October 24th, 2016

Council defends accusations of not doing enough for refugees

Council defends accusations of not doing enough for refugees Council defends accusations of not doing enough for refugees

COUNCIL chiefs have defended accusations they are not doing enough to help resettle Syrian refugee families.

Labour Party activist Ben Wesson claims Warwick District Council has a moral duty to provide sanctuary for those desperately trying to escape war and persecution in the Middle Eastern country, which has become a stronghold of Islamic State.

The Government promised to re-home 20,000 refugees directly from camps in Syria under its Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme during the course of this parliament.

More than 1,000 refugees had already been taken in via local authorities including Coventry City Council as of Christmas.

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

Mr Wesson, who helped to organise last year’s ‘Refugees Welcome’ event outside Leamington Town Hall, feels Warwick District Council is not acting quickly enough.

He said: “I am deeply disappointed the authority has failed to re-home a single Syrian refugee. The council agreed to help resettle five families in April, but this decision has not translated into concrete action.

“I am calling on the council to honour its commitment as a matter of urgency – it’s time to for them to step up their efforts and show some real leadership on the issue.”

A district council spokeswoman confirmed the authority was a member of the West Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership, which organises the relocation scheme across the region.

She said they had been working in partnership with the county council and other local authorities that have already housed refugees to learn what has and has not been successful.

She maintained the authority had also spent time identifying schools and GP surgeries with spare capacity, suitable places of worship, and other support facilities such as language lessons, counselling, and legal services as well as creating fact sheets about the area in Arabic for potential families.

And although the authority had not yet been called upon, she confirmed a provisional request had been received to house a number of refugees in November but added no further details would be available until mid-October.

The council will then be given a fortnight to identify whether appropriate support networks are in place and if not, another authority will be approached.

District council housing spokesman, Peter Phillips, added: “We have been working in close partnership with our neighbouring authorities and partner agencies to ensure we don’t just accept families to fulfil a quota but rather to make sure any families relocated into Warwick district are fully supported and welcomed to homes, not just houses.

“We are determined to provide the families with all the support they need as they have been through enough. We want them to have good homes, opportunities and a future. As soon as we are asked to find homes, rest assured we will.”