Shropshire Council is currently seeking a provider to support refugee families under the Syrian vulnerable person resettlement programme. Our county has only limited experience in taking in refugees. A working party of councillors and officers from the council, health, and police and fire services has been meeting to ensure that that we have the necessary support in place.
I have been impressed by the methodical and careful way the working party has considered all the issues. Lessons have also been learnt from other councils. Accommodation is now being sought and ten families are expected to be resettled in the north of the county in coming weeks.
The people we will resettle and support under this scheme are vulnerable. We are unlikely to know much about them until shortly before they arrive. The Home Office says:
The people coming to the UK under the Syrian VPR scheme are in desperate need of assistance and many have significant needs. It prioritises those who cannot be supported effectively in their region of origin: women and children at risk, people in severe need of medical care and survivors of torture and violence amongst others.
Ten families seems pitifully few given the scale of the current crisis. I wish we could act faster and take more immediately. But it is right that we ensure we can support vulnerable refugees here in Shropshire before taking part in the resettlement programme. Many people will be traumatised and will need mental health support. We need to ensure that language support is available and children can be supported in our schools.
Many people coming will have professional qualifications. They are fleeing persecution in fear of their lives, not because they are poor. The Syrian resettlement programme allows people to work and live normal lives here in the UK.
We’ve been chatting on Facebook about setting up a local forum to discuss the refugee and migrant crisis. We want to share ways that those that us that live in the south of the county can help. Please contact me if you would like to take part.