Syrian resettlement programme set to be extended

Published Thursday, 14th June 2018

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Councillors will hear next week about the major success of its local response to the Syrian refugee crisis, along with plans to allow more families to settle locally in the future.

Cabinet members will discuss (19 June) a proposed extension to the Syrian vulnerable person resettlement programme along with the fantastic work that has been carried out already by the council, local church groups and community.

If agreed, the council would work with the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA) and Home Office to bring up to 30 more Syrians in Southend-on-Sea, with the council receiving full Home Office funding to cover costs and services required.

Southend-on-Sea has already successfully welcomed two families to the Borough since July 2016 with the unswerving support of local church groups who have provided the necessary private housing.

Community involvement has been high, with befriending and welcome events providing a basis for continued relationships between the families and members of the community, and there have been over 500 volunteer hours dedicated to supporting the families on and after arrival.

Cllr Lesley Salter, cabinet member for healthy communities and wellbeing, says: “None of us could be anything but deeply moved by the awful scenes of Syrian refugees fleeing war from 2014 onwards. It was clear when the programme was announced, and it is still clear now that we need to offer our small but not insignificant support to this humanitarian crisis.  It is the right and humane thing to do and I think local people expect us to continue to show leadership and respond accordingly to this.

“Fortunately, there really are many positive stories to tell locally. From the excellent progress being made by children in local schools, to the momentum that this has given us to work closely with community organisations, faith communities and commissioned services to instil greater community cohesion.

“It should be noted that without involvement from the local community, volunteers and especially church groups we would not have been able to bring any families to Southend. In addition, and most importantly, the families have expressed their overwhelming gratitude at being resettled in Southend-on-Sea.

“Welcoming more Syrian families to Southend-on-Sea will provide more support to the existing Syrian community, reduce isolation and provide the funding for us to be able to provide better support services to them.”

Housing would be sought through church groups and the private sector market, and not through council housing stock.

Background:

The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) was originally launched by the Government in January 2014. The scheme was intended to provide sanctuary to several hundred vulnerable Syrians over 3 years.

In view of the worsening situation in Syria, the then prime minster announced an extension of the scheme on 7 September 2015, with the intention of resettling 20,000 refugees from the conflict by 2020.