Just as the highly polarised political argument about asylum reaches a new boiling point, a timely piece of research by More in Common shows the potential to find much more common ground on how Britain can welcome refugees well.
The 165,000 Ukrainians who came to Britain are the largest group of refugees from one country in one year for over a century. That was made possible only because tens of thousands of people stepped up – from every nation and region and, as this research shows, from all political traditions too.
For those of us who believe Britain’s proud tradition of welcoming refugees must be part of our future too, the pressing challenge is to broaden the political and public coalition of support for this country playing its part.
The Welcoming Ukrainians: The Hosts’ Perspective report presents clear evidence that the idea of community welcoming significantly increases public support and confidence for the UK doing more, not less, to protect refugees.
Understanding the experience of both hosts and guests is a crucial resource. It can both help to sustain the welcome for Ukrainians and also start to establish a new social norm of community contact for many more of those making a new life in Britain.
Perhaps most crucially of all, More in Common’s research proves that the desire to host Ukrainians was a not a one-off.
It has often been asserted that an exceptionalist response to Ukrainians would be impossible to replicate for people not fleeing a war in Europe. This report provides new proof that this notion has been significantly exaggerated. The issue is not that hosts or the broader public only want to support Ukrainians: rather that there have been too few opportunities to invite people to get practically involved in helping others. The research finds that many existing hosts, and others too, want to step up and help others.
It would be crazy for this government – or the next one – to not want to develop a new welcoming framework that could unlock that civic groundswell of energy and capacity. It can make such a difference, both to those making a new life in Britain and to the confidence of the communities they join. So this offers a pathway to shifting the narrative around refugees to a much more positive one than we see today.