Walsall Council boss abused for Afghan support

Anonymous trolls sent abusive emails to Walsall Council leader Mike Bird when the authority pledged to help Afghan refugees.

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird
Walsall Council leader Mike Bird

Furious Councillor Bird said some of the criticism he had received “beggars belief” and vowed to pass it on the police for them to consider whether it constitutes a hate crime.

Walsall Council cabinet agreed to extend its Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy from the original 80 people to 120, at a meeting on September 8.

A total of 17 families made up of 78 individuals have already settled in the town and are receiving assistance.

Councillor Bird also called on the Government to push more local authorities across the country to take in their share of refugees.

He said: “It’s disappointing there are those out there who think it is right and proper to send abuse to elected members of this council because we are doing the right thing.

“The warning is this. If those people wish to continue the abuse via email then we will pass it to the police for them to consider whether it should be a hate crime.

“That may seem harsh, but believe me the abuse that I’ve had in some emails beggars belief.

“You get people saying, ‘You don’t want these people walking around in burqas speaking foreign languages, what about the housing crisis, why should they have preference, they’ll be coming here living off benefits’.

“I’ve sent most of it onto the council’s monitoring officer. I’m not going to engage with these people.

“They are anonymous behind their emails, they are cowardly keyboard warriors who haven’t got the guts to stick their head above the parapet.

“We have a duty to try and do our best and assist in a humanitarian crisis and anybody who wants to send me abusive emails. Bring it on. They think you are fair game to be abused but no, we’re not going to stand for it.

“You don’t get elected to be pilloried by people who haven’t even got the guts to put their name or contact details.”

He added: “Most of the Afghan refuges have put their lives on their line for us.

“Yes, there are those who don’t understand the real predicament and indeed the individuals who have now left everything they had behind having worked with our forces over many years to come to an alien country.

“We have to look to educate the people who don’t understand the atrocities that have been going on and continue in Afghanistan.

“And the message to Government is clear – all local authorities should play their part.

“At the moment only one third have stepped up to the plate and with the support we offer needs to go a monetary package to assist those families with welfare, education and wherever possible housing.”

Deputy leader Adrian Andrew added: “It’s disappointing to hear people are reacting in such a way.

“This council and borough has a history of warmly welcoming people from many countries into our town and this can only strengthen the rich diversity that makes this borough a proud place to live.”

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