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Mayor In England Encourages Bristol Residents To Take In Refugees

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Other countries, of course, have opened their borders to the refugees, and some people are opening their homes. We called one of them, the mayor of Bristol, England. George Ferguson told us it's not the first time he's welcomed refugees into his home.

GEORGE FERGUSON: It's something not to be done lightly. But on the other hand, I have experience from the early '70s when Idi Amin kicked the Asians out of Uganda. And 28,000 arrived in Britain over a very short period, and many of them were housed in people's homes. And we took a three-generation family in, and I met the small child who came with them who's now in his 40s only the other day in the street, and he's done extremely well. And I think it was a big learning experience. I may have a very different experience this time around. I just don't know. It's like a little dive into the unknown, and I think that's what makes life interesting.

MONTAGNE: And you've just described why you would've done it, but you would not be as unusual as one might think because Bristol itself, your city, has quite a connection to helping refugees and migrants.

FERGUSON: Yeah, we do. I think over the last 20 years we've taken in a huge number of people into the city. We have 50 different religions in the city. I mean, I'm sure that's the case of many other cities as well, but we've become a very diverse city, and that's enriched our culture.

MONTAGNE: What sort of things do Bristol or you going to be able to try and help offer these refugees from Syria?

FERGUSON: The most helpful thing we can do is help people to help themselves. And this mustn't be patronizing. It must be about giving them the language, the skills to enable them to do their very best. A lot of the people who are coming out of Syria are - they’re skilled people, you know. They're not people with nothing to offer. I know there are engineers, accountants and others.

MONTAGNE: Do you know who's going to come and live with you?

FERGUSON: Well, I have actually only in the last few minutes. The Bristol Hospitality Network that deals with the housing of refugees have said that they have found somebody, so I'm now intrigued to see who that might be. But I think it's got to be something that is mutually agreeable and that they feel that they would like to stay at my - I live in what you'd probably call a Manhattan loft apartment. So it's a big space with two small bedrooms. It's not a cozy little house with a garden. It will be dependent on that person as to whether they like the circumstances because I want the people to feel comfortable when they're coming into my home.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us.

FERGUSON: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: George Ferguson is the mayor of Bristol, England, in the U.K. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.