Council leaders across Worcestershire have agreed to go ahead with a formal bid to the Home Office to relocate Syrian refugees across the county.
Negotiations will begin with the Home Office and West Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership to host up to 50 people in Worcestershire by the end of 2016.
It follows a decision by the leaders of Worcestershire County, Bromsgrove District, Malvern Hills District, Redditch Borough, Worcester City, Wychavon District and Wyre Forest District Councils at a meeting on 7 January.
The Government originally confirmed the full cost of supporting Syrian refugees for the first 12 months will be provided to councils from the Foreign Aid budget.
The arriving refugees will be looked to be housed within the private rented sector, to minimise the impact on social housing supply and other vulnerable groups. Some districts have already been approached by private landlords offering to house refugees.
A huge amount of work still needs to be done and complex detail gone through, before we can accept our first families. We need to ensure the right infrastructure and support networks are in place to fully support Syrian refugees arriving here and help them settle into the community.
A decision on how many more Syrian refugees will be housed in Worcestershire over the next four years up until 2020 will be made once the initial families have arrived and begun to settle in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are we taking in Syrian refugees?
The Civil War in Syria has resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century.
The Prime Minister announced in September 2015 that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of the Parliament. These will be some of the most vulnerable people affected by the conflict in Syria.
Councils across the country have been asked by the Home Office to bid to take part in the scheme by agreeing to resettle a number of refugees in their area. After much deliberation and listening to public opinion on both sides of the debate, council leaders in Worcestershire have agreed to bid to take part in the scheme and play our part in helping those who are most in need.
Refugee Action has been selected as our preferred provider to deliver a Refugee Integration and Independence Service for Worcestershire. The service will support all adults, young people and children accepted by Worcestershire's local authorities under the scheme.
Given what’s happened in mainland Europe won’t taking in refugees be risky?
Britain, and therefore Worcestershire, will not be taking refugees from mainland Europe. The refugees involved in this particular resettlement scheme will be taken directly from refugee camps in the Syrian area.
They will have been identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as being vulnerable and therefore eligible for the scheme. Vulnerable refugees are those who require urgent medical attention, women and children at risk and survivors of torture. They will be interviewed and security vetted before they leave the camp and then security vetted again on their arrival in Britain.
How many will be arriving here?
The aim is to resettle 50 Syrian refugees in Worcestershire by the end of 2016 with a review of the decision to take place after that.
Where and when will they be arriving?
The first 8 refugees (2 households) are scheduled to arrive at the end of June in Redditch. A further 17 refugees (5 households) will be arriving in Kidderminster and Redditch at the end of July. Negotiations are taking place with private sector landlords and the Home Office to resettle further families in other districts from August onwards to meet our commitment to resettle 50 Syrian refugees in 2016.
How much is this going to cost the council taxpayer?
It is anticipated the scheme will cost nothing. The scheme runs for five years with funding coming directly to local authorities from the Foreign Aid budget. Further resources will be invested into the local NHS and Education by the Government. These additional resources will help to ensure that any impact on services for local residents will be minimised.
There has already been a huge amount of support from voluntary and charitable organisations who will be running a range of programmes free of charge to help Worcestershire to settle the refugees and to benefit from their residence in the county.
Where are they going to live?
We have appealed for private landlords to come forward and offer properties suitable for the housing of refugees. We are not asking residents to offer spare rooms in their homes to house refugees.
How will they adapt to living in Worcestershire?
Refugees are very keen to learn English and about English culture. The Government funding will pay for language and local culture classes. We expect that local volunteers will befriend families and help them to adapt quickly.
Shouldn’t the council be prioritising the homeless and people on the waiting list above refugees?
We will not be using social housing to resettle refugees so anyone on the housing waiting list or in priority need of housing will be unaffected by this decision and dealt with in the usual way.