Council to give warm welcome to Syrians

A group of Syrian refugees arrive on the island of Lesbos after traveling in an inflatable raft from Turkey, near Skala Sykaminias, Greece. Credit: UNHCR/Andrew McConnell.
A group of Syrian refugees arrive on the island of Lesbos after traveling in an inflatable raft from Turkey, near Skala Sykaminias, Greece. Credit: UNHCR/Andrew McConnell.
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North Lanarkshire looks set to welcome up to 120 refugees from Syria, councillors have been told.

It follows the success of a programme to find homes for families from the Democratic Republic of Congo eight years ago.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the UK will re-settle 20,000 people fleeing from the war in Syria while the Scottish Government has committed to taking 2,000 of those.

Last week North Lanarkshire Council agreed to join in the international effort to help the refugees.

It’s hoped local people will welcome them just as they did 80 refugees from Congo who arrived in Motherwell in 2007.

Chief executive Gavin Whitefield said the council had at that time joined the Gateway Protection Programme, the UK Government’s refugee re-settlement programme.

In a report to councillors Mr Whitefield explained that it was decided to house the Congo refugees in Motherwell due to council HQ and other services being in the town.

He said North Lanarkshire Council is, until now, the only Scottish council to have participated in the refugee programme.

Families were given either council or housing association homes and this gave them stability.

Mr Whitefield stated: “The effort on the part of local voluntary groups was inspiring - through donations of household goods to helping with transport and general orientation.

“Benefits were in place very quickly and employability services were able to find many of the men jobs or training courses over the first few weeks.”

Mr Whitefield said the refugee experience in Motherwell was ‘in the main positive’.

However, due to funding issues, support could not be sustained at the same initial levels.

Mr Whitefield added: “Some families found it difficult to know where to go for support and advice.

“There is no specialist support for refugees outside Glasgow although for the last two years the group have been working with the Scottish Refugee Council in a number of areas.”