Actors Colin Firth and Emma Thompson have joined over 10,000 people in calling for the government to ensure refugees fleeing persecution and conflict are protected in the UK.

In signing the Refugee Council pledge, celebrities, MPs, peers, and over 10,000 people have declared they are proud the UK protects refugees, and are now asking the government to ensure refugees fleeing abuses in countries such as Syria and Iran are able to build a new home in safety in the UK. Other celebrities who have signed the pledge include Jon Snow, Esther Rantzen, Zoë Wanamaker, and Livia Firth.

“My son escaped violence in his country, and I am thankful every single day that he did. He was able to build a new life here – we have the UN Refugee Convention to thank for that,” said Emma Thompson. “But it isn’t easy and refugees still aren’t treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. We must never forget the importance of giving people who have lost everything the chance to start again in a safe country and we can all do more to make the UK a welcoming place.”

The petition was presented at an event in parliament yesterday (15 March) at which MPs and peers discussed the challenges facing refugees integrating in British communities, following the publication of the government’s controversial integration strategy.

“We are delighted that over 10,000 other people have signed our pledge in support of protecting refugees in the UK, 60 years after Britain signed up to the UN Convention for Refugees,” said Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council. “We urge the government to uphold its commitment to ensuring people who have fled horrors in their own country, like those we see taking place in Syria at the moment, are able to get the protection they need here, and can start to rebuild their lives in safety.”

The event marked the end of a year of celebrating 60 years of protecting refugees in the UK, with the anniversary of the UN Convention for Refugees – the international law that protects refugees’ rights – and of the Refugee Council which has been supporting refugees and asylum seekers in the UK since 1951.

The 10,000 signatures were presented to parliament at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees on 15 March in Portcullis House, entitled, “Welcome to the UK – the future of refugee integration?”. The event followed the publication of the government’s integration strategy, which was criticized during the debate. This was the final seminar in a series based on refugee integration held by the Refugee Council and the Refugee Law Initiative at the School of Advanced Studies. The seminars are available to listen again on podcasts at www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/seminar.

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