'Islamophobia' in Guernsey behind no refugees decision

A Syrian girl eats a sandwich as she stands outside her family tent, during the visit of Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, to a Syrian refugee camp in the town of Saadnayel, in the Bekaa valley, east Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Image copyright AP
Image caption Guernsey has donated money to UNHCR, UNICEF and Save the Children to support their aid efforts in Syria and neighbouring countries

"Islamophobia" among Guernsey's residents was partly behind the island's decision not to accept refugees, its chief minister has said.

Jonathan Le Tocq said "negativity" would make it difficult to guarantee the safety of any Syrian refugees on the island.

Though most people on the island had shown compassion, he said, there was a danger others would be unwelcoming.

Aid worker Eddie Parks branded the minister's comments "disgraceful".

It was an "awful awful commentary" on Guernsey, Mr Parks, a former journalist, said.

The island had an "amazing reputation" for accepting "other people coming in from outside" going back to the mid-19th Century, he added.

Mr Le Tocq's comments followed the announcement that Guernsey would not accept Syrian refugees as part of the UK's Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

Jersey has already confirmed that it will not take in any Syrian refugees.

Image caption Mr Le Tocq said some residents in Guernsey had offered to accommodate refugees in their homes

Mr Le Tocq said: "There's certainly a lot of Islamophobia and negativity that's been around and that would entail that it would be difficult for us to ensure that [the refugees] would find the sorts of security and stability here in Guernsey, were they to be resettled here, in the same way as they are, say, in other parts of the UK."

He said "that vulnerability", along with concerns about infrastructure, was one of the reasons why the Policy Council had decided not to accept refugees.

But he said he was particularly disappointed with that decision.

The Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission has donated £90,000 to charities working to help people involved in the refugee crisis.

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