THE TOWN HALL was surrounded by a flurry of mini Paddington Bears this week as part of a refugee charity campaign.

Leaders from refugee action group Redbridge Citizens congregated outside Redbridge Town Hall in Ilford on Wednesday (August 31) calling on council leader Jas Athwal to house five unaccompanied refugee children currently in Calais.

Under a piece of legislation called the Dubs Amendment, the UK is required to take 3,000 parentless refugees in an effort to solve Europe’s growing migrant crisis.

If every council in the country took five children, the UK would fill its Dub Amendment quota.

But Redbridge Council is yet to accept any children, despite 16 people in the borough signing up to become refugee foster carers earlier this month.

One of Redbridge Citizens’ partners is Saint Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church in Woodford Green.

Church spokesman Percy Ratnanather said: “While we appreciate Councillor Athwal’s supportive words on the current crisis, Redbridge has yet to resettle any Syrians, despite at least eight councils, including Lambeth, Islington and Hackney, each taking a small but meaningful number of refugees.

“Now is the time to go beyond words, to specific action that results in bringing people to safety.”

In response, a Redbridge Council spokesman said: "Pressure to name a number is understandable, and we know that the position in Calais is desperate.

"However it would be premature to make a commitment to a specific number until we are clear that we are able to provide appropriately for the needs of these children. 

"Redbridge already has a higher number of unaccompanied refugee children in its care as a proportion of its total ‘looked after children’ population compared to other similar authorities. 

"It’s really encouraging to learn that 14 people came forward in July who were interested in becoming foster carers, but to safeguard the interest of children, they will all need to be assessed and approved as foster carers before we could consider placing children with them, which we are progressing as rapidly as possible."

Leader Cllr Athwal added: "I want to accept as many refugee children as possible, I don’t want to set a target too low; or too high.

“I will do everything in my power to help; and I look forward to working with the Redbridge Citizens group to achieve real outcomes for refugees fleeing from these terrible situations in countries like Syria."