More refugees will be welcomed with open arms in a North Yorkshire community following a successful resettlement scheme, a meeting has heard.
A meeting of Richmondshire District Council’s corporate board saw members unanimously approve a move to contribute towards the Government’s commitment of resettling 5,000 refugees annually, by taking about 17 refugees in Richmondshire between next year and 2024.
As part of a scheme to resettle refugees, including those fleeing Syria, North Yorkshire districts as a whole resettled on average 150 people a year between 2016 and 2018.
Refugee status is given to any person recognised by the Government as meeting the definition of a refugee as set out in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees.
Around 200 refugees are expected to be brought to North Yorkshire under the settlement scheme, with Scarborough Council set to take 35.
Those who are accepted by the Home Office as meeting that definition are granted a five-year humanitarian protection visa before they enter the UK. On arrival they have the same rights as UK citizens to education, employment, health care and public funds.
The meeting heard it was important arrivals continued to be resettled in towns to ensure that they have access to the appropriate support services.
The authority’s corporate director Colin Dales said: “We have every reason to believe that the Home Office will continue to fund the programmes properly, although after 2021 that is subject to a national government review.
“We had a very successful scheme in 2018. We really had the support and buy-in of our local communities. The bulk of the families that we settled have properly come into our communities. A couple of families that we rehoused have moved to other areas – that’s simply because they have family in other areas. We have had very few issues.”
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Coun Richard Good said the refugees had received tremendous support by the community in the district and paid tribute to the work of the 2 Dales Action For Refugees group, which had made the refugees feel welcome and had given them televisions.
He said: “I know they will have some concerns for the ongoing workload if we welcome more families, so we must encourage more volunteers to assist them. I know the Refugee Council do a tremendous job, but they are limited because they are covering the whole of North Yorkshire.
“Generally speaking the community have welcomed them and there hasn’t been any serious reaction to these families. I think they have settled in extremely well.
“When we had the flooding in Swaledale and Wensleydale the refugee families that were here offered to make a meal for the people who had been made homeless temporarily by the flooding because they knew what is was like.”
The geographical focus of the refugees to be resettled will be broadened beyond the Middle East and the North Africa region. This will enable the addition of a new process for emergency resettlement, allowing the Government to respond quickly to instances of heightened protection need, providing a faster route to protection where lives are at risk.
Coun Stuart Parsons said many hundreds of people had participated in helping integrate the refugees and to enable potential volunteers to help in the coming years the authority should set up an information bank.
After Coun Richard Ormston said it was “disappointing and sad” that none of the adult refugees had been able to find employment since moving to the area, the meeting was told the many refugees had qualifications in their home countries and the main barrier to finding work was learning English.
Councillors were told many of the refugees had demonstrated their ambition to work by volunteering in charity shops, while some had launched their own businesses selling their own creations at craft fairs.
Mr Dales said: “I am confident that a lot of the people that we have resettled will find employment, but it’s a medium to long term project.”
Coun Parsons added: “We have got to remember these people have come absolutely appalling situations. It takes a long time to get over that and deal with the issues they face.”