Imagine fleeing your country in fear of your life; travelling thousands of miles to a place where the culture, language and people are very different.
That’s the scenario for thousands of Afghan refugees who have arrived in the UK. Forced to leave their homes following the major political sea-change in Afghanistan; and many have landed in towns and cities like Swindon.
Wiltshire Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Swindon Borough Council have been working together to welcome those in the town and to explain how our laws work and what help is available.
On Tuesday (9/11), Sergeant Tom Ellerby from Wiltshire Police’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team and Beth Sparks from CPS Wessex delivered a talk to a packed room of Afghan men, women and children on the workings of the police and the legal system.
One of the Afghan men from the audience kindly offered to translate to the group, as most weren’t fluent in English, as Tom explained, step-by-step, how the British police works. He even talked about the many wide and varied job opportunities in the Wiltshire force.
Beth then followed, explaining the workings of the British judicial system and the support on offer to all.
The crowd were attentive and grateful for the presentation and at the end each of the children were given a “kindness sack” – a bag full of arts and crafts materials donated by the Wiltshire Racial Equality Council and Wiltshire Scrapstore.
Content of the "Kindness Sacks"
Sgt Tom Ellerby said: “I can only imagine the trauma some of these people have left behind.
“If you dropped me into a new country and culture miles from home, I would be wanting this kind of information – so I think it is really important that we joined the Council’s Welcome Team with the CPS to speak to them today.
“We wanted to show how police work, where they are based, how to report a crime and what our role is; and the CPS are talking about what constitutes a hate crime. Hopefully taking steps like this will not only smooth their transition to life in Britain but also reduce fear or distrust in authority that they may have had.”
Beth Sparks, CPS Wessex Inclusion and Community Engagement Manager, said: “I am delighted to have joined Wiltshire Police to welcome and engage with refugees from Afghanistan, and to help them understand the criminal justice system.
“We are dedicated to helping communities understand the role of the police and the CPS. It is particularly important to us that we help people understand that it is safe to report crime to the police, that there is support available to victims and witnesses, and that the CPS is committed to prosecuting perpetrators wherever our legal test is met.”
Swindon Borough Councillor Abdul Amin, Wiltshire Police’s Diverse Communities Independent Advisory Group, attended the talk and said afterwards: “This is a fantastic idea to help these vulnerable people who are not familiar with our legal system.
“Our police are here to help them and are not their enemy, unlike in Afghanistan. An event like this helps promote that and build good relations between the police, CPS, our local authorities and the Afghan communities here.
“This is an important part of the work going on in Swindon and the wider county to help provide accommodation and education to those displaced from the instability in Afghanistan.”