11th Dec, 2016

Refugee families set to be offered new life in Stratford by end of year

Stratford Editorial 5th Sep, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

REFUGEE families fleeing war-torn Syria are set to be offered a new life in Stratford by the end of the year.

Council leader Chris Saint previously said the authority would do all it could to help those desperately trying to escape war and persecution in the Middle Eastern country which has become a stronghold of Islamic State.

It comes after the Government promised to re-home 20,000 refugees directly from camps in Syria under its Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme by 2020.

Stratford District Council was one of the first in the county to respond when the plight of refugee families became the focus of news reports across the world back in September.

Council chiefs pledged to support the cause following a flood of calls from residents asking how they could help – agreeing to set up a collection centre for donations, working alongside other organisation and promising to support government initiatives.

Councillors voted last December unanimously in favour of working with the Home Office to help accommodate up to 12 families in the district.

More than 1,000 refugees had already been taken in across the country via local authorities as of Christmas.

But a recent report blasted many councils for not ‘pulling their weight’ and suggested the Government could fail to meet its target.

Coun Saint told The Observer red tape had led to a longer delay than intended, but he confirmed the authority was ready to play its part in the crisis and would be taking a minimum of three to five refugee families within the next few months.

He said: “Progress relocating refugee families to the district has been slower than anticipated but the cross-authority preparatory work has been complex and time-consuming. Nevertheless, it is essential in securing the very best outcomes for the refugees.

“We have been working proactively with others to initiate the support needed to ensure their arrival goes as smoothly as possible.

“The phasing of arrivals is yet to be determined, however now all of Warwickshire’s districts and boroughs have made their commitments, this can be agreed. This work has frustrated our initiative to be ahead of the others.

“It is likely ten to 20 refugee families will be welcomed this year across the county, with a minimum of three to five joining the local community.

“This distribution is thought to strike a good balance between a manageable figure that can be easily integrated and sufficient numbers to efficiently deliver a support service to.”

Coun Saint confirmed the authority had also offered to take families where other districts were struggling to meet their quotas.

He added: “We anticipate our commitment to offer refuge to 12 families will be met by 2020 in accordance with the aspirations of the government.

“The council is now actively seeking accommodation in Stratford for refugee families and would welcome approaches by private landlords who own two or three bedroom flats or houses, which will be available for 12 months or more from November.”