Cuts force refugee centre to close

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A VITAL Refugee Centre in Sheffield is facing immediate closure, right at the time it is needed the most.

Tory cuts have ravaged the charity which has helped refugees in Yorkshire for the last 34 years.

All 27 staff will lose their jobs, 18 however will transfer to other agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

The Northern Refugee Centre (NRC) in Sheffield has been trying to fill a £150,000 funding gap since the summer. Chief executive Jim Steinke said the organisation will now be forced to close in January because of lack of funds. The NRC provided support, advice and advocacy for refugees and their families living and working in Yorkshire.

It relied on money from councils, a private trust fund, lottery funding and other grants. However, as Sheffield council has been subjected to savage funding cuts from Westminister, vital services like the The Northern Refugee Centre are being forced to close.

A statement said the closure followed ‘a prolonged attempt to sort future sustainability for the organisation, with negotiations with funders, local authorities and a public appeal.’

Andy Buck, of Sheffield CAB, said it is a ‘very serious situation. The NRC has done fantastic work in the city for many years and been at the heart of support for refugees, asylum seekers and workers from other countries .’

Sheffield became the UK’s first City of Sanctuary for asylum-seekers and refugees in 2007, and annually takes in about 1,000 refugees from all over the world. Several Syrian families are due to arrive in Sheffield this week on the government resettlement programme.

Meanwhile, the refugee crisis across Europe has spiralled out of control as families flee imperialist wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. There is chaos, as one European country after another builds fences and re-enforces border controls across the continent’s supposedly border-free Schengen area.

Tens of thousands of refugees have been bottle-necked in Greece. Police dismantled a makeshift refugee camp near the Greek border with Macedonia last week, following a decision to ‘filter refugees by nationality’.

More than 2,000 refugees were bused to the Greek capital Athens. Of those, around 1,000 have been staying at the Tae Kwon Do Stadium, a former Olympic venue, in Palaio Faliro for the past few days.

The Greek government has signed an agreement with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and European Commission to create 20,000 places for refugees in private accommodation in Athens, however this is a case of too little too late.

Over 540,000 refugees have arrived on the shores of Greece this year alone, and as the winter weather sets in, the crisis is set to deepen.