Skip to main content

Local Action

In the aftermath of the coup, communities around the UK established their own local organisations to offer assistance to refugees arriving in their communities. The Birmingham Friends of Chilean Popular Unity (BFCPU) was one of the main representatives in the Birmingham area, along with the Birmingham Chilean Refugee Reception Committee. The BFCPU group was particularly active, organizing regular demonstrations, cultural festivals and conferences. The group eventually joined the Chile Solidarity Campaign but continued to work in the interests of the local community beyond the 10th anniversary of the coup. The papers of Margaret Stanton, secretary of Birmingham Friends of Chilean Popular Unity, are described in the Modern Records Centre catalogue.

Many people in the Birmingham area took to the streets in the aftermath of the coup in an attempt to demonstrate solidarity with the Chileans. On 15th September 1973 the BFCPU held a large rally in Birmingham to protest against the military junta. According to an article published in the Evening Mail on the same day, more than 1,000 people participated in the rally.

The Birmingham Chilean Refugee Reception Committee was set up to deal with the practical issues of resettlement, such as housing and the provision of adequate welfare. It was one of two reception centres in the UK (the other being in London). Geoffrey Driver was the Birmingham chairman, with Margaret Stanton acting as the secretary of the Birmingham Chilean Refugee Reception Committee. Whilst the Birmingham group did provide practical assistance, they were more of a pressure group, conducting regular campaigns and appeals for funding.

Both of these groups greatly assisted the refugees in the resettlement process. They co-ordinated accommodation between themselves and often contacted housing agencies directly to appeal for help. According to a Joint Working Group report, around two thirds of housing in the UK was found in the private sector. Local councils in the Midlands area did provide some accommodation; Redditch District Council, for example, provided housing. However, local councils were usually unable to offer much accommodation. For this reason, the Joint Working Group often appealed to individuals to house refugees.