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16.12.15

First 1,000 Syrian refugees welcomed across 50 councils

Councils in the UK have welcomed the first Syrian refugees arriving in the country as part of the government’s effort to resettle 20,000 vulnerable people from camps.

This just meets prime minister David Cameron’s pledge to take in 1,000 refugees before Christmas, with more expected to arrive gradually over the next five years. More than 50 local authorities have signed up to welcome them in.

Announcing his target had been met during today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Cameron said: “I made a promise that we would resettle 1,000 Syrians by Christmas, and I can confirm today that we have met our commitment. The charter flights that arrived yesterday at Stansted and Belfast mean that over 1,000 have been settled, and another flight is coming today.

“The government has provided funding so that all these refugees get housing, healthcare, education, and I want to thank all the local authorities and all those who have worked so hard.”

All 21 councils in Yorkshire and the Humber have already committed to resettling about 1,500 Syrians – with more than 100 people already settled in Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale, Sheffield and Hull, and the rest expected over the next three years.

Dave Brown, head of Migration Yorkshire, the group created by the Home Office to establish which councils in the region will take refugees, told the BBC: “Every single local authority has signed up to this. That’s quite a staggering agreement. I think the people of Yorkshire should be quite proud that we are doing this collectively.”

According to Brown, each individual council decided how many refugees it would take in based on housing, education and public support, and that it was up to them to decide how to best house them.

In Wales, the first 50 refugees from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey arrived last week and were directed to Torfaen, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot and Caerphilly. They were identified as some of the most vulnerable after a two-stage vetting process.

Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's asylum, migration and refugee task group, said: "Council leaders and staff have been working alongside the Home Office and UNCHR from an early stage to ensure individual needs are assessed to ensure offers of care and support match requirements including accommodation and school places. 

"Councils are helping to support some of the most vulnerable families fleeing Syria who will need ongoing support from health and social care services to cope with injuries, disabilities and to recover from the severe trauma they have experienced. Councils are part of national arrangements for supporting refugees and will continue to work with government on the future of the resettlement programme in 2016 and beyond." 

The Refugee Council’s head of advocacy, Dr Lisa Doyle, said it was “great to hear” that 1,000 displaced Syrian were already starting their new lives in safety.

“What we now need to see is the same eagerness to welcome refugees shown by communities across the country reflected by government policies: resettling Syrian refugees is a great first step, but Britain also needs to come forward and offer to help refugees arriving in Europe a route to safety too.”

But the government has repeatedly said it does not want to take in refugees who have escaped to Europe, so as to not encourage anyone else to undertake dangerous journeys across the sea.

It is instead committing to taking 20,000 of Syrians living in refugee camps – a number which pales in comparison to other countries in Europe, such as Germany, which expects up to 1.5 million asylum seekers just this year.

(Top image c. Raad Adayleh/PA Images)

Comments

Gerald Conyngham   17/12/2015 at 17:19

I agree with the comment about the small number of refugees being taken by the UK and we all need to put pressure on the government, especially Richard Harrington, the Minister responsible, to take in more Syrians.

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