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6th Jul, 2022

Final Syrian refugees welcomed to Stratford in resettlement scheme

Laura Kearns 26th Jun, 2019

THE FINAL Syrian refugee families have moved to Stratford under a government resettlement scheme.

Stratford District Council said in 2015 it would welcome families from the war-torn country as part of the national Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

In Warwickshire 30 families were welcomed, with 12 moving to Stratford over the next four years. The final families moved to the town in March.

The scheme sees refugees receive English classes and receive support from neighbours, volunteers and council workers who help them settle into the community including joining schools.

Coun Jo Barker said: “These families are now part of our local community. I am proud we, as a district council have given sanctuary to those whose lives have been threatened and who are safe in our country.”

Sawsan Altahan lives in Stratford with her two sisters and her parents thanks to the scheme. She works at a local supermarket and is also is studying at Warwickshire College.

The 21-year-old said: “In Syria my mum and sister worked for 11 hours a day and I looked after dad who is disabled. It wasn’t safe, it was hard for us.

“I like Stratford people and It’s very nice here. I feel very safe.”

The family previously lived in Damascus before fleeing to Cairo where they were chosen as part of the relocation programme due to Sawsan’s disabled father’s medical needs.

Her mum Lila said: “The UK is very quiet and the people here are respectful. They make me feel I am home.

“The only suffering is that we left some of our family and we hope they can come to the UK one day. My daughter is still in Cairo and it makes my heart hurt.”

The family is also supported by ‘befriender’ Patricia Lee, who is one of many volunteers who helps by running errands, giving advice and introducing the refugees into the community.

Each family has a ‘befriender’, but some of Patricia’s specific tasks include helping with hospital appointments and looking after the children while parents attend English lessons.

She has even found the children their own bikes and said the children referred to her as their ‘English granny’.

She said: “For years we have seen the Syrian situation unfold and you just wish you could do something about it and now we can.

“That’s what gives me real joy to be able to help this family who have fled their country.

“They’re so grateful to have education and a roof over their heads, after spending years in a camp in the dust and dirt and 40 degree heat.

“They feel very lucky they were chosen for the programme but feel for their brothers and sisters still living in camps and often need a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes I’m just here to give them a very big hug.”

Government recently announced it will resettle thousands more Syrian refugees by continuing its scheme.

So far some 16,000 have moved to the country, but home secretary Sajid Javid said another 5,000 will have the chance to build a new life in the UK

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