The new generation of first-time voters casting their first ballots in 2015 are "Generation Welcome", with eight out of ten (79%) proud of Britain's tradition of protecting refugees and three quarters (76%) wanting Britain to keep up its role of offering a safe place for people - especially children - fleeing violence, war and persecution, according to new research released to launch Refugee Week.
With around 3.3 million young people eligible to vote for the first time in May 2015 and with 1.3 million saying they will definitely vote, the findings serve as a warning to politicians who might think the anti-asylum rhetoric of the 1990s would still play well on the doorstep. Leading organisations, including Refugee Action, are calling on political leaders to reconfirm their commitment to refugee protection as part of Refugee Week.
This year’s Refugee Week (16-22 June) highlights the fact that many of the refugees coming to the UK are children and young people, fleeing danger either on their own or with their families.
Support for protecting child refugees is strongest of all among Generation Welcome, with, 82% of first-time voters backing Britain’s protection of child refugees.
Although these 2015 first-time voters are more welcoming towards refugees than their parents or grandparents, pride in this country’s tradition of offering people a place of safety remains strong right across the population, with almost seven in ten (68%) saying that Britain should be proud of our nation’s history of offering protection to refugees. Just 15% disagree.
Refugee Week’s Chair, Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren, said:
"This Refugee Week celebrates the role that Britain has played in keeping children safe from harm - something everyone in Britain can be proud of. Our heritage of offering safety to those in need is just as vital today as it was in the past, with the on-going Syrian conflict fuelling the greatest refugee crisis of our time.
"Over the last decade, some feared Britain's commitment to protecting and supporting refugees - children and adults - might be weakening. Refugee Week’s new poll finds that it’s actually getting stronger.
"From the First World War to resettling Syrian families today, Britain has taken in refugee children and provided them with a safe place to flourish and, as adults, to contribute to our culture, our communities and our economy.
"Protecting and helping vulnerable people is an intrinsic part of being British and the message from ‘Generation Welcome’ to politicians is clear: they are proud of Britain’s long history of protecting refugees and want it to continue. Shrewd politicians would be wise to listen and confirm their commitment to refugee protection."
One young person who has been given a new start in Britain is 19-year-old Gulwali Passarlay who fled Afghanistan in 2006.
After a harrowing journey overland to reach safety and find his uncle in the UK, Gulwali threw himself into life here.
He was shocked by the apathy of his fellow students and told his story to encourage them to take their learning more seriously. Still a student, he continues to campaign to improve the lives of refugees and young people.
Gulwali, who is studying politics and international relations at the University of Manchester said: "The UK gave me safety and protection which means everything to me. I hope that by telling my story, that I can help other children fleeing war, violence and persecution."
This year Refugee Week has piloted a new 'Young Ambassadors scheme' to help raise awareness of young refugees’ experiences in Britain. The Young Ambassadors will be speaking at schools across the country and at other Refugee Week events.
Refugee Week 2014 sees a whole week of events right across the country to celebrate the contribution that refugees make to Britain, starting with the Celebrating Sanctuary festival on London’s South Bank on Sunday 15 June.
Some of Britain’s best-known charities are involved, including Refugee Action, British Red Cross, Amnesty International UK, The Children’s Society, UNHCR, the Refugee Council.