27/09/2016 - Permalink

Councillors asked to continue ongoing support for Syrian Refugees and unaccompanied minors from Europe

Related topics: Adult services / Community / Democracy / Health
Syrian refugee family settling into Shropshire life. Photograph credit to Stonehouse Photographic for Refugee Action

Syrian refugee family settling into Shropshire life. Photograph credit to Stonehouse Photographic for Refugee Action

Shropshire Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve recommendations to continue its support to resettle up to 60 Syrian refugees in the county.

The report to Cabinet on Wednesday 28 September, will provide an update on the support being provided to refugees in Shropshire.  It also provides a brief further update on asylum seekers and a more comprehensive view and the position in Shropshire on Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children (UASC).

To date eight families (33 individuals) comprising of 16 adults and 17 children have now successfully resettled into the county from 2 arrival flights over the summer. As the number is still well below the quota the council has committed to, the report seeks approval for a further 5 families to be rehomed.  This will take the total cohort in Shropshire up to 15 families over the next 12 months, or around 60 people, dependent on family size.

Since its announcement earlier this year, the council has committed to taking up to 60 individuals as part of the Governments Syrian repatriation programme. As a result, Shropshire’s Syrian Refugee Cross-Party Working Group was set up to oversee the Syrian refugee resettlement in Shropshire.

The group has been working closely with Refugee Action who were appointed to oversee the resettlement of families in the county as well as the British Red Cross and local volunteers who have been helping the new arrivals settle into their new homes and schools, access local services, and identify ways to help them integrate with local communities. The first five families arrived at the end of June followed by a further three families which arrived in August.

Ruth Houghton Shropshire’s Syrian Refugee Co-ordinator and Head of Service: Improvement and Efficiency for Adult Services, Shropshire Council.

“We are really pleased to see that our first families are quickly settling into their local communities, all children are now attending local schools and nurseries, and families are also undertaking English speaking and employment classes.  Many are also now contributing to their local community through a variety of volunteering activities.”

“Since the crisis in Syria has escalated, the council has received numerous offers of help from individuals and communities who’ve already organised themselves to provide aid. Several independent groups have been set up across the county to help and support Syrian refugees and a diversity day held in Shrewsbury on 23rd July 2016 received many offers of voluntary support and good wishes and welcome remarks.”

Ruth continued

“We are now working to continue with our commitment to resettle up to 60 or so individuals in Shropshire. Local support has been overwhelming, so it’s very reassuring to know that we’ve many communities out there who we know will provide a warm welcome and offers of support.”

Louise Calvey, Head of Resettlement at Refugee Action, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Shropshire Council and partners to resettle Syrian families in the county.

“It’s wonderful to see the families warmly welcomed to Shropshire and the contribution they are already making to their new communities.

“Local support makes a huge difference as our dedicated staff and volunteers work with our partners to support these individuals, who have faced unimaginable horrors, to rebuild their lives with dignity.”

The Cabinet report also seeks approval to provide further support to resettle 42 children and young people under the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children (UASC) scheme. This will include assisting Kent with their challenge of supporting up to 2000 children that have arrived there as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children.

Currently seven unaccompanied minors from across Europe are being supported in Shropshire, two from Kent and a further five who had arrived in the county independently.

The council will be working with their fostering service and other providers to help identify the range of available accommodation needed to support the young people.

Both the Syrian refugee resettlement programme and UASC scheme are being funded through a specific grant payment from central government. Shropshire’s Syrian Refugee Cross-Party Working Group continues to liaise with the Home Office to make arrangements to accept further families over the next 12 months.

For more information about the Shropshire’s Syrian Refugee resettlement programme visit https://shropshire.gov.uk/syrian-refugee-support/.

 Further information

Following the Government’s announcement in September 2015 to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees, councillors’ unanimously agreed that month to support the Syrian Refugee appeal.

As a result, a cross-party working group was set up, which is supported by senior officers who will be co-ordinating the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Shropshire. Members of the group include:

  • Councillors representing each of the political parties
  • Shropshire Council’s adult services, children’s services, safeguarding team and housing services
  • Voluntary and Community Sector Assembly
  • West Mercia Police
  • Shropshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Shropshire Fire and Rescue

The group are working closely with the Home Office and the Government’s West Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership (WMSMP) to put in place arrangements to house and support the refugees. Refugee Action have been supporting families in registering with their local GP, and ensuring that school-age children are found places at schools. They also ensure that appointments are booked with the Department for Work and Pensions regarding benefits, and that refugees are given a case worker and a tour of the area.

The cross-party group have been working through plans to help resettle up to 60 individuals. Work includes identifying accommodation, collating offers of support, reviewing health requirements and other key support services.