready to welcome refugees. Ninety-eight specific pledges to teach English, befriend, offer days out, cook meals, offer baby massage, and dozens of other activities were collected. The event was organised by the newly formed East Lindsey Area of Sanctuary with the support of the Churches Together Louth District Syrian Refugee Support Group (CTLDSRSG). It is part of a larger campaign by CitizensUK to welcome Syrian refugees to the UK.

The event included a description by Rev Nick Brown, rector of St James’, about his recent trip to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, followed by a report by Abi Gilbert, a paediatric nurse, on her volunteer trip to Lesvos. CTLDSRSG’s Greg Gilbert and John Troughton appreciated the town for the generous donations that were made in February to Syrian refugees and described the charity, Jacob’s Well, that will be delivering the clothing, rucksacks and shoes.

Heather Luna, coordinator of the East Lindsey Area of Sanctuary, was thrilled with the turn out, reminding people that this week marks the fifth anniversary of the war in Syria, and that Britain needs to play its part in taking in refugees. Dozens of other counties in the UK have committed to welcoming Syrian refugees under a resettlement scheme, but Lincolnshire County Council has yet to commit to the scheme, citing funding issues with central government. People attending the vigil were in general agreement that the likely reason was lack of political will. Heather commented: “We hope this showing of support for refugees will help the county make the correct and compassionate decision to welcome refugees. The third sector is ready and willing — and enthusiastic — about playing our part. The more the county can save by accepting third sector support, the more money can go towards more expensive areas, like private housing.” Counties that contract with the Home Office to rehome refugees are given a lump sum to cover funding needs the first year and then funding tapers off over the remaining five years, as their needs decline.