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/ 14 December 2017

Lord Alf Dubs calls on government to honour commitment to refugee children at launch of St James’s Church, Piccadilly art work

Refugee campaigner and Kindertransport veteran Lord Alf Dubs has called on the Government to honour its commitment to refugee children at the launch of a provocative new art installation at St James’s Church, Piccadilly.

The Revd Lucy Winkett, Rector at St James’s Church, Piccadilly has partnered with renowned artist Arabella Dorman, to draw attention to the plight of refugees through the launch of a new art installation and fundraising appeal on behalf of the Starfish Foundation, a non-profit organisation which works to support refugees on the Greek Island of Lesvos.

The centrepiece of this appeal is an art-installation comprised of the contents of 27 boxes of clothes, salvaged from refugee camps in Lesvos, and hung from the nave of St James’s in an emotive and dramatic display called Suspended – a name chosen to reflect the fact that for refugees, their lives are suspended in limbo, unable to go home and unable to move forward.

The installation follows on from when St James’s Piccadilly hosted Flight in 2015, another art-installation by Arabella Dorman which saw a salvaged refugee boat hung from the nave and which also sought to raise attention for the work of the Starfish Foundation.

Lord Dub’s attendance at the launch of Suspended highlighted the ongoing controversy that exists around the UK Government’s failure to honour its previous commitments to provide safe passage to the UK for 480 unaccompanied minors living in refugee camps in Calais and elsewhere.

Lord Dubs was accompanied by a representative of the charity Safe Passage – which exists to help unaccompanied child refugees find safe, legal routes to sanctuary – and who joined him in calling on the Government to ensure that all 480 places are filled by Christmas and to guarantee Brexit won’t mean the closure of another safe route – Dublin III – which allows refugee children who arrive in Europe to reunite safely and legally with family in Britain.

The Revd Lucy Winkett, Rector at St James’s Church Piccadilly said:

“Offering a welcome to strangers is central to the Christian message. Jesus himself became a refugee. Our appeal and art installation is to deepen our own celebration of Christmas, by welcoming people of all faiths and none to raise one of the defining issues of our time: the largest forced migration of people since the Second World War.”

Artist Arabella Dorman said:

“Empty clothes convey the presence of the people that once wore them. They are an evocation of the seen and unseen, a presence and an absence. Through ‘Suspended’ I invite the audience to imagine themselves and their children in the clothes and lives of refugees, and with empathy and a shared sense of humanity, to engage with one of the most urgent, yet complicated humanitarian issues of our time.”

Lord Alfred Dubs said:

“I survived because of this country’s proud tradition of protecting children fleeing war and terror. As we enter the Christmas period and refugees continue to arrive across Europe it is critical that we hold the Government to account and ensure that we don’t close the door now to children seeking sanctuary in our country.”

George Gabriel, Lead Organiser, Safe Passage said:

“The ‘Suspended’ installation sheds light on the situation for the young unaccompanied refugees we at Safe Passage work with across Europe: they are stuck in limbo, unable to move forwards. The Dubs scheme was Britain’s offer to help some of the most vulnerable of these children. But nineteen months on, only 200 children have been transferred under the Dubs scheme and almost 280 spaces remain unfilled. We at Safe Passage are calling on the Government to fill those remaining 280 spaces as soon as possible, so that as many children as possible will have a warm welcome and a safe place to sleep in this Christmas.”

The appeal on behalf of the Starfish Foundation will run until 7 February and will also feature four performances by the National Youth Theatre of their new play, The Host – the story of a Syrian refugee living in South London, written in response to the ongoing refugee crisis. There are numerous other events which will run until the end of the appeal on the 8 February.

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